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On August 24th, 2012 The Hotelier Association of Ecuador honored the project managers of a community project in a small village, Libertador Bolivar, for their exemplary role in developing the Tourism and Hospitality spectrum.
Libertador Bolivar: A Community United by Tourism
This is the story of Libertador Bolivar, a town located in the province of Santa Elena, Ecuador. With a population of 2.800 inhabitants, it was known for craft sales (souvenir items made from Teca or Bamboo), agriculture, and tourism which would go unchecked for so long but that would eventually give them recognition internationally.
From its beginnings, the townsfolk felt the need to gain notoriety as many other settlements across the route were also awakening new trends to attract customers. Tourism at the time wasn’t practiced in the village but was seen in the nearby towns. That would all change in 2003 with the support of NGOs like Coastman Foundation and many others as part of the Blue Beach program sponsored by the Tourism Ministry (Coastman, 2007).
A Community-Centered Approach to Tourism Development
With support of the President of the Commune Association they started with the first item to prepare the town for tourism: the repair and upgrade of the sewage treatment pipes, a project that would see the end result around 2010 (El Universo, 2012). Once the plans began to gain shape, they decided to continue their work in turning farming land into a paradise for foreigners and national tourist alike. The work plan was centered around the participation of the community. First they started by gaining trust and rallying the people to take charge of the existing problems and opportunities. Then came the assessment and the plan of action, from the priority goals until the post-training workshop. The main aspect was not doing everything for them but rather encouraging them to take matters into their own hands, with the proper follow up.
Consensus Levels. Ramirez, 2012)
Developing Services and Infrastructures for Tourism
The tourism project of Libertador Bolivar was taking shape, as the community became aware of their duties and responsibilities, and also their rights. By organizing their work and supporting each of the committees, the townsfolk managed to fortify their craft and learn how to properly attend guests. They also gained self-esteem, as they transformed from a weak town into a port that would know how to do things right. Technology was elevated to have Wi-Fi areas for guests, bars sprang up all around the town, officiated by the Professional Hotelier Association of Ecuador (APTHEC in Spanish), and small houses began to transform into guest houses. Most importantly, programs for future tourism professionals and hoteliers began to practice there, as part of their internship programs serving a double purpose: For the students to know more about their country and how to help them, and for the inhabitants to have outside support and further elevating their knowledge of service.
A Good Example for Other Communities
Their hard work and dedication would soon bear fruits. In 2010 important news outlets and networks began to discover Libertador Bolivar, and the story of the community soon was heard all around the country. According to the Commune President Jacinto Angel “This is a plan that was made one step at a time, with ongoing training every two weeks and monthly meetings. Using loudspeakers, we invited the whole community to assist, because at the end of the day it is for everyone’s benefit” (2010). Other towns began to replicate what they did, and soon many beach spots increased their revenues and the traffic of tourists during key dates.
Continuing Progress in Sustainable Tourism
In 2012, APTHEC would begin their annual Bartender Tournament there, as a starting festivity for the beginning of the beach season for the coast region. Other activities that began to flourish were Snorkeling, Diving, Sport Fishing, Flora & Fauna sightings, Camping and Horseback Riding. Megaprojects were planned like “Los Algarrobos” began a massive plan to create a recreational center to cater to the needs of the tourists. A community porcine and hydroponic farm began to cultivate their primary foods to create both environmental awareness and to save costs for shipping. More police stations were conceived to protect both locals and outsiders, and a massive regeneration of the area with reforestation was included.
There are many more things that can be said about Libertador Bolivar, and how these men and women took their destiny in their hands and decided to transform their town into a paradise. But it is better to have guests see for themselves all the hard work now giving its fruits. So the invitation is open to any and all who would want to see the awe inspiring beaches and wildlife, and also in the services they provide. Hopefully their little place will soon become bigger, with other cities and countries following suit, that without ulterior motives and plans, they can bring about success for themselves and others, always and foremost giving their all to cater to everyone’s needs. So as their motto says: Where the crafts caress the sea…
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