Posted by Ximena Alvis on 12 June 2019 | Comments


2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and to celebrate, we’re delving into the world of Indigenous tourism and how this can support the preservation of cultures and languages. Whether or not you’ve already read our introductory piece on this topic, we thought we’d set the scene by sharing some best practice examples of successful Indigenous tourism projects from around the world. We’ll then be sharing some of our favourite Indigenous ecotourism stories from our own backyard through the Ecotourism: Celebrating Language and Culture series. For more information on any of the below projects, check out their websites.

Ecotomarapi website.Bolivia

TOMARAPI Eco Tourist Lodge, Oruro Bolivia

The Suni Uta Choquemarka, an Aymara indigenous group, is located in the heart of the Sajama National Park (Bolivia's first protected area). The construction of the Tomarapi Eco Tourist Lodge was done in harmony with the landscape, using materials that did not harm the environment, including unique details in the facilities so that travellers can enjoy necessary creature comforts in their adventure in the altiplano. Tomarapi has local guides that will introduce you to the community and their customs. This community is helping with the conservation of Sajama National Park while at the same time the lodge provides the community with economic alternatives to reduce the migration of families and continue conserving biodiversity.

Find out more: TOMARAPI Eco Tourist Lodge, Oruro Bolivia

kapawi ecolodge Ecuador 1

KAPAWI Ecolodge, Ecuador

Kapawi Ecolodge was built following ecotourism principles, inspired by the “natural history of the area, including its Indigenous cultures, whose areas have been adapted for this activity in a spirit of appreciation, participation, and responsibility”. When it opened in 1996, Kapawi Ecolodge set the standards for community ecotourism in Ecuador, promoting practices that protected wildlife, generated local employment and empowered local communities. Kapawi Ecolodge was built respecting Achuar construction styles and using building materials from the forest. Energy is generated 100% from solar photovoltaic panels, while local building materials are still used to preserve the Achuar style. Many lessons have been learned over the years, including the need to develop community enterprises to ensure that local materials, like leaves for the roofs, are farmed in local communities to reduce the pressure on natural resources from the forest.

Find out more: KAPAWI Ecolodge, Ecuador

Ximena Alvis.Comida Raramuri Mexico


The Centre for Responsible Travel (CREST) has been working for the last four years on a project funded by the Christensen Foundation and with two local organizations (CONTEC and Mano del Mono). The project includes two Indigenous communities, Huetosachi and Bacajipare, located near the rim of the spectacular Copper Canyon. The experiences offered to tourists here include participating in cooking and handicraft demonstrations with the women in Huetosachi and a variety of hikes and storytelling experiences in the canyon led by licensed guides from Bacajipare. One of the key lessons from this project has been the business model generation for tourism, focusing on the communities involved and taking the time to create with them their tourism experiences, negotiating with tour operators and respecting the culture and environment of the communities. The project has also attracted media, won several awards, and been chosen by the Chihuahua State Tourism Department as an outstanding example of responsible cultural tourism.

Find out more: EXPERIENCIAS RARAMURI, Chihuahua, Mexico

The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille.kenya1


Opened in 2007 as Laikipia’s first lodge, The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille in Kenya features private villas and is a pioneering example of sustainable tourism, community partnership and world class architecture. The team, together with the local communities, has proudly created, conserved and protected over 40,000 acres of pristine wilderness.

Ol Lentille is a pioneering example of how private partnerships with the community can successfully work in Kenya. Tourism has greatly impacted and improved the lives of the local community with over 5 USD million being raised and invested in the community: building schools, hospitals and water sanitation projects. In partnership with the Maasai community, this project balances luxury travel and economic development with ambitious conservation and community development programmes.


Uganda community tourism


UCOTA is the official umbrella body that brings together and advocates for the interests of community tourism groups in Uganda to ensure that the local tourist host communities benefit from tourism. To date, the association comprises over 70 member groups country-wide, representing 2,121 individuals of whom 63% are women. The groups operate small tourism enterprises ranging from traditional/ basic accommodation, interpretive guiding services and restaurants to craft shops, music dance and drama performances.

The impact of the community tourism group enterprises to the livelihoods of the locals is already manifesting through several community projects supported by the groups by way of responsible tourism, such as construction of clinics, schools, provision of safe water and literacy programs.



MULALA, Tanzania

The women of Mulala have united in the form of the Agape Women’s Group. Through this group, they try to support economic activities of the members and start new income generating projects, like the Mulala Cultural Tourism Programme.

The Mulala women offer different tours:

  • A tour of Mama Anna’s quaint cheese making unit.
  • A nice garden where you can relax and enjoy a beverage or a simple, traditional meal
  • Guided tours criss-crossing coffee and banana farms, walking through the forest reserve or by the Marisha riverbank and enjoying spectacular views of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Also, you can visit the farms of the Agape Women’s Group. The women will explain their farming methods and show you the various economic activities they have started, like cheese making, bread-making, flower seeds, chill growing and sewing. 

Find out more: MULALA, Tanzania

3sister Adventure Trekking.Nepal


Lucky, Dicky and Nicky Chhetri are three Nepalese sisters and pioneers in the field of female trekking guides. Since 1994, they have worked towards empowering women in Nepal through their trekking agency 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking and their NGO Empowering Women of Nepal. Entering an uncharted territory in the early ‘90s, no one would have dreamed of a Nepalese woman guiding a trek.

Breaking down social barriers, they created a training program through their NGO, Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN). This training program teaches local women the necessary skills for trekking and guiding. The success of these women has inspired others. Since 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking was established, close to 2,000 women from all over Nepal have completed the training. Many have become guides and/or gained self-confidence to find employment elsewhere. Their goal is to encourage women to become self-supported, independent, decision-making women.



SAPA O’CHAU, Vietnam

In 2010, Shu Tan, Founder, Sapa O'Chau started the Sapa O’Chau cooperative. This is the first boarding facility where youth could board and study at the government high school only located in town. Youth also learn English from international volunteers and get their tour guide licence after a course with an NGO.

Today, Sapa O’Chau runs on the same social enterprise principles on which it was founded: working hard and giving back to Sapa and all ethnic minorities. It is made up of five inter-connected pieces: the boarding facility, the hotel, café, the Hmong handicraft store and the tour operation. In 2016, Sapa O’Chau Travel won silver for World Responsible Tourism Award - Poverty Reduction and inclusion and a finalist for the Tourism for Tomorrow Award. The founder, Shu Tan, spoke at Ecotourism Australia’s 2017 Global Eco Conference in Adelaide.

Find out more: SAPA O’CHAU, Vietnam


Did you know?

If you want to get involved with Indigenous tourism in Australia, Ecotourism Australia offers a ROC Certification program. This program encourages the tourism industry to operate in ways that respect and reinforce Indigenous cultural heritage and the living cultures of Indigenous communities.

ROC certified tourism operators are committed to protecting cultural authenticity and integrity, developing sound business practices, environmental protection and acknowledging Indigenous people’s spiritual connection to the land and water.


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