The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve has now been officially listed as a Nature and Culture destination. This week, the results of the three-year project to build a rural tourism model in protected natural areas were presented by the managing organisation, Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda (GESG). The project, which was financially supported by the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank, has been generating new capacities among micro-operators from mountain communities, who own the land and scenic beauty of the region.
Nature tourism has become a viable option for sustainable development in the Sierra Gorda, and is now a growing trend. “With this project we have managed to give the scenic beauty economic value, promote human development and generate economic opportunities for the inhabitants of the biosphere reserve,” says GESG Managing Director, Pati Ruiz Corzo. “It’s the beginning of a conservation and sustainability economy that, together with the payment for carbon offsets and environmental services to forest owners, results in real development options for the region.”
Thanks to this project, economic value has been given to local landowners who undertake to maintain the eco-and bio-diversity of their lands. The project involved working with 242 direct beneficiaries in 28 communities, which make up 85 eco-destinations: a network of eco-lodges, the Tasting Route, the Micro-enterprise Route and Community Museums – all capitalizing on the natural beauty of the Sierra Gorda’s diverse ecosystems and regional culture. Both tourism destination operators and tourists are encouraged to follow basic rules of sustainable conduct, with ecotourism packages on offer that also allow visitors to learn about the stunning variety of local ecosystems and the species they shelter.
The Sierra Gorda Destination has also been selected by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC ) as an Early Adopter, meaning it needs to meet criteria in order to be recognized as a destination committed to sustainability. As a recognized GSTC destination, Sierra Gorda will offer visitors certainty about its tourism model, ensuring that visits equate to positive economic spillover for both communities and the environment. This recognition, along with its official launch as the destination, means that the Sierra Gorda is prepared and well-placed to attract both national and international tourists.
The closing event of the project, which was hosted at the Sierra Gorda Earth Center, was attended by special guests such as Mr. Guillermo Aguilar, MIF -IDB Representative, who congratulated the GESG on their achievements, and noted his surprise at the advances he saw with each visit. Other guests included Claudia Ruiz Massieu, on behalf of the head of the Ministry of Tourism; Mr. Oscar Navarro Cortes, Deputy Director of “Alternative Tourism”; Mr. José Mansueto Juárez, Director of Querétaro State Tourism Development; Mr. Eduardo Medina, Querétaro State Tourism Ministry representative; local municipality mayors; Mr. Antonio del Rosal Stanford, Executive Director of Adventure Travel Trade Association Mexico; Kathleen Pessolano, Senior Director of Destinations at Sustainable Travel International and Destinations Evaluator for Global Sustainable Tourism Council; Mr. Alejandro Guillermo de los Cobos, PROFEPA representative; and Mr. Javier Oropeza Rojas, General Coordinator of the State of Querétaro’s Highway Commission; as well as representatives of the various segments of the tourism sector in the region.