Conservation, Education and Sustainable Tourism Development.
By Eberhardt H. Rues
Sunday, 11th March 2007
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 RHS's 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 rain forests in the Amazon regions.
  • Minimizing the "River Stone Excavations", from their river shores - Aguarico River was one of them - in the region.
1.1*) Ecuador's Amazon region was the primary sites of "International Oil and Gas Exploitation" starting in the 1970's. Rain forest, 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 lodge's 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 neighbor's 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 Village's primary attractions since 1977. Ecuador's Amazon region, especially near the rivers, naturally also near Rio Aguarico were Botanist's 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 Ecuador's 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.

    Case Study: Education

    Second Pioneer Project: Integrated Environmental Hotel and Tourism Curriculum in Mexico: Implemented at ITESM (Technical Institute of Superior Studies Monterey) for the Hotel and Tourism Study Programs - 9 Semester - at Campus Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, 1993 - 1994

    I. Objectives of second project toward "Education"

    1) Hotel and Tourism School Curriculum:

    1.1) To implement courses of two related topics: a) Eco Tourism. b) Eco Hotel Management and Marketing. Both courses were based on the dual system: Theoretical and practical formations.

    • Mix of integrated studies ( mix can vary according the particular case study):
    • Theory: 30 - 40%. Practice: 60 - 70%.
    • Eco Tourism: 2 semester
    • Integrated Eco-Hotel Management and Marketing 4 semesters
    • Both topics should be given, one at the beginning and one at the end of the study program.
    1.2) To select case studies of existing "Environmental Problem Solving Cases": Destruction, Energy, Water, and Waste mishandling among other problems.

    • The case studies should follow a " Problem solving - control system" of: Problem identification. Analysis. Goal setting. Training. Implementation. Monitoring. And correcting.
    • One case study per course: Students active participation in these case studies motivate their interest and their application in the process of studies.
    2) Continuous Education Programs for Hotel and Tourism Professionals:

    1.) To offer continuous education programs (programas de extension): Action work shops and seminars and conferences on the above mentioned topics. The courses were held at ITESM, Campus Mazatlan and other campuses within the system. And in hotels in Mazatlan.
    • The methodology: a combination of theory and practice, as that of the integrated school programs.
    • The programs were structured to the particular needs and interests of groups of professionals: Management, Supervisors, and staff levels.
    • The programs and/or seminars lasted from 1 day to 6 weeks, including site visits and field analysis ( for programs of more than 1 week).
    3) Course Topic: Eco Tourism. (Following only one topic example shall be presented. For each topic a detailed "course outline" was drawn)

    General Objectives:

    3.1) To introduce the concept of Eco Tourism (Nature and Culture Tourism) viewed from the Hotelier's and Hotel's point of view.

    3.2) To analyze the destructive impacts toward natural and cultural resources of world famous tourism destinations. The past adverse experiences serve as lessons, which are not to be repeated.

    • Case studies and analysis of positive tourism developments: Bermuda, Bavaria, and Singapore among others. And negative tourism developments: Costa Brava, Spain and Hurghada, Egypt, among others.
    3.3) To develop an awareness of Mexico's and Mazatlan's great and diversified resources of Eco Tourism: Nature, Culture, and History.

    3.4) To develop an awareness of "Integrated and Visionary Marketing Strategies"of all the hotels in the region linked with all tourism destinations and attractions in the area as "One Destination". With the participation - joining efforts - of the hotels, service providers, hotel schools and all related businesses and sectors, private and government.

    Course references:
    • Eco Tourism its role in the conservation of the environment. (Eberhardt H. Rues, 1992)
    • Eco Tourism projects - design and development- for Mazatlan and Mexico. - (Eberhardt H. Rues 1993)
    I. Benefits of the second project toward "Education"

    1) Environmental Consciousness Raising through the participation of Educational Institutions as in the case of ITESM, Campus Mazatlan, achieved multiple benefits:

    2) The practical and theoretical involvement toward environmental preservation of the students at the early stage of their professional career; as well of the industry professionals result in: Greater enthusiasm, better understanding of the real problems and a participative problem solving attitude.
    These positive results are basic and vital for the "Continuous Process of Preservation and Education."

    3) The "Mazatlan Three Islands - National Reserve Project" the pioneer project of ITESM's Hotel and Tourism student's practical on site involvement, in 1993 and 1994. Achieved its primary objectives: The Bird Island (one of the three islands) the local habitat of the: Brown pelicans and pichichin ducks both were species in extinction - was closed to tourists as of mid 1993. After a visit in January 1997 both species have multiplied three fold.

    4) Increase in the commitment to "Social Responsibility of all Parties involved": The Educational Institute ITESM, Campus Mazatlan, the students, the professionals of all sectors, private and public.
    • Any institution, hotel and business who gets involved in the "Universal Responsibility of Preservation" exercises Social Responsibility and consequently increases its "Prestige".
    • Prestige in all institutions and businesses is a vital part of maintaining a "Leadership Position."
    5) Environmental text and guide books (in Spanish) for the hospitality industry in Latin America in the early 1990's strengthened the importance of the industry, because the "Backbone of the Tourism Industry is the Hotel Industry" on one side. And on the other side it raised the awareness of "Participative Planning, Design and Development" of all tourism related businesses of all sectors: private and public is paramount in both educational programs and responsible tourism development.

    Case Study: Sustainable Development

    Third Pioneer Project: Environmental referral group system - "RHS EcoFriendly Hotels of Bolivia"

    I. Objectives of the third project toward "Sustainable Tourism Development"

    A) General Objectives:

    To contribute toward the Conservation of the Environment, Natural and Cultural Resources.

    2) To raise "Environmental Consciousness" and practice "Social Responsibility within and outside the hotel, with the participation of all parties involved: Owner, architects, scientists, staff, suppliers, related professionals, students and hotel guests among others.

    3) To promote Bolivia as an "Ethno (*) and Eco-Tourism Destination" locally and internationally.

    3.1*) The combined Ethno and Eco Tourism concept emphasizes on the exiting 32 ethnic groups in Bolivia - the greatest ethnic groups in The Americas: Which deserve the greatest respect "of not changing their cultural and heritage values". The heritage values of most tourism destinations around the world, tend to change: Bolivia, some of the Andean countries and Mexico, among others, do preserve greatly their heritage, this gives these destinations an advantage over the countries which do not preserve their heritage values. In 1994, Rues recommended strongly to the Secretary of Tourism to use with great pride the term of "Ethno and Eco Tourism."

    4) To implement the guide lines of RHS's text book (operational manual and criteria ) "Eco Hotel Management - Environmental Consciousness in Hotel Administration" through the efficient consumption of: Water, Energy and Waste based on the R's principle: Reducing, Reusing and Recycling.

    5) To implement and develop RHS's "Eco Marketing Strategies" focused toward: "The promotion, awareness and conservation of natural and cultural resources and destinations; avoiding the destruction of the natural areas and the change of Community's Heritage Values." (Eberhardt H.. Rues) coupled with the "referral group joint effort marketing strategies."

    6) To take part in the "Participative and Visionary Planning and Development Process" of Eco Tourism and Eco Education in order to raise consciousness and to participate in environmental problem solving strategies within all concerned sectors; government, communities, scientists, private enterprises, educational institutes, international organizations and the media among others.

    II. Benefits of the third project toward "Sustainable Tourism Development"

    1) The initial benefits (during the first phase of development 2 years, in 1995 - 1996) from the RHS Eco Friendly Hotel members side, were their great "Enthusiasm, Commitment, and Civic Involvement" in the complex tasks toward: Preservation, Education and Sustainable Tourism Development.

    2) Environmental Consciousness Raising toward integrated Hotel Management and Marketing Systems.*

    • Each member hotel received a guide book "Eco Hotel Management" which serves both, criteria setting of environmental standards and as operational manual. The member hotels participated in the following:
    • Continuous education seminars and action workshops on "Eco Hotel Management and Marketing" once a year.
    • Each member hotel is visited ( on site inspection, once a year) by RHS Environmental Hotel Consultants; their tasks are the assessment and identification of any mayor environmental problem, evaluating the improvements of environmental practices, as well training and monitoring.
    2.1*) The criteria of environmental standards had to be very flexible, because each hotel/lodge is of a different size, category and age.  A standard form of basic and minimum criteria had to be accomplished. The RHS criteria emphasizes the triangle system: Overall good practices of all three primary objectives combined: Conservation, Education and Sustainable Development.  Each member hotel/lodge is rechecked within a two year period.  If a hotel fails with its implementation it will be taken out of the system.

    3) Foundation of "Eco Tourism Society of Bolivia" (ETSB)

    • The "Asociacion Boliviana de Eco Turismo" (ABET) was founded by four Eco Friendly Hotel Members (*) in April 1995 and officially installed in April 1996.
    • ETSB primary objectives are: Coordination, training and recommendation within the overall Eco Tourism Education and Development process in Bolivia and the participating sectors: Government, private enterprises, scientists, educational institutions, and international organizations.
    • ETSB organized and held: Action work shops with the Ethnic groups. With the first course for "Eco Tourism Tour Guides" (course was cosponsored by UNEP) in 1996.

      (3.1*) ETSB co-founders were, Jazmin Miranda, Hostal Caturra Inn. Claudio Vera, Hotels Rosarios. Walter Schmid, Hotel Oberland. And Eberhardt H. Rues.
    4) Coordination and participation of the "First Forum on Eco Tourism - Latin America and Europe" held in La Paz, November 20 - 24, 1995, at the Radisson Plaza, La Paz.

    • The forum was co-sponsored by the European Commission, Alinvest and Chamber of Commerce of Bolivia. The local organizing committee was formed by six RHS Eco Hotel members, the coordination committees of Chamber of Commerce of Madrid and the Ministry of Tourism of Bolivia.
    • The Forum was conceptualized* around 4 topics:
    • Business Round Tables.
    • Conferences.
    • Bolivian Art and Craft Exhibition.
    • Nature and Heritage Tours for 20 invited European Eco Tourism Tours Operators. 400 professionals and students attended this event. This historic event, was the first launch to promote Bolivia's nature and heritage values on the "International Market Scenario".

      (4.1*) The conceptualization of the Eco Tourism was designed and implemented by Eberhardt H. Rues, who also was the principal coordinator and technical advisor of the event. Rues was General Manager of the Radisson Plaza, La Paz, in 1994 - 1996.
    5) Setting good examples:

    • The active involvement in educational activities and good environmental practices within the RHS Eco Friendly Hotels, also set "Good Examples" for other hotels in Bolivia. The Bolivian Hotel Association, promoted the guide book "Eco Hotel Management" through all their affiliated hotels. This chain reaction, considering the short period of development - 2 years - has been satisfactory for the industry at large, all parties involved as well for the image of Bolivia as an emerging Ethno and Tourism Destination.
    6) Making the referral system accessible to all sizes of environmental friendly hotels and lodges:

    • The owners of smaller lodges especially in remote areas, like the historic "Rubber King Residence"(in the 1920's) in the Bolivian Amazon, now the "Hotel Esperanza" of 8 rooms in Cachuela de Esperanza, near the Brazilian border town of Guayraramerin, 700 km distance of the Capital of Bolivia La Paz, benefitted most of joining the referral group system. For two main reasons:
    • First, the hotels/lodges have direct contact to the communities and indigenous groups. And participate in joint promotion and development of new "Eco Tourism Projects" for example in the Samaimpata area, near Santa Cruz. RHS ‘s smallest lodge member "Cabanas Traudi" of 3 lodges total 7 rooms: the owner Traudi de Arce, is the manager of the "Archeological Ruins of Samaipata", in 1996 became a UNESO historical site. She also participates and coordinates other nature oriented projects in the area; up to this date, September 2002.
    • Second, the hotels/lodges got familiarized with integrated hotel management systems of international standards; which normally most of the smaller lodgings facilities in Latin America, have not access to.
    • The RHS referral group system accepts lodges/hotels starting with 5 rooms; as long they comply with the set triangle system standards within the respective category.
    Eberhardt H. Rues - Founder and President
    10269 N. Deltona Boulevard. Citrus Springs. Florida 34434. USA
    Tel.: + 1(352) 489-7929 - E-mail: ERues@ecofriendlyhotelsrhs.com

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