The Toledo Ecotourism Association (TEA) was established in 1990, after a series of eight free community sponsored workshop on ecotourism, organized by the the Toledo home site farming and ecology center in Punta Gorda Town. Villagers from three Mayan and one Garifuna villages started the TEA program in 1990, by building four simple guesthouses that give the opportunity for the local people to directly plan, control and profit from community based ecotourism.
Aside from providing a memorable experience to visitors, the TEA program continues to honor its objectives for the guesthouse program that includes:
⇒ To ensure equitable financial returns and benefits to local participating communities on a rotational system.
⇒ To educate visitors and local people about the importance of preserving their indigenous practices, language and cultures that strengthen and encourage further growth of the cultures and values of the peoples of Toledo.
⇒ To provide a dignified means of supplementary income to as many villagers as possible.
⇒ A program that support sustainable ecotourism, agroforestry, and environmental/natural resource conservation through its program activities.
TEA Guest Houses
In 1995, the grant fund received from USAID and WWF was used to construct and furnish six new guesthouses and upgrade the four existing guesthouses under the TEA. These guesthouses were all built by the community members of the TEA and roofing was made with local forest materials, and in a style which matches the traditional village home design.
In addition, the grant fund was used to construct ten multi-purpose buildings for meetings, twenty male and female toilets, shower rooms, and ten concrete vats for water storage. Over the years, assistance from the Toledo Home site Farming and Ecology Center, the Government of Belize, the United Nations Development Program, Plenty International, FAVA/CA, Shaman Pharmaceuticals, USAID, The World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the Onaway Trust.
Each each village group elects their own executive who oversees program operations in that village. There is also a district executive committee elected every 2 years which manages and controls the entire TEA program. Representatives are elected from the participating Mayan villages, and they hold meetings monthly.