TourCert Journal

Protected areas in Ecuador on the way to sustainability certification

Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve © Sebastián Sierra, Ministry of Environment


Ecuador offers beautiful coastal areas, impressive cities but also breathtaking nature parks. However, in order to preserve local treasures and make the travel industry sustainable in the long term, the tourism players involved need to be sensitised and trained accordingly.

This is precisely where the project “Qualification in Ecuador” for the further training of local specialists comes in. Together with local partners and the Ministry of Environment the idea and in particular the implementation of responsible tourism is to be promoted at various levels. Financed by a development partnership of the programme via Sequa gGmbH, TourCert trains strategic sustainability managers and park rangers in Ecuador.

Tierbeobachtung im Wildtierreservat Cuyabeno © Verónica Muñoz/TourCert
Animal observation at Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

The two destinations Cuenca and San Joaquín have already successfully mastered the certification as sustainable destinations. Now, protected areas in Ecuador that are valuable for tourism have also set out on the road to sustainability. Currently, four nature reserves and parks are in the process and will be accompanied by local trainers who have already been trained by TourCert in the certification process.

This is based on a cooperation with the local “Punto Verde” certification of the Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador (MAE). The criteria for companies were compared, aligned with the TourCert system for partner companies in the destinations and merged accordingly. At the same time, a mutual recognition mechanism will be established in the next months for give a recognition to protected areas that are implementing sustainable practices. The joint destination certification is being pilot tested in the four protected areas of Cuyabeno, Machalilla, Puntilla Santa Elena and Cotopaxi.

Feuchtgebiet im Wildtierreservat © Verónica Muñoz/TourCert
Wetlands in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve comprises 14 lagoons and is the largest wetland area in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Dolphins, manatees, caimans, anacondas and otters live in the natural floodplain Cuyabeno. The extraordinary natural landscape and wildlife attracts thousands of visitors every year. As a first step, all stakeholders have been brought together and local tour operators have been visited to conduct self-assessments on compliance with environmental and social aspects under Punto Verde and TourCert criteria.

Machalilla National Park, on the other hand, includes dry and semi-dry forests and the marine and coastal environment of southern Manabí. In and around the park there are archaeological sites of various cultures. In the Machalilla National Park, the process has already led to the implementation of initial improvement measures and infrastructure works at the Los Frailes beach, the main attraction.

Küste im Machalilla Nationalpark © Verónica Muñoz/TourCert
Coast at Machalilla National Park

The Puntilla de Santa Elena Reserve separates the Bay of Santa Elena from the Gulf of Guayaquil. The waters of the reserve are the livelihood of large fish populations and play a very important role in the protection and recovery of fish stocks. In addition to Eco mappings tools, an analysis of tourist flows is carried out on site.

The Cotopaxi National Park is also one of the most visited national parks  in Ecuador. The imposing Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, dominates the entire landscape of the protected area. The team of trainers analysed the local service chain together with local responsible persons to identify potential for improvement and to derive measures in the future.

Unterkünfte im Cuyabeni Wildlife Reserve Küste im Machalilla Nationalpark © Verónica Muñoz/TourCert
Accommodation at Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

For the local population in the four protected areas, the project can create new long-term jobs and employment opportunities and reduce the negative impact of increasing tourism on local culture and the environment. The development also benefits tour operators from the sending markets: the pilot destinations position themselves as attractive sustainable destinations.

Whether you are a traveller or a tour operator, Ecuador is always worth a visit. With the project “Qualification in Ecuador” TourCert creates more quality and sustainability in tourism at the destination. More information can be found at:

Cuyabeno, Nature protection areas, Protected areas, Sustainable Destinations