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The PREIT-Tour Platform

The Project

PREIT-Tour stands for:

Platform for Research-based Education, Innovation and Transfer to support Sustainable Development through Tourism in the Cajas Massif Biosphere Area (CMBA), in Southern Ecuador.

Writing by the Water


The project aims at unleashing the potential of sustainable development through Tourism supported by research-based education for the Global South. Especially for areas recognized by UNESCO as Biosphere Reserves or “living laboratories”, which, however, suffer from social, economic and environmental imbalances due to inadequate policies, low professionalisation, and lack of innovation, while being exposed to extractive industries.


The project tackles this problem through fostering, in University of Cuenca a Platform for Research-based Education, Innovation and Transfer to support sustainable development through Tourism (PREIT-TOUR) in the Cajas Massif Biosphere Area (CMBA). This platform will promote, generate and enhance skills and knowledge fuelled by participation and collaboration among stakeholders (staff and students, community, public and private actors) in the CMBA.


In the long term, students, researchers and local actors will be involved (trained) through strategies to link local innovations with policies, programs, networks, investors, markets, etc. that contribute to local development aims.

How can research-based education support sustainable development through tourism?




To enhance sustainable development through Tourism in the CMBA with a bottom-up and collaborative approach in coordination with stakeholders at the territory.


1. Enhance research-based education capacities

2. Transfer of knowledge for sustainable development through Tourism

Expected Intermediate Results (IR)

The implementation of the PREIT-Tour platform is based on 5 intermediate results constituted as pillars:

  • PILAR I (IR 1): Developing the vision for problem-based research assignments that support development through tourism in the territory.

  • PILAR II (IR 2): Performing the first group of problem-based research pilots by students in collaboration with local stakeholders.

  • PILAR III (IR 3): Bringing Pillars I and II together, formalising the framework for the implementation of the Platform with the support of a junior (pre-doc) staff member that can evolve into a PhD trajectory.

  • PILAR IV (IR 4): Facilitation and continuation, consisting of all the required management support to connect daily activities with key activities for the success of the project.

  • PILAR V (IR 5): Experiences must be systematized as a material evidence of the learning process and as a basis for the continuation of the platform and for future PhD trajectories.

The Study Area

Study Area

The Cajas Massif Biosphere Area

The deep canyons that form the Cañar and Jubones Rivers on their way to the Pacific Ocean break the continuity of the western foothills of the Andes in southern Ecuador, isolating a large mountainous area in which natural, social and economic processes are interdependent, with very varied cultures and ecosystems, where its nearly 850,000 inhabitants seek sustainable use of natural resources.

This space known as the Cajas Massif is a highly productive region generating resources of national importance such as bananas, cocoa, shrimp, about 51% of the country's hydroelectric power, tourism, fishing and very diverse industries.

The productive systems depend on the environmental services generated by the natural ecosystems that exist in this territory (páramo -moorland-, cloud forest, mountain forest, ocean and mangrove), which play a fundamental role in the provision of water from the Atlantic and Pacific slopes of the Andes.


On May 28, 2013, this territory was integrated by UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, as a recognition of local processes and experiences towards sustainable development.

The Cajas Massif Biosphere Area is the first UNESCO biosphere reserve located in the western foothills of the Ecuadorian Andes, including 4 Planning Zones, 3 Hydrographic Demarcations, 4 Provinces, 15 Cantons, and 64 Parishes, with an ecosystem mosaic from the páramo -moorland- (4,450masl) to a coastal-marine strip in the Gulf of Guayaquil (0masl).

Do you want to know more? Take a look below or download the Cajas Massif photo book here!

Download book

The Pilot Projects


Given the diversity of the Cajas Massif Biosphere Area, the PREIT-Tour Platform has selected very diverse pilots as study cases  that can help develop insights on how to improve sustainable development through tourism.

However, all the pilots have something in common:


They all represent groups of local stakeholders who need new ways to solve old problems, which hinder their ability to benefit from tourism in a more effective and sustainable way.

Migüir 1.jpg

The Partners






Mgst. Freddy Espinoza

Local Promotor

PREIT-Tour Platform



Faculty of Hospitality Sciences

Universidad de Cuenca

Karina Farfan.jpg

Dr. Karina Farfán, PhD. 

Local Co-Promotor
PREIT-Tour Platform

Faculty of Hospitality Sciences
Universidad de Cuenca

Dominique Vanneste.jpg

Prof. Dr. Dominique Vanneste

Belgian Promotor
PREIT-Tour Platform

Dir. Master Erasmus Mundus &
KU Leuven, Belgium