EplerWood International conducted a tourism development analysis of the Selva Lacandona region of Chiapas including protected areas and Mayan ruins, meeting with many communities in the buffer zone, to develop an understanding of the types of tourism development that had taken place in the past and how they could be improved upon in the future.
A rapid assessment of the supply chain revealed that the private sector had not been involved in the vast majority of community tourism projects and local tour operators were by and large not servicing this region, despite its advantageous location between the Mayan Ruins of Palenque and the heavily touristed colonial city, San Cristobal de las Casas.
As the Senior Ecotourism/Sustainable Tourism Planner for USAID Mexico’s Rural Prosperity and Conservation Initiative, EplerWood International designed a sustainable tourism program for impoverished regions of high biodiversity within Mexico that included the recommendation of immediate collaboration with local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the development of a professional supply chain in the region. A new collaboration between tour operators and local communities was immediately launched during EplerWood’s stay, Ecochiapas, which offers tours to the areas least served by tour operators to community based projects in the most biodiverse regions of Chiapas to support local communities and conserve the environment.
In addition, EplerWood International also evaluated the needs of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve, one of Mexico’s primary ecotourism destinations. Due to the lack of physical planning, heavy domestic tourism had left the area heavily impacted by tourism. The absence of local infrastructure and indiscriminate logging had created a dire conservation situation in the region. EplerWood International designed an action plan to work with a pilot municipality to begin a physical planning process to create a gateway to the reserve, which would enable the local people to benefit from tourism while creating a coordinated place for visitors to come. The gateway would include restrooms, restaurants and scenic viewing areas, employing locally owned services that could be run by existing communal farms, or ejidos. While local interest was high in both Michoacan and Chiapas, no budget was allocated for implementation of these recommendations.