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Case Study: Conservation

 

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Case Studies of - Conservation - Education - Sustainable Tourism Development - in Latin America.

Triangle System to Nature and Heritage Preservation within the Tourism and Hospitality Industry: Three Pioneer Projects in Latin America, were designed, implemented and developed by the founder Eberhardt H. Rues, between 1976 and 1996.

The summary of case studies were prepared for UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) and IHEI (International Hotels Environment Initiative) in 1997, for their annual "Environmental Awards": They are being presented as introduction of RHSs long term commitment and mission toward sustainable tourism development around the world.

First pioneer project: RUES Eco Lodge Village, Amazon Region, Ecuador. 1976

The design and development of the first environmental tourism project the "RUES Eco Lodge Village" in the Amazon Region, Ecuador in 1976: On 78 hectares of land - 70 hectares were almost of virgin land. And 8 hectares were used as a plantation of "coffee, banana and other tropical fruits" by the former owners "Colonizers" (colonos). The 8 hectares are bordering with the "Rio Aguarico" (rich water river) with a 1,100 meter river shore. Rues officially purchased the land of "3 fincas" (parcel of land of approximately 25 hectares each) from the Ecuadorean Government. The 70 hectares of virgin land were designated as a "Private Nature Conservancy". And the other 8 hectares were used for the "RUES Ecolodge Village".

I. Objectives of the first project toward "Conservation"

1) To contribute toward minimizing the environmental destruction (*) of the following:

Deforestation of rainforests in the Amazon regions.

Minimizing the "River Stone Excavations", from their river shores - Aguarico River was one of them - in the region.

1.1*) Ecuadors Amazon region was the primary sites of "International Oil and Gas Exploitation" starting in the 1970's. Rainforest, Eco systems and rivers were greatly affected by these adverse developments - in the eye of and ecologist and nature lover -. With the oil boom began also the invasion of the "Colonizers" who were granted a "finca" (25 hectares of land) from the Government: To cultivate whatever they wanted; "a man made Wild Jungle was born".

2) To introduce a proto type model of: a sustainable tourism project (Eco Lodge Village) in the highly destructive Amazon Region of Ecuador and other Amazon Regions in Latin America.

3) To set standards of "environmental oriented lodging facilities" and "basic design concepts"featuring traditional and typical characteristics; adapting to the environment and the particular region and using building methods and materials from the area: Building like the Indians in the past; no nails, no cement. Primarily, environmental sensitive materials were used.

3.1) The Eco Lodge Village was settled in a natural tropical environment , facing on one side the "Rio Aguarico" and on the sides being surrounded by the "Eco Farm". The village was composed of typical Indian lodges with a total capacity for 48 guests, one central lodge which served as a restaurant and lounge and 4 smaller lodges.


II. Benefits of the first pioneer project:

1) Seventy hectares of land were designated as "Private Nature Conservancy".
Environment preservation regulations were enforced: No hunting, no deforestation, no removing from the area any species of fauna and flora. No waste disposal were permitted. Two natural trails were marked and kept transitable.

2) Following the "Philosophy of Sustainable Development: Jobs were shifted and/or were newly created". The jobs were related to farming, building, tour guides for river and land excursions, and lodges services; cooking, cleaning among others; for a total of 15 to 20 staff members - colonos and Indians from the area - , during the first phase (four years) of development. These jobs replaced in part the "Man made wild jungle jobs", since the invasion of the colonizers in the early 1970's.

3) Organic farming or "Eco Farm" was introduced in the village and surrounding area of 8 hectares land. The eco farm served primarily as a "Self Supply Farm" (*) of: Daily fresh fruits and vegetables: 4 types of banana, pineapples, papaya, yuca, mani y arroz (sweet potato like root, peanuts and rice); coffee and cacao. And a few domestic animals, pigs, goats, chicken, ducks, and others. The basic self supply farm concept is: A must when the closest larger city, Quito is 270 kilometers a way.

3.1) The "self supply" concept: Environmental initiative practiced in Europe since the early 1950's, has become a very popular tourism destination and also provides good examples of sustainable development. Two European concepts: in Germany "Ferien auf dem Bauernhof" (Vacation on the Farm - a working ranch/farm with lodging facilities) and in France "Ferme Auberge". In the USA a similar concept was introduced the "Guest Dude Ranches" in Texas, Montana, Dakota and other states, in the 1970's.


4) Building a school for the staff and neighbors children. (a project, co-financed by the developer) Rues, was nicknamed therefore "the Missionary of the Amazon". He did not mind this name. As he explains, environmentalists and nature lovers are Missionaries as they contribute; in smaller and/or larger proportion toward preservation.

5) Combination of Scientific (Botanic Studies) and Nature and Heritage Tourism Programs were the Eco Lodge Villages primary attractions since 1977. Ecuadors Amazon region, especially near the rivers, naturally also near Rio Aguarico were Botanists Paradise (*) in the 1970's. The main market segments of the Eco Lodge were: botanists, ecologists, anthropologists and nature lovers. Our favorite program was: "Field Study and Investigation Programs" - nature exploration center - were offered to universities - botanic study departments - for professors and their students. Their stay varied from 1 week to 1 month.

5.1) The Eco Lodge became a "Scientists Meeting Place and Head Quarters" on the Aquarico River. Our first nature study group, was led by a famous German Botanist, Erwin Patzelt, with a group of 14 students in 1978; in the years ahead we had several nature groups and individual scientists from well known Universities, such as Heidelberg, Tuebingen among others. For the developer - an amateur ecologist - these groups turned to be our "Botanical Advisors" providing the Eco Lodge with valuable botanic information from the area: which was handed out to our guests.

6) The "River Shore Stone Excavation" was Shut Down And Closed. Once the new owner purchased the property and the Eco Lodge started its development phase in 1976.

7) Minimizing Energy Consumption. The energy consumption were kept at its minimum. The illumination for the guest lodges was provided by individual "gas light lamps." In the public and service areas kerosene lamps were used. The two refrigerators functioned with kerosene. As part of the fruits and vegetables were either produced on the Eco Lodge?s organic farm and in the neighborhood, storage energy was not required.


III. Conclusion:

Lesson learned: Never build an Eco Lodge Village or similar project close to the river.

1) The first 4 lodges were build 10 meters off the river shore. When Rues, purchased the land, the Aguarico River was, a narrow river about 70 meters from shore. The former owner assured Rues, they never had any problem of innundation (this was Rues first work experience in the rain forest and his first own tourism village project). In June 1980 the unexpected happened. During the rainy season one of the strongest inundation in the last 10 years in the area occurred: The entire Eco Lodge Village was completely flooded and the eco farm partly destroyed: claiming the loss of two visiting settlers and important financial losses. At that time, no insurance would cover any property in Ecuadors Amazon region.

1.1) The Eco Lodge was rebuilt, by Mariana Almeida, an Ecuadorean Tour Operator, in 1983- 1984, on the highest site of the property.

Commitments: Rues made four commitments:

To continue contributing to sustainable tourism developments primarily in Latin America..

To write guide/text book in Spanish, related to Eco Hotel Management and Sustainable Tourism Development.

To introduce and implement environmental curriculum at hotel schools.

To start a referral environmental group of lodges and hotels. This goal, was initiated in Bolivia, in 1994, under "RHS Eco Friendly Hotels Worldwide".

To make his dream come true contributing toward the "Sustainable Tourism Development" Rues re-entered the multi-national hotel chains as General Manager with Sheraton, in Bolivia and El Salvador (1981 - 1987) and with Radisson in Bolivia (1994 - 1996) in order recuperate part of the financial loss of the Eco Lodge.


Eberhardt H. Rues - Founder and President
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