This quiet South American gem is ready to join the ranks of nations focused on reducing their carbon footprint in the tourism industry. The project known as Uruguay Natural is an incentive-based program that local businesses are encouraged to participate in so they may receive a “green certification”. This certificate will identify employers who have met a newly established standard for environmentally-conscious practices.
As it would happen, the founders of this movement are no strangers to earth-friendly living.
Maria Elena Acosta and her husband, Nicolas Barilko, started their vacation property and eco-hostel, Dulcinea, back in 2017. Their charming eco-lodge is located in Maldonado, only minutes from the famous beaches of Punta del Este. Their work with Dulcinea inspired them to approach the Minister of Tourism with a plan to jump-start the nation on the track toward sustainability.
The project will focus on several key areas including water conservation, renewable energy, and responsible waste management.
“There are no laws in Uruguay that require you to even recycle your waste,” Maria mentioned. “We are helping our country do better.”
Last week, a contract was signed with a German company that specializes in helping businesses implement best and supportable practices. In this multifaceted approach to green tourism, the Uruguay Natural campaign will also promote locally made products that meet certification standards. The Yerba Mate industry in particular, which is one of the country´s major exports, is on board with this new enterprise and is set to receive guests eager to learn about their farming practices.
Though Uruguay´s ambition is big, the process of revitalizing tourism will be slow to start in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“Our country can only accommodate local tourism to start,” Maria admitted. “We are a small country and must be careful not to go too fast. Our international borders will likely stay closed to foreigners until the start of our high season at the end of the year.”
However, despite the obvious setback of no immediate foreign revenue, the new green measures will be put into effect by the government as early as next month. July marks the beginning of winter holidays for families in Uruguay.
Maria laughed and added, “Argentinians make up a large portion of our tourism, which we won´t see for a while. Though we´ll be ready whenever the government opens the doors.”
While the founders are focusing on Uruguay to start, they confessed a desire to take their dynamism to other countries in the future.
“Perhaps we can help other countries in South America move toward sustainability once we have it perfected here in Uruguay,” Maria said hopefully.