WHAT'S ON PLANETA?
The Planeta website was created
in 1994 to archive issues of a quarterly newsletter. I've said that
this work does not merely fill a niche but it creates one. The website
educates the reader. It brings together environmentalists and the
Traditional coverage of Latin America is either sparkling white
beaches - or earthquakes and Zapatistas. No wonder U.S. audiences
are so confused by life south of our border.
Online the website, resources are cross-linked so that the tourist
can gain a greater perspective on the environmental realities of
a given destination and the conservationist - whether an arm-chair
traveler or an avid bird watcher - can find the environmental tours
or lodging in these areas. I estimate that the Planeta website will
receive 250,000 hits this year, more than double than what it received
in 1995. Given the increase in the web audience, it should be very
easy to attract a million hits in 1997. (Editor's note: In 2004,
it receives about 20,000 hits per day)
Thanks to my work as an environmental journalist in Mexico and
along the US/Mexico
border, I've created environmental contact lists for government
agencies, NGOs, academic centers and media. This proved to be so
popular, I've since added contact lists for Central American countries.
Currently, the best developed lists are for Honduras and Guatemala.
This is not my undertaking alone - dozens of people were instrumental
in the creation of these lists. This is one way of decentralizing
communication - allow people with a common interest to discuss
the issues on their own terms.
In addition, there are bibliographies, lists of travel providers,
Spanish language schools and hundreds of pages on environmental
destinations and news from the region. The site is growing rapidly,
and I just added a calendar of events.
One of the greatest strengths of the website is that I don't control
all of this information. I have established links to several dozen
websites throughout the world, and I credit everyone who has helped
out. There's the Tropical Conservation Newsbureau in Costa Rica;
ELAN and various Mexican sites. With webmasters, fellow writers
and travelers there is currently a tremendous boom of information
about environmental tourism on the Internet. In the past few weeks
we've added Hector Ceballos' document, Estrategia de Ecoturismo
Nacional, as well as materials on the COOPRENA network in Costa
Rica, protected areas in Honduras and environmental contacts in
Guatemala. Everyone does what they do best - consider this an Internet
Of course, we need to move beyond the electronic realm, and that's
why I publish El Planeta Platica in a print version and participate
in various forums. We need to encourage discussions such as this
as well as the publication of useful materials. There is a great
need throughout the Americas for publications on ecotourism strategies,
case studies and technical guides.
ECOTOURISM IN HONDURAS AND MEXICO
Finally, a few words on information and ecotourism in Honduras
and Mexico. I am very impressed with the development of community
groups in Honduras which are taking an active role in the management
of protected areas. It is a make or break situation. We see an unparalleled
opportunity here for the development of community-based ecotourism.
The groups need technical assistance more so than money. How do
you build a trail? What kind of flora and fauna are present? And
the most pressing question - how do you let people know that guides
are available and have been trained in spectacular rural areas that
are (so far) off the tourist trail?
Mexico's success with tourism and its scientific expertise in
biological sciences bode well for the development of ecotourism.
Lacking are the details of environmental tourism. How does one visit
Cuatro Cienegas? Yum Balam? El Triunfo? Travelers have seen the
brochures and TV documentaries and have a desire to visit these
places - the only question is how?