Camaroncito EcoResort & Beach is a member of the Sustainability and Environment group within the International Trade Council
We were recently invited to participate in a "get to know you" exchange with the International Trade Council. We thought the questions asked were quite insightful, and we wanted to share the results with our community.
Owner: Sarah Bajc
Company: Camaroncito Eco Resort, S.A.
Business Council Sustainability and Environment
Phone : +16786080477
What industry is your company / organization operating in?
Camaroncito EcoResort & Beach is a boutique eco resort and permaculture farm that operates in the ecotourism, sustainable development, and adventure travel space on the Caribbean coast of Panama.
What does your company / organization do?
Camaroncito EcoResort & Beach provides nature immersion and off-grid adventure vacations in an intimate Eco Lodge setting with only four hand crafted beachfront cabanas. We are set on a pristine Caribbean cove nestled in the rainforest on the Atlantic coast of Panama, about three hours from Panama's Tocumen international airport. We operate as a social enterprise and lifestyle business, and cater to mostly North American and European guests ranging from solo adventurers to groups up to 12. We, the owners, live on the property and personally invest in the social, economic, and environmental improvement of the off-grid coastal communities of fisherman and subsistence farmers around us.
How did you get started in this industry?
I have lived in six countries and traveled to over 60 during my career as an expatriate business executive and international educator, always seeking ways to connect with nature and encounter authentic local communities and cultures. When it came time to step off the ladder of traditional employment, the choice to find a tropical off-grid property and develop an ecotourism business was a natural fit.
What education, qualifications, or skills do you have that helped you in your career?
My Panamanian husband and I were both raised in remote farming communities, so we were familiar with the privations and rewards of homesteading in an off-grid location. I have worked in and around the entrepreneurial sector for most of my career, and felt confident I could couple that business experience with my love of ecotourism and adventure travel in order to create Camaroncito EcoResort & Beach.
What are some of the key projects or initiatives you've worked on which have helped contribute to your success in business?
We began planning for the construction and operations of Camaroncito from when we purchased the land in 2017 to our opening in 2023, including: cutting a dirt road connecting local villages, installing a freshwater aqueduct, and training local staff.
What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
We are the ONLY employer in the area, and we strive to leverage that for the betterment of not only our own workers, but also the advancement of the broader community. We donate small business advisory to several local entrepreneurs, we provide training in permaculture farming as well as resort operations, and we provide a small scholarship program to encourage the children of our staff to pursue higher education.
How has the industry evolved since you first started?
The ecotourism industry in Panama is still in its infancy, as there has been little support from previous governments. There are some pockets of success, however, and it looks hopefully that the next elections will bring an administration more supportive of sustainable businesses and eco tourism.
What are the biggest challenges facing the industry right now?
There is very poor transportation infrastructure in Panama, making it difficult and expensive, and decidedly NOT ecofriendly, for both citizens and tourists to move around. Trash and recycling management are also sorely lacking, resulting in a terrible burden being placed on people and organization who care about keeping the environment pristine.
Where do you see the EcoTourism industry headed in the next 5-10 years?
We hope to see Panama, and other small, relatively undeveloped countries to place greater attention on the protection of their natural resources as opposed to the exploitation and extraction of them. Extractive industries such as mining, drilling, native lumber harvesting and fishing are depriving the world of its biodiversity and ecological stability, but without replacement revenue streams, it is an uphill political battle. More global attention to the importance of wealthier nations paying their share towards the protection of these yet unsullied environments (especially rainforests) is an important next step.
What new technologies or trends are you most excited about in your industry?
Clean transport options would bring obvious benefit to the eco tourism industry, as would improved water reclamation, trash management, and recycling technologies to help reduce new extraction of minerals and petroleum by reclaiming those resources from trash. Technologies such as pyrolysis (converting mixed plastic back into gasoline) hold huge opportunity for rural and coastal areas if they can be scaled down to be operable in a low tech, local implementation.
What advice would you give to someone starting in the industry?
Most importantly, be prepared to live your dream, not just work it. Especially in the ecotourism industry, you must have an abiding love of nature and more simple living. Also, ensure you have more than one income stream developing at all times!
How do you handle setbacks and challenges in your work?
Living on a beautiful Caribbean beach cove surrounded by rainforest has its own value to a quality life besides the business aspect of the resort. Eating vegetables, fruit, eggs and fowl nurtured on your own permaculture farm is a pretty powerful salve for even the harshest setbacks too!
Who are your role models or inspirations in this field?
Honestly, I am not aware of many individuals who have attempted the same thing that we are doing, mostly because we are ALL small and isolated businesses working at the grass roots level. There are some emerging groups trying to raise awareness in this space, like the Sustainable Travel program through SUNxMalta, but most of the certifications and standards groups seem more set on helping huge global brands greenwash themselves than providing genuine developmental support of locally based ecotourism businesses.
Outside of your professional life, what are some of your hobbies or interests?
As a small business owner, there is no separation of professional and personal life. Besides being the resort owner, I am also the resident marketing specialist, veterinary technician, greenhouse and garden supervisor, chef, yoga teacher, and therapeutic masseuse! I am partial for science and fantasy fiction, mostly listened to via audio books!