This weeks responsible tourism interview is with the inspiring Reserva do Ibitipoca in Brazil. It all started in 1981 with the purchase of an abandoned farm. Fast forward 34 years later and that single farm purchase has become 100 properties scattered over 4,000 hectares of protected land. In 2009, the Reserva do Ibitipoca was opened for tourists with the goal of creating better local employment opportunities to improve the quality of life for the local population.
The Reserva do Ibitipoca projects go beyond just environmental protection. They are also concerned with social and economic issues as well as environmental. Many projects on the Reserva are geared towards the community, protecting its local culture and history and stimulating a more diverse economy.
What Inspired you to start your business?
First, we started the environmental reserve in the 80s. The founding family is from a local city and spent a lot of time in the State Park of Ibitipoca. We just wanted to preserve the forests around the state park to increase the wildlife corridors. But in 2008, we decided to open a hotel within the reserve to create more economic development in this region. Historically, people earned their income with dairy-farming which wasn’t very rewarding, was very difficult, and resulted in the destruction of many forests. The hotel has since created numerous jobs directly and indirectly.
Why did you choose to go down the responsible travel route?
It was a very natural decision. The natural landscape in this region is very beautiful with an incredible biodiversity. The dominant biome is the Atlantic Rainforest that was reduced to 8% of its original size since colonialism. There are many precious species, like critically endangered primate Muriqui-de-Norte, that can only be found in the Atlantic Rainforest. The Reserve provides a home to the Muriqui and many other species. Responsible tourism within the Reserve is a chance for people from around the world have meaningful contact with this beautiful and endangered natural system.
What is your one tip for someone who wants to travel more responsibly?
Learn how to be a traveler and not a tourist: immerse yourself in the culture, try new foods, ask questions, and interact with the locals.
What has been your most rewarding outcome from choosing to practice responsible travel?
The Reserve has 4,000 hectares of protected land around the State Park. The State Park of Ibitipoca has 1,400 hectares. Some travelers who stayed with us were so impressed with our projects and the beautiful landscape that they decided to buy land in the region as well. In total, past guests have purchased an additional 1,600 hectares in the region. In total that’s 7,000 hectares of protected land (and we’re still growing) !
What a great place. It just shows you that you can start with a small project and slowly make a huge difference to the environment, people and wildlife around you. If you would like to stay at the Reserva do Ibitipoca just click below:
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All photos by Reserva do Ibitipoca