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Panama’s Tourism Ministry Achieves Progress on the Development of Ecotourism in Protected Areas with the Help of Sustainable Travel International

PANAMA CITY, PANAMA – November 23, 2015 This month, global NGO Sustainable Travel International met with Panama’s new Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Him, to discuss best practice approaches to the development of ecotourism in Panama. The objective of the work being conducted is a comprehensive and stakeholder-driven vision for the development of national parks and protected areas and their buffer zones that benefits of local communities. In a series of meetings the new Minister of Tourism Gustavo Him reaffirmed Panama’s commitment to pursuing tourism development in a way that improves livelihoods and conserves Panama’s world-class natural attractions and unique ecosystems.

Panama boasts some of the most diverse wildlife in Central America, including large rainforests that form a biological bridge between North and South America, and some of the world’s best bird watching, home to almost 1,000 different species. But, until recently, Panama has not actively promoted tourism in its parks and protected areas. Most of its 2.3 million annual visitors still don’t venture outside Panama City, where they come for shopping and business related to the canal.

An unusually large portion Panama’s land area—39%—is under protection. UNESCO Natural World Heritage site Coiba Island in the southwest of the country is part of the Pacific Marine Biological Corridor—a world-class destination for diving and whale watching. The island also has pristine beaches, mangrove forests, scarlet macaws, mantled howler monkeys, and four species of sea turtles.

In Boquete, Volcan Baru, a key destination for hikers, is the one place in the world with views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The legendary routes of Camino Real and Camino de Cruces, where the Spaniards originally crossed from the Pacific to the Caribbean by land (a predecessor to the Panama Canal) have the potential to be developed as ecotourism routes across highly diverse landscapes. They could link tropical rainforest and mountain ecosystems, and access rural and indigenous communities.

Since Panama’s formal commitment to ecotourism, in an agreement signed on Earth Day, April 22, 2015, Sustainable Travel International has been working closely with the Ministry of the Environment, the Tourism Authority, and private sector organizations in Panama, to conduct a comprehensive diagnostic of opportunities and challenges for developing tourism in Panama’s protected areas.

The project to develop a common vision for the responsible and sustainable development of ecotourism is due to be completed in January 2016. “Responsibly developed tourism offers unparalleled opportunities to stimulate the local economy, benefit indigenous communities and conserve rich biodiversity”, said Dr. Twining-Ward. “Panama is well on the way to the development of a world–class ecotourism offering. They are doing all the right things to maintain the authenticity of the experience, preserve ecosystems and keep visitors safe.”

The next step in the project is for Sustainable Travel International to develop a strategic vision and action plan for ecotourism in Panama. This will provide the framework for a coordinated approach to tourism in parks and protected areas.

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Media Contact:

Lizzie Keenan

Director, Marketing and Communications

+1 (917) 382-9185

lizziek@sustainabletravel.org

 

About Sustainable Travel International

Sustainable Travel International’s mission is to improve lives and protect places through travel and tourism. A global non-profit and industry thought leader since 2002, Sustainable Travel International has helped communities, hotels, airlines, cruise lines and governments to plan responsibly—to chart their road maps for responsible growth so that they can contribute to the economic and social well-being of people around the globe whose lives and livelihoods depend on the world’s wanderlust.

Visit us at http://sustainabletravel.org to learn more.

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The MEET Network: New Opportunities for Travelers and Communities in the Mediterranean Region (SLIDESHOW)

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    From the sun-drenched beaches of the Côte d’Azur to the crystal-clear waters of the Greek Islands to the rocky trails of Italy’s Cinque Terre, the Mediterranean region draws 220 million tourists each year.
    (Photo © Evangelia-Marina: Stunning views from a hike through Karpathos, Greece)
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    This regular influx of visitors contributes to the destruction of landscapes, soil erosion, water pollution, the loss of wildlife habitat and cultural homogenization.
    (Photo © Ramon Fortia. A honeyeater in Aiguamolis, Spain)
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    Drawn by the economic benefits of mass tourism, local communities often do not prioritize conservation or the protection of their cultural and historical attributes. Visitors are then subject to inauthentic and tarnished experiences.
    (Photo © Marianne Lang. Kayak trip in Portcros, France)
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    The Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism (MEET) is turning things around across the region. MEET is a growing network of tourism experts, tour operators, NGOs and government agencies committed to raising awareness and financial support for protected areas and their surrounding communities through ecotourism.
    (Photo © Montgrí, les Illes Medes i el Baix Ter)
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    Sustainable Travel International has been working with the network to promote MEET Experiences, a series of itineraries that connect travelers with local people and off-the-beaten trail activities. We have also helped MEET to develop a business model that provides an economic incentive for local communities to actively support the conservation of their natural and cultural resources.
    (Photo © Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve: Learning about plant species in Jabal Moussa, Lebanon
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    In France’s Cevennes National Park, visitors learn about edible plants, like Ceps and Chanterelle mushrooms, on hikes led by local guides passionate about the landscape and community traditions.
    (Photo © Cevennes Evasion: Hiking through Cevennes, France)
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    In Torre Canne, Italy, this local farmer shows off his vine-ripened tomatoes. The day ends with a trail-to-table dinner hosted by the farmer, who will instill in visitors an appreciation for the local bounty, and maybe even reveal a family recipe or two!
    (Photo © Parco Regionale Delle Dune Costiere: Slow food movement in the Torre Canne Region, Italy)
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Your Destination is a Story

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    People tell stories; great stories become myths because they allow audiences to aspire to a basic value.
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    We moved from an oral tradition of storytelling to a broadcast era where ideas spread in one direction.
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    We’re now in a digital era where everyone spreads ideas and tells stories; the best survive over time.
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    Great marketing stories don’t sell products. Marlboro ads didn’t sell cigarettes; they sold manliness at a time when filtered cigarettes were for women.
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    In the best stories, the hero goes on a journey, meets a mentor who gives him a talisman and sends him off on an adventure to seek a truth.
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    In successful marketing, stories empower their audiences.
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    In traditional broadcast marketing, the focus is on the brand—its accomplishments.
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    But engaging stories make the audience the hero by giving them something to aspire to.
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    You can share all the great sustainability stuff that you’re doing. But that’s not a story that’s going to stick with your audience.
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    A very successful Dove soap campaign didn’t focus on the product’s cleaning power; it engaged women around their feelings about self-image and self-worth.
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    Values are the essence of what your brand stands for.
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    The nonprofit Charity Water stands for water as the basis of life.
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    This Nike campaign was not about running shoes but inner strength.
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    Patagonia takes the audience on the sustainability journey; they don’t claim that they’re doing everything perfectly. Sustainability is a journey.
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    Airbnb’s campaign is about the essential goodness of people.
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    What is a value that you can share about your brand?
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10 MILLION BETTER Presentation

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    10 MILLION BETTER: This is our moment for a movement.
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    Despite its power and reach, travel and tourism isn’t as good as it could be.  Not everyone is benefitting as much as they could.  In many places tourism leads to exclusion, inequality and cultural homogenization.
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    It doesn’t have to be this way. We owe something to the places and people we visit.
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    10 MILLION BETTER is designed take the wonder, amazement and sheer joy of travel and use it to improve lives, protect places and provide visitors with meaningful experiences.  It’s designed to improve the lives of 10 MILLION people in tourism-dependent areas.
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    Hotels are recycling, airlines are offsetting carbon and restaurants are serving locally-grown food. But travel and tourism has not yet collectively rallied around  the cause—not like food, fashion, forestry and other sectors where sustainability has become the business norm.
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    One third of the population is interested in global issues like poverty and climate change. And they shop, share and travel with a conscience. Businesses that  demonstrate their commitment to a better world through travel are staying ahead of the curve. They’re reducing operating costs, increasing efficiencies and attracting visitors.
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    We are determined to improve the lives of 10 million people over the next ten years so that local communities and economies benefit from visitor spending and are empowered to determine their own path for growth. For businesses, 10 MILLION BETTER is an opportunity to demonstrate a return on investment in sustainability, gain recognition as a purpose-driven company and join a global initiative that is improving lives and protecting places through travel and tourism. For travelers, it’s a chance to protect the people and places they care about and to spread that word that travel can be a path towards.
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    Join 10 MILLION BETTER and be part of the movement to improve the lives of 10 million people around the world.
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An Industry Call to Action at Travel & Tourism Summit

“Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest industries and a high-stakes piece of the global sustainability puzzle,” said Sam Adams, Portland’s former Mayor and current director of the US Climate Change Initiative at the World Resources Institute. “It can be an important part of the solution, provided the industry comes together and works toward common goals.”
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