Ecotourism is one of the most popular emerging tourism markets. With the environment in an ever-worsening condition, the tourism industry has sat up and taken notice and directed tourism toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife.

Ecotourism is a tried and tested form of tourism that is increasing in scope and scale. Countries with fragile eco-systems, but with a lot of tourism potential, have been particularly successful in adopting eco-tourism methods. Often these places serve to help the environment by promoting the necessity of conservation and preservation. This is necessary information for tourists because they take away more than just memories, they are provided with information they can spread long after they head back home. By increasing employment opportunities, ecotourism is an effective vehicle for empowering local communities around the world to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development. With an emphasis on enriching personal experiences and environmental awareness through interpretation, ecotourism promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture.

Recently myself and my fellow Progressio ICS volunteers got the opportunity to visit Nuevo Gualcho, one such example of ecotourism in the blossoming tourist destination that is El Salvador. The community of Nuevo Gualcho is born out of hardship. Refugees, who fled to Honduras, fleeing the barbaric civil war, returned and rebuilt their community, and their foolhardy nature and guile has clearly been passed down the generations. Clearly a community looking for their next opportunity to thrive, not as individuals but collectively. 

The potential El Salvador possesses as a tourist destination is staggering. Miles of coastline with dramatic surf and idyllic scenery. Volcanoes dominating the skyline provide a truly staggering backdrop. However, El Salvador holds the keys to its future success as a tourist destination. The main reason that the nation still struggles to fulfil its potential is the crippling gang crisis that leaves no family or community unaffected. Nuevo Gualcho therefore is a community pioneering the potential for tourists in El Salvador. They are clinging on to the hope that the gang problem will subside and the people of El Salvador will have a chance to allow their country to thrive. This is evident in their new eco-cabins that have been purpose built for tourism. With stunning views across an epic landscape, Nuevo Gualcho would be an idyllic retreat for any of the more adventurous tourists out there. If more places in El Salvador could adopt a similar level of optimism surrounding their country’s future, then it could look a little more certain. 

Written by ICS volunteer Harry Rix