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FEATURE STORYMarch 23, 2022

Study tour strengthens community-based sustainable tourism initiatives in the Amazon

The World Bank

Photo credit: Caio Palazzo


  • Community-Based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) is an emerging sector that offers travelers a more authentic and sustainable experience. It can add value to natural resource conservation and promote local livelihoods and jobs.
  • The Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program supports CBST, recently facilitating a knowledge exchange journey, including virtual lessons and a study tour with local entrepreneurs, community leaders, and government officials from Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.
  • Participants are now back in their communities, applying what they learned to develop CBST plans, conduct marketing campaigns, and apply new business models to existing initiatives.

As visitors arrive at the Caboclos House Ecolodge, just two hours away from the Amazon hub of Manaus, they bear witness to a complete transformation– from busy urban crowds to the hospitality of the local riverside culture immersed in the Amazon jungle. Guests can take workshops in handicrafts and gardening, sample traditional dishes, and observe wildlife and natural beauty.

These experiences are only possible in conserved areas that provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to local communities. CBST programs offer a scalable way to both increase conservation and economic development.

Led by traditional communities such as riverside dwellers, farmers, quilombolas and Indigenous Peoples, CBST offers an alternative option for tourists seeking a more authentic and sustainable experience. In the Amazon, these opportunities allow visitors to meet and learn from local communities while immersed in the natural environment, all while helping communities receive a green income and employment opportunities.

To expand and strengthen CBST in the Amazon, a group of 22 local entrepreneurs, community leaders, and government officials from Brazil, Colombia, and Peru got together to exchange knowledge about their CBST experiences in late 2021. The Community Tourism: Amazon Exchange was sponsored by the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program (ASL), which is led by the World Bank and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), with the purpose of improving integrated landscape management and ecosystem conservation in priority areas of the Amazon.

The exchange was facilitated by Mariepáua Sustentabilidade, in partnership with the Network of Solutions for Sustainable Development (SDSN Amazônia), the community-based tourism agency Poranduba Amazônia, and the Sustainable Amazon Foundation (FAS).

As part of the learning journey, participants experienced a three-day immersion in the Amazonas Sustainable Development Reserve (RDS) of Rio Negro in Brazil, where they visited several CBST initiatives led by traditional communities and local entrepreneurs, while following all COVID-19 health protocols. Participants learned about different business models and observed firsthand how communities and entrepreneurs are implementing their initiatives. The sites visited included family owned Caboclo’s House Ecolodge, Pousada do Garrido, and community associations Pousada Vista do Rio Negro and Nova Esperança.

The immersion was preceded by virtual meetings that included dual-language materials to improve understanding of CBST concepts and principles, its links with public policies and regional planning, and capacity building tools.

The exchange helped me realize my community lacks organization to properly develop our CBST initiative. Now I am better prepared to increase the revenue from traditional activities such as crafts and fish farming, by linking them with tourism.
Nancy Manqueriapa
from the Peruvian Native Community Santa Rosa de Huacaria.
The World Bank

Photo credit: Caio Palazzo

Participants learned and developed business analysis frameworks and communication campaigns and gathered ideas and solutions from case studies presented by the experts, their peers, and field visits. According to Kiara Julca, Tourism Specialist from SERNANP (Peru’s National Service of Natural Protected Areas), The new framework we learned will help us apply new tools and solutions to different CBST projects underway in Peru. It helps us to work with these initiatives in a structured, solutions-oriented manner."

group of young people with poster explaining something
Photo credit: Caio Palazzo

A CBST Amazon Community of Practice was formed as a result of the exchange and continues to develop and improve. Back in their local communities, the exchange participants are applying what they learned and sharing their insights with their peers.

Maíria Lopes, with the Brazilian Amazonas State Environment Secretariat (SEMA), presented CBST concepts and methodologies to her local community and protected area managers in Amapá State. She is now leading the development of a CBST plan for her municipality with government support.

William Rojas, working with the Colombian ecotourism community enterprise Pinturas Rupestres de Cerro Azul in Guaviare, is now putting a marketing strategy in place, building on what he learned in Brazil. William has also led several community and school meetings to spread the word about CBST.

Royer Phocco, who works at Peruvian Manu National Park, applied the business analysis model taught in the course to their program, Casa Matsgenka. This has allowed him to better structure financing proposals. Royer is sharing his experience with peers and advocating for public institutions to promote CBST in local tourism plans.

Advocating for conservation efforts to policy makers has proven more effective when bolstered with the evidence that successful nature-based enterprises contribute to economic growth and improve local communities’ wellbeing. A recent World Bank publication made the case that investing in eco-tourism and nature conservation could play a pivotal role helping green recovery programs. The CBST exchange allowed decision makers from communities and institutions to witness the power of these programs, increasing motivation and interest.  


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