Anglia Ruskin University
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Ecotourism as a mechanism to achieve sustainable development in indigenous communities of Mexico

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:43 authored by Dalia O. Lara-Morales
Sustainability has become vitally important in recent decades, especially in developing countries with high percentages of indigenous peoples and serious problems related to poverty in rural areas. In several countries of Latin America, indigenous communities are valued for their unique features, cultural attractions and diversity of their landscapes, however, these communities do not have many options for their subsistence. Ecotourism can be a reliable source of sustainable economic development in regions with fewer options, given that the nature of the ecotourism product can be founded upon the cultural and ecological capital of indigenous peoples, taking place in biodiverse natural areas, employing vulnerable local groups, engaging with local businesses, and the informal sector. This doctoral thesis critically assessed and examined the potential of ecotourism to support the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) for ecological protection and poverty reduction in indigenous communities of Latin America; with particular reference to two ecotourism projects led by the Hñahñu community of El Alberto, state of Hidalgo in central Mexico. This research project analysed key literature concerning the evolution of sustainable development on planning and policy-making towards the importance of indigenous sustainability. Furthermore, by employing the tourism value chain analysis (TVCA) during the fieldwork research it provides insights in the context of stakeholder engagement and ownership and documented benefits of indigenous peoples informal participation within the ecotourism market. Also, through the TVCA, the impacts of ecotourism strategies on the livelihoods of indigenous peoples are empirically evaluated, and the benefits that these bring to achieve poverty reduction through sustainable development. The research findings suggest that ecotourism represents a viable source of support for the achievement of the global SDGs in regions with few other options, and that a good performance of the TVC can significantly improve ecotourism management and foster sustainable development and poverty reduction within the process, providing as a refreshing counterexample to several well-publicised failures, an account of an indigenous community that has succeeded in its ecotourism projects against all odds. The conclusions relating to the sustainable development of the ecotourism projects in indigenous communities were drawn into a conceptual framework based on key recommendations that can assist the Hñahñu community of el Alberto to overcome constraints among their TVC and strengthen their ecotourism endeavours. The lessons learned from the Hñahñu ecotourism projects can be also used by other indigenous peoples in similar conditions, these include: the weight of community engagement in ecotourism through indigenous inception as a local initiative, transparency and accountability; gender equality, effective marketing; the role of the government; and the right involvement of the private sector.



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