USAID Economic Competitiveness Project Supports STOKE in El Salvador

El Zonte and Oriente Salvaje join the STOKE Surf Destinations Program

Top Photo: STOKE leads an Introduction to Sustainable Surf Tourism Workshop in El Zonte (Credit: USAID El Salvador es Más)

LA LIBERTAD, USULUTÁN, AND SAN MIGUEL, EL SALVADOR –With support from the USAID Economic Competitiveness Project (ECP), STOKE (Sustainable Tourism and Outdoors Kit for Evaluation) has benchmarked two destinations in El Salvador for sustainable surf tourism: El Zonte and Oriente Salvaje (Playa Las Flores to Agua Fría).

Since October 2021, STOKE has collaborated with over 60 local, regional, and national public and private stakeholders to evaluate each destination’s tourism inventory, community development needs, cultural heritage assets, surf resources, and environmental conservation initiatives. The assessment benchmarked each destination separately against the STOKE Surf Destinations standard of 84 criteria. Built on the foundation of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s criteria, STOKE Surf was adapted to the specific challenges coastal ecosystems and surf tourism communities face.

The President of Oriente Salvaje’s tourism association, ADETCO (Asociación de Empresas Turísticas de la Costa Oriental), Rodrigo Barraza, stated “When we first started surf guiding in the Wild East after the civil war, we saw the potential for surf tourism to help rebuild our economy and protect our natural and cultural heritage. Nearly 30 years later, El Salvador is well known among the international surfing community, but we must continue to preserve the wave-rich coastline that makes Oriente Salvaje so special. The STOKE process has helped us create a plan for the future and we look forward to working with STOKE and USAID ECP on the path to certification.”

Introduction to Sustainable Surf Tourism Workshop – Oriente Salvaje (Video: USAID El Salvador es Más)

Nearly 120 residents, business owners, and domestic and international visitors were surveyed for a Limits of Acceptable Change study to complement this baseline assessment against the STOKE standard. The qualitative and quantitative analysis provided unique insights into the perceptions of crowding at local surf breaks and how each community would like to see its destination grow responsibly.

In March 2022, STOKE representatives met with stakeholders in El Zonte and Oriente Salvaje to present their findings and host an Introduction to Sustainable Surf Tourism Workshop for each community. Camilo Menéndez, President of Asociación Zonte Lindo, said “The world has come to know El Zonte for both its surf and for its adoption of Bitcoin. However, we recognize our community is at an inflection point and we must ensure its development is sustainable and in line with what the local population wants. STOKE’s research, analysis, and guidance have given El Zonte the tools to take control of our future.”

El Zonte

Following the site visit, STOKE has begun to develop a Roadmap Report that outlines strategies for closing compliance gaps and achieving certification in the next few years. The first step is to assist each community in creating its own destination management organization (DMO). STOKE will return to El Salvador in May and June to host a series of DMO governance workshops as well as train stakeholders on how to use the STOKE Platform—a SaaS tool for sustainable destination management.

STOKE Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer, Dr. Jess Ponting, added that “El Salvador has prioritized surf tourism at the national level and USAID ECP has recognized the importance of securing sustainable development and job creation in two landmark destinations. El Zonte and Oriente Salvaje represent the country’s potential to become an international leader in surf tourism management and we’re honored to guide them in their journey. We want to thank USAID ECP, Asociación Zonte Lindo, ADETCO, Paso Pacifico, MITUR, CORSATUR, MARN, FESASURF, ASOTUR, CASATUR, Alcaldía de Chiltiupán, Alcaldía de Chirilagua, Alcaldía de Jucuarán, and all of the local stakeholders who participated.”

Oriente Salvaje stakeholders, USAID staff, and STOKE team

For more information, visit each destination’s STOKE profile at or visit Asociación Zonte Lindo ( and ADETCO’s websites (

STOKE (Sustainable Tourism & Outdoors Kit for Evaluation), a California Social Purpose Corporation, is the world’s first sustainability certification body with standards built specifically for the adventure travel and outdoor recreation industries. Through its software and association of independent evaluators, STOKE enables businesses to reach their sustainability goals before verifying and sharing their impact stories. Since 2013, STOKE’s network has grown to 11 countries so the outdoor community can find #sustainablestoke wherever the pursuit of adventure takes them. For more information on STOKE’s members, sustainability SaaS solution, and certification process, go to