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Toledo Ecotourism Association, Belize


Name of Lodge or Ecotourism Project: Toledo Ecotourism Association "Guesthouse and Ecotrail project".

Location: Toledo District, Belize, Central America. Toledo is known as Belize's "forgotten District".

Website: n/a

Year Established: 1990

Tourism activities: Jungle tours, waterfall tours, Mayan ruin tours, village tours, craft lessons, Milpa farm tours, cooking lessons, pottery making lessons, cocoa grinding lesson, dancing shows and Belizean story telling.

Ecolodge / Accommodation details: The Toledo Ecotourism Association operates 10 village guesthouses, each one in a different village of Toledo District in Southern Belize. Each ecolodge is of the same design and measure approximately 400 square feet made up of sawn timber walls on cement slabs with thatched roof. Each ecolodge can accommodate up to eight people in two rooms with bunk beds/ mattresses as well as single bed combinations. Bath room facilities are located outside the lodge. The ecolodges are furnished and have oil lamps or candles for lightening. Pillows, blankets, sheets, towels and mosquito nets are provided during the stays at the vilage's ecolodge.

Responsible tourism practices. How is impact upon the local environment minimized?: The Toledo Ecotourism Association is an association of villages that arose in 1990 to serve the eco-cultural and adventure tourism markets in rural areas of Belize's Toledo District. Maya - Mopan, Kekchi as well as the Garifuna villages organized themselves to serve the small scale ecotourism in Toledo by offering village stays in guest -houses coupled with cultural and natural attractions. The desired outcome would be benefits such as expanded income and local employment while conserving the natural and cultural assets.

How is the local community involved?: The services provided to guests are culturally based experiences in a typical family-type arrangement. The capacity of each village guesthouse oscillates from 8-10 persons per visit and other services consists of meals, tours and entertainment which are added revenue items contracted from members of the village community. Guests can put together the elements of their own tour package from a menu of choices and can stay in more than one village during their visit. The experience is a pleasant blend of culture, nature, archaeology and adventure. The project is owned and operated almost entirely by the local community.

Does the presence of ecotourism leave a positive impact upon the local environment and community? If so, how?: Yes. From the seventeen years of operation of the Toledo Ecotourism Association, it certainly demonstrates that it has positive impacts on both the community and the environment. Community members have gained supplementary income aside from their farm work to help finance their childrens education through the health and education fund. It has provided several families with part-time jobs which reduces urbanization and has offered opportunities to members to know and have friends globally. The Toledo Ecotourism Association has also educated community residents about the importance of preserving the last remaining rainforests in the immediate surroundings of their communities. This environmental awareness leads local communities to respect their environment and thus minimizes the poaching, hunting, cutting of rainforests and the extraction of rainforest products and plants.

Who owns the lodging facilities (ecolodge)? Is it communally, or individually owned?: All the guesthouses are communally owned by a group of members in each village. Bi-annual elections are conducted with the District Executive Committee, this committee oversee the day to day operation of the TEA central office and are authorized to represents the 183 members.

Further information: The Toledo Ecotourism Association presently is seeking volunteers to help operate the central office and to write project proposals. In 1997 TEA won the ToDo award in Berlin, Germany for the most "Socially Responsible Ecotourism". In the future The Toledo Ecotourism Association plans to seek funding and implement the District wide "Toledo Peoples Ecopark".


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