Scientific Research

Sustainable Scientific Tourism in the Matsés National Reserve, Loreto

Tourism has expanded to position itself today as one of the best economic alternatives for communities that for years were behind and without opportunities to improve their quality of life. In this sector, the number of visitors interested in natural spaces has grown, this is the case of those who practice unconventional tourism, who arrive at these attractions for research purposes.

The World Tourism Organization indicates that the potential market for nature-based tourism, which accounts for no more than 5% of the total world tourism demand, is the one that will be growing between 25% and 30% per year. He even warns that there is a growing consumer sensitivity regarding the fragility of ecosystems and the number of species in danger of extinction. (Ascension, 2005, p. 124).

In the Peruvian case, according to the Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, the flow of visitors to Áreas Naturales Protegidas (ANP) increased by 38% during 2011, compared to 2010. This was considered a historical record since that added more than a million tourists (1’035,310). In addition, each of the ANPs that received visitors, both national and foreign, significantly increased the percentage of income from ecotourism, such as the traditional ones: Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary (57.58%), Pacaya Samiria National Reserve (23.12%), National Park Huascarán (12.14%), Paracas National Reserve (35.37%) and Tambopata National Reserve (17.06%), definitively positioning itself as important flagship tourist destinations of Peru.

However, the increase in tourism oriented to this topic, that is, its massification brings with it concern about contamination, depredation and destruction of natural areas and species, as a consequence of that economic activity. Likewise, the threat to the fauna of the place, due to the illegal commercialization of endangered species, by people unknown to the place; as well as illegal fishing and hunting activities for natural resources and unplanned extraction activities.

Pérez (2004, p. 27) reflects on this by pointing out that environmental groups have sounded the alarm: tourism can become a tool for the destruction of the environment.

Faced with this problem, a solution has emerged to develop tourism under the parameters of sustainable development.

“The paradox of tourism is that, probably more than any other sector of economic activity, it should make it possible to achieve the long-awaited balance between economic, social and environmental objectives that are synthesized in the concept of sustainable development. Tourism is built and prospers thanks to the existence of natural, cultural and other types of attractions, provided that they are in a good state of conservation” (Yunis, 2002, quoted in Meyer, 2002, p. 17).

For this reason, it is essential to emphasize the importance of practicing scientific tourism, which is a segment of tourism of special interests, where the products are coordinated with the development of scientific knowledge, generating opportunities to support research, as well as knowledge transfer to the public non-specialist (Centro de Investigación en Ecosistemas de la Patagonia, 2011).

At the same time, science is the set of knowledge obtained through observation and reasoning (Real Academia Española, 2010). Therefore, scientific tourism is linked to this concept, so that people associate rest with knowledge; since this activity is aimed at people who are interested in knowing a place through research and who seek to increase and complement their knowledge.

In this context, the Matsés National Reserve, located in the Loreto Region, represents an option to develop scientific tourism in a sustainable manner. This natural space is still unknown in the tourist market.

Matsés was declared a National Reserve on August 27, 2009. Thanks to efforts made by the inhabitants of the place for 15 years, it was demonstrated that this natural place has immense potential for tourism because it has different species of flora and fauna that many of they are endemic, in addition to having different native communities in their surroundings that have known how to take advantage of their resources for their survival and enjoyment. These populations have managed to develop a series of instruments, techniques, and forms of social organization (crafts, food preservation, natural medicines, sports, constructions, traditions and customs, art, dances, etc.), based on their natural environment.

At present, the Matsés National Reserve occasionally receives visits from tourists, who are attracted by comments from other travelers who had the possibility of reaching this area, which is very rich in biodiversity; however, non-welcome people also arrive in the area in question, such as illegal loggers, hunters of endangered species or some natural resource with the purpose of illegal commercialization, which to date the Matsés have known how to protect these resources, in their own way, although they need more support so that this Protected Natural Area is preserved over time.

For these reasons and considering the natural context and the participation of the local population, this situation would improve substantially if non-conventional tourism is supported in this area. For this reason, the research problem was raised with the objective of “Proposing Sustainable Scientific Tourism in the Matsés National Reserve, Loreto, for foreign tourists”, a place where tourism can be developed sustainably and offers a new modality of tourism, that protects the natural resources that they present and that is an example for the rest of the surrounding natural protected areas.

This proposal will also contribute not only to the diffusion of the area, but as visits to this place increase, the surrounding native communities will substantially improve their income and, therefore, improve their quality of life, since They currently live in extreme poverty. At the same time, this type of tourism would make it possible to preserve the environment of the Protected Natural Area, which is currently a necessity; as well as to identify unique flora and fauna species so that they can be sustained over time and that future generations can also take advantage of them.

In summary, the problem raised has a need to develop a type of non-conventional tourism concerned with the environmental, social, and economic aspects. And if sustainable scientific tourism is proposed, in an orderly, scientific manner and facilitated by responsible authorities, the Protected Natural Area will have a better future; just as the inhabitants of this area would have a better life and a satisfaction of being quality Peruvians who for years managed for this area to be recognized as such.

Dra. Ada Liccet Suarez Amapanqui.

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