Kars Ecotourism Training Program
Ecotourism is one of the most rapidly developing sectors in Turkey and throughout the region. Ecotourism aims to ensure environmental sustainability in collaboration with local residents and provide them with avenues for economic empowerment. HasNa has been supporting ecotourism trainings in the Kars region of Turkey since 2010 in conjunction with the KuzeyDo?a Association, a Turkish environmental nonprofit organization. Through the ecotourism program, HasNa aims to build capacity, contribute to local development, and raise awareness of environmental issues among local villagers, with a particular focus on the inclusion of women.
In May 2010, HasNa partnered with KuzeyDo?a to help communities around Kuyucuk Lake in Kars, Turkey, preserve their natural ecosystem while developing an alternative source of sustainable income from ecotourism. Kuyucuk Lake is a beautiful wetland area home to a diverse variety of bird species that attract thousands of tourists each year. While it is a protected biodiversity area, farming and livestock ranching pose a threat to the lake’s ecosystem. The area has significant but untapped potential to become a vibrant and sustainable ecotourism site.
HasNa and KuzeyDo?a organized a two-week training for 20 women from communities around the lake interested in gaining professional skills useful in the tourism sector. The program provided knowledge and resources to enable the participating women to run facilities to host tourists, provide food services, and produce and market handcrafts. The training covered issues relating to local environmental protection, the conservation of natural resources, conflict resolution skills, and crucial management skills for the ecotourism industry.
HasNa’s program mobilized the community to begin the initial stages of transitioning to a more sustainable source of income. The training empowered community members to better protect Kuyucuk Lake themselves and to promote conservation among others. Conflict resolution training was an integral part of the program to help prepare community members to handle conflicts that typically arise during transitions. HasNa also identified opportunities for several follow-up job-training programs on the eco-tourism industry based on feedback from the community, including handcraft marketing, food service, and hospitality management. HasNa will measure outcomes as community members continue to implement their own projects and business ventures.
In 2011, the program expanded to four other villages in the region (Buyuk Bogatepe, Buyuk Catma, Kuyucuk, and Alisofu). HasNa and KuzeyDo?a brought together 20 women for trainings focusing on hospitality and ecotourism. Training topics included strategies for managing small hotels and bed and breakfasts, developing relationships within the ecotourism sector, public relations, and informing visitors about the importance of local ecology. Trainings additionally focused on vital communication skills and styles of interaction with guests. As a result of these trainings, residents have been able to apply for local funds to support their own project ideas. The program has established an expanding foundation upon which residents of the area are able to initiate and implement their own self-sustaining projects, which is one of HasNa’s primary program goals.
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