Ecotourism is one of the activities that best manages to combine conservation strategies and development. However, this is only possible if this activity is adequately regulated and is promoted as part of land management processes. Indigenous territories and protected areas in northern La Paz are destinations of national importance because of their scenic beauty, biodiversity, good condition and cultural value, Land management plans in the region have identified ecotourism as a real economic alternative.
WCS has collaborated with protected areas, indigenous territories and municipalities in the design, implementation and monitoring of tourism activities, trying to articulate these efforts with each other and in that way strengthen tourism in the region. Support was given to the national protected area service (SERNAP) in the design and implementation of the tourism program for Madidi National Park, through identification of tourism values, building capacities of local actors, development of tourism regulations for the area (the first of a Bolivian protected area) and monitoring, contributing in this way to improve tourism services in the Tuichi river area.
Moreover, WCS has worked with the Tacana Indigenous People’s Council (CIPTA) in developing an ecotourism strategy, infrastructure, zoning and integral monitoring of wildlife in the tourism areas, organizational strengthening and building capacities of guides in San Miguel del Bala and Villa Alcira, two community enterprises that provide transportation services, accommodation, food, expert guidance and natural and cultural interpretation trails. The monitoring system of both initiatives evaluate the carrying capacity of interpretation trails, while providing opportunities for visitors to observe and record wildlife in a form designed for this purpose. Between 2009 and 2013, 3,611 records (sightings and signs) of 28 species of medium and large mammals were obtained in the interpretation trails of San Miguel del Bala Association, including jaguar, white-lipped peccary, tapir and several monkeys (spider monkey, red howler monkey and tamarins). In tourism areas of Villa Alcira Community Canopy Tourism Association, between 2012 and 2013, 641 records were obtained of 29 species of reptiles, birds and mammals, including the saddleback tamarin, the capuchin monkey, blue-throated piping guan, the speckled chachalacay and the red-and-green macaw.
Support was given to Mapajo Indigenous Tourism Association of Asunción del Quiquibey community in Pilon Lajas, in the construction of a walkway on "The Macaws" trail and in obtaining the corresponding environmental license.
Between 2010 and 2013, WCS worked with Ixiamas Municipal Government in strengthening its Municipal Tourism Unit through the formulation of the Strategic Plan for Tourism Development in the Municipality of Ixiamas, development of community tourism projects and outreach materials to promote tourism in Ixiamas. Likewise, a Management Plan for Ixiamas Municipal Protected Area was developed, which was established in 2006 on the northern edge of Madidi National Park and Natural Area for Integrated Management, over an area of 54,000 hectares. The plan includes priority areas for tourism development.
Since 2013, WCS is collaborating with the Biocultura National Program, the project "Strengthening the Pacha Trek-Charazani-Curva-Pelechuco-Apolo Tourism route to contribute to Living Well " with the aim of improving family income, strengthening culture and conserving ecosystems. The project works with seven communities in Apolobamba protected area (Cañisaya, Lagunillas, Chari, Chacarapi, Caluyo, Qotapampa and Agua Blanca) and Vaquería, a community located in the Madidi buffer zone. Work has focused on the improvement of infrastructure and equipment for shelters, conditioning of interpretation trails, retrieval and transmission of traditional knowledge, restoration of pre-Hispanic terraces for demonstration purposes and capacity development for tourism management.