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Editor's Note: Contraste Laguna Desertica is a travel agency run by Lilia Gussen Childs. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) The company develops ecological tours in the Mapimi Biosphere Reserve and the mysterious Zone of Silence. This presentation accompanied a discussion of Travel Agencies and Alternative Tourism - Ron Mader
The idea of Contraste Laguna Desertica was born in 1996. I was running a traditional travel agency when another agency in Mexico City called me to inquire about trips or activities on the Rio Nazas. I informed them that the river had very little water and that we were actually suffering a drought.
As an alternative I proposed a desert tour which they accepted. This was the beginning of Contraste. It was obvious to me that we have a unique attraction. The Zona del Silencio (the Zone of Silence) has an international reputation, but I recognized that as a local operator, I would need to obey strict guidelines if I wanted to promote the destination without ruining it.
At the time I was vice-president of tourism for the chamber of commerce in Gomez Palacio and I prepared a formal project proposal. The president of the chamber presented my project to the state government of Durango through an institution called Foprodem which awarded me $200,000.00 pesos for publicity and promotion of this product.
At the Tianguis in Acapulco I met Ron Mader of Planeta.com and Marlene Ehrenberg, then the president of Amtave, the national ecotourism and adventure tourism association in Mexico. With their advice and counsel I met other ecotourism operators and we exchanged ideas. Enriched by the exchange, I returned to the desert and began to form a team to attend to groups under strict security and comfort, constructing a campground in the Zona del Silencio (the Zone of Silence).
One of our achievements was the construction of an observatory. The terrain doesn't allow for heavy machinery. Our team did the design and building by hand and set it up 65 kilometers from the nearest road. The observatory is built near the intersection of the state boundaries of Coahuila, Chihuahua and Durango, between the 26 and 28 parallel, which is on the same plane as such magical places as the Bermuda Triangle, Cape Canaveral, the Temple of Luxor and Tibet. It should be noted the clarity of the sky and virtually no contamination allow for some of the finest star gazing on the planet.
I would be very interested in applying permaculture in my region. We're awaiting consultants to guide us into a new program and reach self sufficient levels of this permaculture practice. We are looking to harmonize the environment of man, plants, animals and the planet through a special ecosystem in the Laguna region desert.
One last note. In Mexico we need to begin training students in the practical applications of ecotourism and adventure tourism. Our industry in Mexico is quite young and there is still a great deal of knowledge to be acquired by both the operators and students alike. This is an opportune time to talk about job creation and the education needed to make this a success.
How can Travel Agencies promote and sell alternative tourism?
Ask the operators about our local activities. What do we have that your clients might be interested in? You can have confidence in our abilities by asking for details about our customers. There's nothing to gain from deception and local operators are key in providing what people are looking for more each day.
Lilia Gussen Childs directs Contraste Laguna-Desertica. She can be reached via email -- email@example.com -- or phone -- (17) 15-20-51 and 14-00-47 -- in Gomez Palacio, Durango. More information is available on her website: http://www.contrastelaguna.com.mx
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