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  • Writer's pictureSantiago Rodríguez Girón

Community Tourism in the Parish of Sayausí

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Facing management challenges at the parish level to promote community tourism as an alternative for sustainable development.

Description of the study case

Sayausí is a parish in the city of Cuenca, with its own decentralized autonomous government. This level of local government has the competence to act in the field of tourism development in its territory.

The parish of Sayausí has a great natural value due to its rich water resources and the Andean landscapes linked to the moorlands (páramos). Also within its territory is part of the Cajas National Park.

The population of the parish is mainly dedicated to agriculture, livestock and fish farming. However, in the last three years a community initiative called "Turismo Rural Sayausí" has emerged, bringing together some 20 families.

These families have received training in entrepreneurship from the Municipal Economic Development Company of Cuenca and have organized themselves into working committees according to their capacities. For example, there are committees for: gastronomy, ancestral knowledge, tourist guides, administrative, popular music, security.

Some people have continued their training as rescuers, authorized tourist guides and, lately, in tourist project management. The community initiative has also identified the attractions of their community and implemented some activities for visitors. part of their first steps, they've produced leaflets, taken photographs and managed their social networks... ...however, they have realized that promotion is not enough for the success of the project.

This community initiative usually receives visits from educational institutions in Cuenca, people interested in the project and some foreigners from the United States who volunteer in the community.

As a main product they offer a full day of experiential activities and excursions. However, they have not identified a target market, a development purpose, or a clear marketing strategy. Even the prices vary greatly, for example, sometimes they agree that lunch should cost $4 and other times they choose to charge $7.

A major problem is the need for strengthening the administrative management of the initiative. This has led to conflicts among initiative members who are demanding more information on management results.

Another drawback is that some participating members feel frustrated, because they consider that the results at the economic level do not compensate for the effort made in the tourism initiative.

The project's representative is currently also a councilwoman in the canton of Cuenca. While her brother is in charge of managing the project. As is often the case with many tourism initiatives, as part of their first steps they have produced leaflets, taken photographs and managed their social networks. The initiative has even received support from the Municipal Tourism Foundation for Cuenca for promotional activities. However, they have realized that promotion is not enough for the success of the project.

Additionally, they do not know how to attract and negotiate with tour operators. On one occasion they were even cheated by a company they worked with. And in general terms there is a perception among the participants that the tourism project is not yet generating the desired results.

Source: initial information on the Pilot Project generated by the international team of the PREIT-Tour platform in May 2020.

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