Casa Divina Lodge

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How We Do Sustainable Tourism in Mindo

The town of Mindo, just two hours from Quito, is renowned for its adventure sports and unique experiences. It is located in the middle of the lush cloud forest of the Andean Chocó of Pichincha, declared by UNESCO as Biosphere Reserve in 2018. In this natural paradise, sister companies Casa Divina Eco Lodge and SabinaTour Operator are committed to sustainable tourism — a commitment to life in all its forms, in which they have already achieved concrete progress. Both ventures are the shared dream of Molly Brown and Efrain Toapanta, an American-Ecuadorian couple who met in Mindo and built their life around their passion for this wonderful ecosystem (read more about their story here).
Sustainable Tourism
Molly and Efrain started their company in 2007 and since then they have realized their goal of preserving the forest, regenerating it and, at the same time, developing touristic and environmental education activities in a sustainable way. They have been part of the transition that Mindo has undergone since the 1980s — from a place dedicated to logging, cattle raising and hunting to a place focused on ecotourism and related activities. For Molly, sustainable tourism is the only option, and she wants to use her companies to convey this message. “We are not only talking about how we can live in a better world; it’s also not only about traveling and choosing green hotels. I always like to take it to another level — that our way of traveling reflects our way of life,” she explains. As Efrain says, many times people think that sustainable tourism is just a hike in the woods and nothing more, but it is so much more. “It’s going for a profound change, doing real and tangible things. It’s nice to talk about sustainability, about projects, but it’s another thing to make a real change… what I want for my family is how I want my business.”
TourCert Certification
In July 2022, SabinaTour and Casa Divina achieved the international TourCert recertification, until 202. This recognition is given to companies that comply with high standards of social, environmental, and corporate responsibility, after exhaustive evaluations of their practices. This process began in 2016 when Casa Divina integrated a pioneering group of 62 Ecuadorian companies seeking to improve their ecotourism offer in Latin America, later joined by SabinaTour. Tour Cert supports with information, training, evaluation, and control. “That’s the most important part. If you receive an award, you receive it and there it remains, but when you are in a certification process you must be monitoring, control and evaluating your practices. Therefore, you have to promote continuous improvement,” the owners explain. One of the main goals of Casa Divina and SabinaTour is to collaborate with the local community to promote conscious tourism at a social, environmental and corporate level, which generates a fair and equitable economic impact. In this sense, they work with other local companies, farms, and guides, to generate an integral development. As Efrain states, “we generate a local economy that circulates. It’s a chain — we buy local products, link with other nature and bird watching reserves, and support each other’s initiatives.” For these two entrepreneurs, the important thing is to bond deeply with the community of Mindo and the Northwest. They consider that their work and mission is to continue contributing to conservation, the community, and the development of all. “That is why it is called sustainable tourism. It is not just that only you are fine and what about with the others.” For the future, Molly would like to create a recycling center in the area that also generates income for the population with the large amount of waste left behind by tourists. In addition, the dreams continue with plans to do more research on the diversity of vegetation in the private reserve where Casa Divina is located.   Author: Lucila Donoso

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