What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
As manager of Tropic I have worked with great many organizations over the past few years (national and international NGO's, cooperation agencies, communities, local governments, etc.) and it is my experience that many have failed to develop their small tourism enterprises for lack of expertise in various areas. Worse still, almost all these ventures fail after enormous amounts of money have been invested in them.
After countless visits to different sites all over the country and talking to people of many different languages and cultures, after experiencing the country’s many different and spectacular ecosystems, and after many, many, hours of conversation and, unfortunately, little action, I realized that it was (and still is) the moment to do something.
I realized it was the moment to move to a new way of working with communities (i.e. not simply ´helping´ or give away tools or aid, or even provide training, no matter how necessary these may be. I realized that what was needed was a model that would provide efficient and effective tools (and consistency!) for working within the tourism business. I realized that to be successful, to support conservation, education, health etc. the model would also have to concentrate on the most fundamental aspect of this type of activity – the tourists themselves.
Here in Ecuador there are real needs: every day more communities find themselves under pressure, more species are becoming endangered and more protected areas are under threat. They are all looking for paths to sustainable development. Meanwhile, the entire world is concerned about climate change, finally waking up to the real threat it represents, and now beginning to appreciate the efforts local cultures are making to protecting water sources and other natural and cultural resources. My philosophy is that tourism has a role here, that it can support local efforts and help provide solutions to these problems; in ecotourism there is an opportunity to bridge these two worlds.
This is what Tropic is all about. We want to show that environmentally sustainable and culturally sensitive tourism could be a viable business model. Over the years the company has consistently partnered and promoted just these kinds of tourism initiatives with indigenous communities, some of which, such as the Huaorani Ecolodge, have received international recognition and awards. With time and experience the initial concept has matured and has produced WAPONI.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
While at University Jascivan began working part time with an uncle, combining theory with the practical aspects of the business. He was training to be an executive with the objective of making things happen. His goal was always to work in tourism so he decided to study business as a way to acquire a more complete perspective of the industry. After a few years abroad, and after winning a scholarship, Jascivan returned to Ecuador to work in an industry that many say is the future for this small, but extremely bio-diverse, country.
It was then that he was given what he describes as ´an opportunity that many would dream of´ the chance to manage a business connected to what he had studied and was entranced by: ecotourism. A number of years later, although he is still young, he is now that company’s General Manager as well as the Executive Director of an ecotourism Foundation, Conservation in Action, that he helped to create.
Over the years he admits to being fortunate enough to have been able to develop some practical and theoretical skills: the ability to create projects around development opportunities and to conceive of businesses and make them happen; the capacity to strengthen alliances amongst actors from different sectors and to articulate proposal with regards to specific needs. As he points out, he prefers to operate with a focus on Rights and an emphasis on biodiversity and ethnic cultural diversity. He has expressed a belief that here he has an advantage, i.e. a deep knowledge of the tourism business and its multiplier effect, its value chain, and how business can be linked to an effective model for promoting conservation, improving economic benefits for local communities and supporting protected areas.
Jascivan´s motivation is challenge, the search of chances to improve his knowledge and provide opportunities that support development and conservation. He is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to apply practical knowledge to sustainable development projects, and to better interpret and solve complicated problems by taking into account sensitive cultural differences. A major part of his success is his interest in the challenges involved in leading complex processes, creating innovative management models, and maintaining networks comprised of a variety of actors both on a continental and global level.
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