The Destination is Green for Panama – Tourism for Everyone

For a country slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina, Panama boasts an impressive number of environmental firsts: Most diverse wildlife in Central America, largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere (outside of the Amazon Basin) and with 933 bird species, one of the world’s best bird watching destinations. While devoted birders are among the 1.6 million tourists who flock to Panama each year, the country has never positioned itself as a green destination, the way Costa Rica and Belize have. Until now. On Earth Day 2015, President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez, Minister of Environment Mirei Endara, Minister of Tourism Jesús Sierra Victoria  and General Director of the National Institute of Culture Mariana Núñez announced The Green Tourism Initiative, designed to integrate the protection of biodiversity and culture with tourism.

For Earth Month United Airlines is Supporting the Restoration of the Mississippi River Valley through Carbon Offsets

The rich, alluvial soils of the Mississippi River Valley have made it the country’s most fertile agricultural region. While the valley was covered in 25 million acres of forestland until World War II — providing a habitat for cougars, black bear, bison, red fox and of course, waterfowl — industrial farming has led to widespread deforestation and today the forestland has dwindled to just five million acres.

Captain Makosi

Captain Makosi

Since 2013, Sustainable Travel International has been working closely with the Arawak and Carib indigenous communities in the Para district of Suriname to identify tourism products that highlight their unique culture. These included a small visitor center highlighting traditional music, a guided tour of a medicinal garden, a tour of a local pineapple farm, and a visitor center where international and domestic visitors can learn more about the Arawak language. The products were pooled together to create a tourism circuit in the region which will provide much needed jobs for young people and will help to stimulate the growth of small and medium enterprises. Connecting this tourism circuit with local and international tour operators from the onset was important to establish a demand channel. In July, 2014, Seleni Matus, Sustainable Travel International’s Vice President of Latin America and the Caribbean, met with the community leaders of the Para district to find out how the tourism circuit was faring. The good news was shared by Captain Makosi from Powakka that the first tour group had come through their community and had the opportunity to make traditional cassava bread and tour the village guided by a community leader. The tour was so successful that it has now been included in one of the Netherland’s main tour operators itineraries. “Captain Makosi of the Powakka community, and the other communities in the Para district, are very excited for what sustainably managed tourism can accomplish to support their livelihoods and contribute to the conservation of their cultural heritage,” shared Seleni.