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"I do not believe too much in having a destination called sustainable, but rather in the road to sustainability. I believe in the importance of the journey towards sustainability"
Jorge Moller is a Consultant and an Ecotourism & Special Interest Tourism pioneer in Chile. He started back in 1985 in the South of Chile where he later founded the “Eco Travel” tours in the Lake District Puerto Varas. He is a founding member of Chile’s adventure travel regulatory organization (C.A.T.A.) and of the Tourism Corporation of Puerto Varas. Always keen to bring an environmental education perspective into the tourism experience, Mr Moller directed for 20 years Darwin’s Trails Chile, a joint English-Chilean inbound Tour Operator which provided authentic local experiences and local people contact for clients visiting Chile and Patagonia. As the Director of REGENERA, Mr Moller works as a consultant with indigenous communities such as the Mapuches, Likan Antai, Yagan and Rapa-Nui to provide them with tools for sustainable development. An active member of the Chilean Tourism Bureau Board, he promotes the destination of Chile in a sustainable way, including all types of experiences in this incredibly biodiverse country. Mr Moller has taught at the Universidad Católica. and played a key role in the foundation and development of the South American Sustainable Tourism Network (SAST). Today he is the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Country Representative of Chile and steers the GSTC Destination Sustainable Working Group. He currently works with various destinations in Latin America including Robinson Crusoe, Cape Horn and Qhapac Ñan with the aim of improving their product and tourism market access.
ECOCLUB.com: As an Ecotourism pioneer in Chile, do you remember what first attracted you to Ecotourism and the South of Chile back in 1985?
Jorge Moller: As a university student, I was working in a pub in Santiago. Above the pub, on the second floor there was a rafting company which organised weekend river trips to various Chilean destinations. From a very young age, I had been attracted to rivers as we used to go out fishing with my father on a wooden boat. So I asked that rafting company if they could take me on a rafting trip somewhere near Santiago. They did, and from then on I realised that I could combine what I love, which is being in nature, with an outdoors job. I started going on the trips on weekends while I was still studying and working in the pub and also helped with the logistics of rafting. We used to do a full summer season in Pucon in the Lake District, South of Chile. After being in charge of operations for a couple of years I decided that I wanted to set up my own business and to focus on teaching people a little more about nature. So in 1989, I found an opportunity in Puerto Varas, 1,000 km south of Santiago, and there I started my own company which I called ‘Eco Travel’.
ECOCLUB.com: How different were things in the area at the time, during the late Pinochet years, regarding environmental awareness, pollution, social justice and tourism opportunities for the indigenous communities?
Jorge Moller: Basically, during these years, the dictatorship focused on generating employment and money, so there was low environmental awareness, they did not care too much about the environment. Abundant in natural resources, in Chile, it was normal for our income to be derived from extractive activities like mining, forestry, wine production, pulp industry and salmon farming. The indigenous communities were also very depressed, and until today it is a big political problem that a lot of indigenous communities still do not have the rights that they deserve.