Waponi: Incubating Geotourism Initiatives for Conservation

Waponi: Incubating Geotourism Initiatives for Conservation

Ecuador
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
< $1,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

WAPONI is a business incubator aimed at providing small community-based tourism initiatives in Ecuador and Peru with the market access and skills to compete and thrive. These businesses have sustainability at their core, adhere to high standards of environmental and socio-cultural respect, and have tourist and local population involvement/engagement.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

WAPONI is designed to address three specific problems. The first is a lack of income and economic opportunity in local communities. This often leads to overexploitation, and even a complete disregard for water and other natural resources. This is further compounded by a lack of knowledge about the impacts overexploitation has on the sustainability of the communities themselves. The second is the protection of the local environment in a general sense: the conservation of water supplies, fishing grounds, coastal mangrove forests, rainforests and their biodiversity. The community projects were designed to solve these problems by providing a financial motive for the conservation of resources. The idea has proven sound and the projects have instilled a new sense of environmental responsibility in the communities. The third problem, the one that WAPONI aims to solve by bringing these communities and their projects together under one banner, is the financial instability caused by their lack of both marketing capacity and the expertise necessary to appropriately manage and operate their geotourism enterprises in the initial stages.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

WAPONI is a unique initiative because it offers business development consulting services to small community based tourism initiatives, the market and social investors. Unlike other models WAPONI offers its members the opportunity to become vested partners in the business. As a legally constituted social business, WAPONI aims to strengthen the operations and the market reach of individual projects that lack the expertise and network to reach the sometimes elusive demand looking for new product in the crowded international travel marketplace. WAPONI is innovative because: - It offers its members a promotional and marketing platform that matches the projects with both social investors and the market segment. - It offers consumers a single gateway to truly sustainable, authentic experiences, whose operational and quality standards are guaranteed by WAPONI in coordination with well known certification seals. - It creates a collaborative forum for projects, social investors and donors. Selected projects that promise high quality tourist experiences as well as strong ROI, positive impacts in host communities and protection of the environment can showcase themselves as part of an incubator scheme. Donors or social and environmentally concerned investors and companies can contribute to help them raise their standards and meet WAPONI criteria, which will enable the projects to become part of an efficient commercial network, thus creating a positive loop for all stakeholders: the small businesses, the investors, the market and other WAPONI members.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

- It offers its members a promotional and marketing platform that matches the projects with both social investors and the market segment. - It offers consumers a single gateway to truly sustainable, authentic experiences, whose operational and quality standards are guaranteed by WAPONI in coordination with well known certification seals. - It creates a collaborative forum for projects, social investors and donors. Selected projects that promise high quality tourist experiences as well as strong ROI, positive impacts in host communities and protection of the environment can showcase themselves as part of an incubator scheme. Donors or social and environmentally concerned investors and companies can contribute to help them raise their standards and meet WAPONI criteria, which will enable the projects to become part of an efficient commercial network, thus creating a positive loop for all stakeholders: the small businesses, the investors, the market and other WAPONI members.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

WAPONI seeks to bridge two different worlds – tourism/business and communities. WAPONI speaks both languages…few others do. We believe that the real challenge is to get ecotourism with local communities to be competitive, so far these small rural enterprises aren't part of the market, these are all peers struggling to find their own space.
About You
Organization:
Waponi
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Jascivan

Last Name

Carvalho

Organization

Waponi

Country

, P

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Waponi

Organization Phone

+593 2 222 5907

Organization Address

Vicente Solano 101, Quito, Ecuador

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, P

Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?

Yes

Innovation
Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

WAPONI has already become a point reference within the Ecuadorian market. Tropic Journeys in Nature, an award winning ecotourism operator, is coordinating and promoting the initiative as a way to involve the communities to a greater extent in the marketing aspect and as way to differentiate and emphasize the special and specialized nature of these community projects from the more general tourist package the firm sells.
Tropic has been working with community tourism initiatives for fifteen years and is constantly consulted about project development for sustainable, community geotourism destinations. In the last three years the company has won more international awards than any other Ecuadorian tourism operator (last year it was short listed for Virgin Travel´s ´Responsible Travel Awards´ and in 2009 is one of National Geographic Adventures "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth") a fact very noted by clients and the broader travel industry this recognition is the backbone for the WAPONI initiative credibility and support.
In fact, WAPONI is the beneficiary of Tropic´s experiences: the lessons learned working with community geotourism projects and has emerged over time as the solution to the problems confronted by the company, the local communities, donors and international operators.
The five communities already involved in WAPONI can also claim to have had an important impact on both their clients and the tourism sector in general. They are in the forefront of community based geotourism in Ecuador and the Andean region.

Actions

1.Setting environmental, social and quality standards for the tourism operations and training program for the enterprises part of the WAPONI brand.
2.Selecting projects in Ecuador and Peru and showcasing them to carefully selected social investors and donors interested in providing financial and technical support to help these projects reach WAPONI standards.
3.Reaching agreements with local operators regarding the administration of the organization: marketing, booking system, and joint administration. A system of mentors and a board of directors with tourism expertise will be established to accompany the operations.
4.Producing promotional material such as printed pamphlets, web pages, blogs and other marketing techniques that may be useful and necessary to message its differentiation and brand promise.
5.Achieving presence in international tourism fairs and social investor forums as well as other channels built up over the years.
6. Researching possible economies of scale that could be realized by joint marketing, buying, contracting etc.
7. Exchanging experiences and sharing case studies with other community tourism operators in Ecuador and Latin America.

Results

a. Increased capacity and quality to handle a greater flow of tourists and consequently an increase in family income levels.
b. Expansion by way of an increased number of community initiatives participating through an incubator project selected communities in Ecuador and Peru that are close to reaching WAPONI standards. Carefully selected social investors and donors interested will provide financial and technical support to help these projects reach WAPONI standards.
c. Increased participation and support for environmental protection as the communities become increasingly aware of their important role in conserving natural resources, particularly water, mangroves and biodiversity.
d. A greater capacity on the part of local people to manage and administer their projects, learn new skills that will serve them in the future, and raising the self esteem of communities marginal to the country´s economic growth over the last few decades.
e. Increased income and welfare within the communities that form part of the WAPONI initiative.
f. Increased support for Ecuadorian indigenous cultures such as the Huaorani and Secoya.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

We need them to be clear, precise, easy to apply and useful to all stakeholders: small community based initiatives interested in becoming part of WAPONI; consumers and tourism companies looking for the real sustainable experiences; and social investors and donors that demand both financial and social return on investment and will be able to clearly see that WAPONI matches their own principles and standards.
WAPONI will provide the permanent technical support necessary to set up the management and operations model, training and evaluation methodology and materials, so standards can be replicated in partner and associated initiatives across the Andean region.
Year 1
Finalize product development with the communities.
Establish the conditions for Waponi to open its capital to investors and partner companies.
Refine the set of social, environmental and quality criteria with which to assess potential new members/tour products, and certify those that meet the criteria. We also need to refine the indicators and monitoring and evaluation processes, in order to be able to brand all WAPONI projects and those aiming to be part of WAPONI family.
Reach agreements with at least 7 new community-based geotourism initiatives in Ecuador and Peru and establish the improvement plans that will allow them to achieve WAPONI standards.
Develop the project by defining the right commercial platform and web technology that will allow us to bring clients to ecotourism destinations.
Develop Business plans for each member.
Develop a strong brand and marketing plan that communicates the high standards and unique qualities of the WAPONI Network members and their products.
Bring together member communities in order to exchange experiences and learn from each other.
Year 2
Maintain sales and marketing activities for the platform..
Procure investment for the equipment required to connect sites and communities with main urban areas.
Showcase the projects and find the matching donors.
Year 3
Identify and certify a further five partners whose products will be promoted and sold through the sales network. Implement plans to enable them to meet WAPONI standards and become part of the WAPONI network
Generate sales revenue to pay for 100% of annual operational costs.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

One of the principal barriers is the weak state of the international economy, which has had an inevitable impact on the growth of these community enterprises and tourism in general. How well the economy recovers in the next few years will be an important factor for the progress of the project. However, an important element of the WAPONI initiative is to ensure that in the event the economy continues to be fragile, which is a real possibility, the community destinations are in the best position to maintain their positive trajectory.
Another obstacle is the limited amount of funding available for an international campaign to promote the initiative. The campaign is fundamental to the success of the model and the health of the community tourism projects. The campaign involves the constant production of printed materials, electronic information (videos, high quality web page, Twitter, Facebook etc.) production of articles for magazines, familiarity trips for national and international operators, road and travel shows.
A final obstacle is the lack of constant administrative and tourism training, a crucial element in achieving and maintaining the levels of efficiency and service necessary to attract and keep clients, and thereby consolidate a presence in the international tourism market.

How many people will your project serve annually?

101‐1000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?

Yes

Sustainability
What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

In what country?

, P

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

If yes, provide organization name.

World Tourism Organisation

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?

Yes

Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

These organisations are critical because they provide advice and experience related to community geo tourism initiatives and the tourism business in general in other areas of the world. They are also important as sources of information about markests and as institutions that can provide the training that the WAPONI projects and others that hope to become part of the WAPONI initative need in order to meet and sustain the necessary environmental, social and quality standards demanded by the brand.
It is important to point that there are no formal advisory or directors board but an important group pf people related to the operations that are permanently consulated and willing to provide support.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

WAPONI needs to expand and sustain its promotional efforts in external markets, in particular the United States, Canada, the UK and Germany by means of a sustained marketing campaign that will enable the initiative to reach the market niches that are interested in supporting this type of initiative.

WAPONI also needs to provide highly specialized resources to the individual geotourism destinations in order to allow them to achieve their full potential. Creating a climate of trust and maintaining a permanent dialogue with rural and indigenous communities is crucial to the success of this type of tourism initiative. One of the primary objectives of the WAPONI project is to create this climate of confidence through sharing experiences with other communities involved in similar projects. The staff working in these destinations also require customized training to develop practical customer service and tourism operations skill sets.

Technical support for refining our business plan, environmental, social and service quality standards is also key. We need them to be clear, precise, easy to apply and useful to all stakeholders: small community based initiatives interested in becoming part of WAPONI; consumers and tourism companies looking for the real sustainable experiences; and social investors and donors that demand both financial and social return on investment and will be able to clearly see that WAPONI matches their own principles and standards.

The Story
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.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Newsletter from Changemakers

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer

MIF Opportunity 2010
Has your organization been legally constituted or registered in your country or one of your target countries for at least three years?

Yes

Does the applicant organization have sufficient financial resources to guarantee the co-financing required by MIF during the execution period of the project? (This amounts to at least 50% of the project’s total budget with 25% in cash and 25% in-kind.)

Yes

Does the applicant organization have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations? Please describe below

Yes. The organisation has carried out a number of projects together with international institutions such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), the Ecuadorian Government, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), The World Tourism Organisation (WTO), Rainforest Allaince, The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), amongst others. Projects include the Global Sustainable tourism Alliance, Conservation in Managed Indigenous Areas" Project and Productive Network.

Please classify the applicant organization according to the options below

Enterprise/Profit corporation

What problem-area does your project address?

Access to knowledge and training, Access to markets, Access to financing.

How will your project address this problem?

WAPONI will address these problems by
1.- Setting standards for the tourism operations that form part of the WAPONI brand, and the analysis of future partners according to those criteria.
2.- Selecting projects in Ecuador and Peru that are close to reaching WAPONI standards. Showcasing them to carefully selected social investors and donors interested in providing financial and technical support to help these projects reach WAPONI standards.
3.- Establishing WAPONI as a Social Business, in which all profit will be reinvested in improving the operations and where WAPONI companies will become shareholders and partners in the initiative.
4.- Reaching agreements with local operators regarding the administration of the organization: marketing, booking system, and joint administration. A system with mentors and a board of directors with tourism expertise will be established to accompany the operations.
5.- Producing promotional material such as printed pamphlets, web pages, blogs and other marketing techniques that may be useful and necessary to message its differentiation and brand promise.
6.- Achieving presence in international tourism fairs and social investor forums (such as SOCAP) such as the Latin American Travel Mart, World Travel Market as well as other channels built up over the years.
7.- Providing training in hotel and quality management for community operators, which is essential if international standards are to be met and upheld, search for Joint Ventures with Cornell University Hotel Management School and the Johnson Business School project.
8.- Exchanging experiences and sharing case studies with other community tourism operators in Ecuador and Latin America. At present this is not part of training for community operators but can have a major impact on their success.
9.- Researching possible economies of scale that could be realized by joint marketing, buying, contracting etc.

Who is benefited by the initiative? (Please highlight the type and number of beneficiaries, and their role in the tourism value-chain.)

The project will provide benefits in two areas: first the people of the local involved in the community-based geotourism initiatives that form part of WAPONI. These are rural communities whose income is low and whose possibilities of decent employment are extremely limited, and where health education and other services are deficient or even non existent.

The numbers of people involved directly in the five projects that make up the WAPONI family are approximately 100 people at present, although that number os likely to rise as the flow of tourists increases. Indirectly the number is much higher. Taking into account the families of those directly employed and other families that are indirectly benefitted by the sale of crafs and local produce, the number is appoximately 1,000+.

How will the project's results assist the region’s tourism sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises?

WAPONI is essentialy all about supporting the small geotourism business in rural and protected areas of Ecuador and Peru.
Its success can only provide a major boost for the visibility of the tourism sector in general as well as improving the situation and the lives of the people that depend on this productive initiatives, and is worth to mention that Waponi is the first social business to be stablished inthe region that that considers the main pilar for any geo tourism enterprise to succed, the business of tourism and the market.
WAPONI plans to expand its presence in the area and thereby boost the presence of its members in the international market acting as an incubator for new initiatives, as a way to enable them to find the financing and training they need to meet standards and reach the international market.

A. Total Budget (100%)

US$ 200,000

B. MIF Contribution (up to 50% of total budget and US$. 500.000 max)

US$ 100,000

C. Cash co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)

US$ 50,000

D. In kind co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)

US$ 50,000