Over 70 representatives of organizations working on ecotourism from eight Mesoamerican countries gathered in Belize City, Belize, November 26-28, 2001, to conduct a critical and objective review of ecotourism as it is being practiced in this region, and to develop recommendations for action from the region to be presented at the World Ecotourism Summit scheduled to be held in Quebec, Canada in May 2002. This Mesoamerican regional meeting is one of six regional events supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as part of the United Nations-declared International Year of Ecotourism in 2002. Other meetings are planned for Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arctic, with another fourteen planned by the Year’s co-sponsor, the World Tourism Organization.
The three day program was hosted by the Programme for Belize, a Belizean non-governmental, conservation organization, and co-hosted by five other regional and international NGOs: the RARE Center for Tropical Conservation, the Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance, Conservation International, The International Ecotourism Society and Rainforest Alliance.
The meeting delegates hailed from southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The participation of 30 delegates from non-governmental organizations and local communities, who otherwise may not have had a voice in international events associated to the International Year of Ecotourism, was made possible through funds provided by the host committee and by UNEP. The delegates at the meeting moved to call the event a Mesoamerican meeting, as opposed to a Central American meeting, in recognition of the contribution of the delegates from southern Mexico.
The meeting featured keynote presentations, case study presentations and multisectoral working group sessions on five key topics: Ecotourism Planning in Protected Areas, Community Involvement and Community based Ecotourism, Ecotourism as a Business Activity, Ecotourism Policies at the National Level and Ecotourism Policies at the Regional and International Levels. Participant evaluations indicated that the program succeeded at covering the most relevant ecotourism issues in the region, and that the participative nature of the meeting allowed them to have full input into the results document.
Results of the Mesoamerican Regional Meeting for the International Year of Ecotourism
We, the participants of the Mesoamerican Regional Meeting for the International Year of Ecotourism, representing a diversity of groups from the countries of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama, believe that ecotourism can and does make an important contribution to the protection of nature in our region and to the well being of local peoples. We recognize that ecotourism continues to evolve in both theory and practice and that it benefits from the collective lessons learned daily in the field, both positive and negative. It is in this spirit and in a desire to strengthen the success of ecotourism as a conservation and economic development activity, that we present the platform from our meeting to the United Nations World Ecotourism Summit.
–Participants of the Mesoamerican Regional Meeting for the International Year of Ecotourism
The results posted on this website reflect the summary of three days of keynote presentations, case studies, and multisectoral working groups on five themes: how ecotourism is planned in protected areas, how community involvement and community-based ecotourism is progressing, how ecotourism is working as a business activity, what type of national policies for ecotourism are in place and what policies are needed, and what policies are needed at a regional and international level. The discussions of the multisectoral working groups were focused on reviewing objectives, barriers and strategies for four issues-Planning, Regulation, Product Development and Monitoring-of each of the five themes. The themes and issues discussed at this regional meeting were established by the United Nations, and are the same to be discussed at other International Year of Ecotourism Preparatory meetings held throughout the world.
The results presented on this website are the direct product of the working groups and have not been edited. A final edition will be edited for UNEP by Megan Epler Wood of The International Ecotourism Society in cooperation with co-editor Raul Arias de Para of Panama, and the Steering Committee established for the meeting, which has representatives from each Mesoamerican nation. This version will be posted on the TIES website, www.ecotourism.org. All participants will be invited to review and comment well before the World Ecotourism Summit.
A final declaration will be prepared by the delegates elected from the Mesoamerican regional meeting to attend the World Ecotourism Summit in cooperation with the Steering Committee. The final declaration will be prepared to reflect the spirit of cooperation between organizations and nations that was fostered at the meeting, and to strongly affirm what actions and policies are necessary in the region to ensure that ecotourism is a genuine sustainable development tool. It will also be posted at www.ecotourism.org.
I. Ecotourism Planning in Protected Areas
II. Community Involvement and Community based Ecotourism
III. Ecotourism as a Business Activity
IV. Ecotourism Policies at the National Level
V. Ecotourism Policies at the Regional and International Levels
For more information on issues and meetings related to the International Year of Ecotourism, contact Fergus Maclaren, at The International Ecotourism Society, email@example.com.