Baños Rural Parish
Towards the improvement of the tourist offer through inter-institutional cooperation and the enhancement of natural and cultural resources.
Description of the study case
Baños is a parish of Cuenca with its own Decentralised Autonomous Government. This local government can act in the field of local tourism development and for some years now has been working with private companies and local people to promote tourism in the parish.
Undoubtedly one of the most important resources of the parish is the volcanic hot springs, which have served to position Baños as an important destination for relaxation in the southern part of Ecuador.
Baños is visited by tourists from all over the country and foreigners looking for relaxation and recreation products through its hot springs...
As a result, several entrepreneurs have created inns and spas to offer recreational services to the public and in the last decade, new services have emerged with the concept of Spa. One of the most recent, about 8 years ago, is the Piedra de Agua Spa. This company, owned by inhabitants of Cuenca, offers spa services with high-quality standards in a natural environment, attracting visitors even from neighbouring countries such as Colombia and Peru.
In addition to the hot springs, Baños is being recognised for its local gastronomy, which has attracted visitors from nearby towns...
For the representatives of the parish, Baños has a high gastronomic potential that must be taken advantage of and managed correctly, to achieve its positioning in the national market and generate sources of employment for its local inhabitants.
However, the parish of Baños itself is in an underdeveloped state that does not offer any kind of attraction or quality service to enhance the visitor experience, nor does it involve the local population in the potential benefits of tourism. Unfortunately, the local parish government does not know how to manage tourism initiatives for sustainable development and the few services available to visitors in the town are of low quality and improvised, mostly related to a few traditional food restaurants.
Baños Parish has many potential cultural and natural resources that could be managed for the benefit of the local community through tourism. But currently, some of these potential resources are being "exploited" in an unsustainable way or are not considered as a tourism resource at all. A clear example of this is the handicraft activity, which has a very important component in the parish. However, most visitors do not know of these handicraft resources, so demand for them is very low. Also, none of the handicraft products of the parish is sold directly to the public, but through intermediaries who multiply the value of these products.
To reverse this situation, Piedra de Agua and the local population have launched a cooperative initiative to promote marketing strategies that benefit local people and improve their level of income. Piedra de Agua has become a very important actor in the parish, thanks to its business policies. For example, the staff working in the complex are residents of the parish; local people provide the company with inputs such as food, textiles, cleaning materials, among others. Besides, Piedra de Agua has established links with schools in the parish and allows students to visit the complex free of charge; it also offers economic incentives to each school's best students.
In conclusion, Baños has a high tourism potential, which lies not only in its hot springs but also in cultural resources. In this case, it is essential to integrate public, private and resident actors to learn and reflect collectively on initiatives that can help the parish to improve its tourism management and use it as an effective means of sustainable development.
Photo Credits: Byron Alvarado Vanegas
Map generated in: https://www.maps.ie/create-google-map/
Source: initial information on the Pilot Project generated by the international team of the PREIT-Tour platform in May 2020.