Héctor Ceballos-Lascuráin has been an "ecotourist" since his early childhood in Mexico. In the 1950s and 1960s he began traveling all around his home country, in the company of his parents and his sister, getting to know and admiring the many natural and cultural heritage features of Mexico. At the same time he developed his lifelong interest in nature, beginning to watch birds at the age of seven. By the 1970s and 1980s his travels had already taken him to five continents. His interest in architecture, art and design also developed early and he graduated as an architect from Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico in 1967, having carried out graduate studies in Paris, Rotterdam, London and Mexico City, in the fields of regional planning, architectural design and construction.
In early July 1983, when he was performing the dual role of Director General of Standards and Technology of SEDUE (the Mexican Ministry of Urban Development and Ecology) and founding president of PRONATURA (an influential Mexican conservationist NGO), he was lobbying for the conservation of the wetlands in northern Yucatan as breeding and feeding habitats of the American Flamingo. Among the arguments that he used to dissuade the building of marinas in the Celestún estuary area was the presence of an ever growing number of tourists, especially from the United States, that came to watch the flamingos. Back in those days Hector was already convinced that such people could play an important role in boosting the local rural economy, creating new jobs and preserving the 'ecology' of the area.
Twenty five years ago practically nobody understood the meaning or concept of 'ecotourism', although there was a vague feeling that travel and visitation to beautiful, pristine areas could somehow provide some economic benefits to the countries and local peoples involved in this process, and that perhaps conservation could also benefit from this. So Héctor spent the majority of the mid- and late 80s spreading the concept, characteristics and constraints of ecotourism to a wide audience around the world.
Mr. Ceballos-Lascuráin is an expert in the planning and development of sustainable tourism, ecotourism, park management, and environmentally-friendly architectural design, with worldwide experience and recognition in these fields. He has carried out consultancy and research work in 74 countries around the planet, including physical planning and low-impact architectural projects for ecotourism, sustainable tourism facilities, and housing developments, collaborating with governments, NGOs and private firms in those countries, as well as international institutions such as UNDP, UNEP, FAO, World Bank, OAS, World Tourism Organization, IUCN, WWF, US-AID, IDB, TIES, PATA, NAFTA, Conservation International, National Geographic Society, German Technical Cooperation Agency, etc. He has spoken in conferences and symposia in over 35 countries and has developed the National Ecotourism Strategies of Mexico, Malaysia, Uruguay, Ecuador, Dominica, and Yemen.
Previously he was Director General of Standards and Technology of the Mexican Ministry of Urban Development and Ecology (SEDUE) and Protected Areas Program Coordinator of IUCN (World Conservation Union), the latter with headquarters in Switzerland. For IUCN he coordinated the IV World Parks Congress, held in Caracas, Venezuela, in February 1992, an event attended by 1,800 persons from 130 countries. In 1981, he was the founding president of the Mexican Association for the Conservation of Nature (PRONATURA), currently the largest and most influential Mexican NGO in the field of conservation. In 1984 he founded the first Mexican ecotourism agency: ECOTOURS.
He is particularly interested in the interrelationship between ecology, tourism, regional development, local communities, conservation, and environmentally-responsible architecture. At present, there are around 40,000 references to his work on the Internet.
In 2003, his architectural design for an ecolodge in Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (carried out for SEMARNAT - the Mexican Ministry of the Environment - and CONANP - National Commission for Protected Areas) was selected by the Mexican architectural and construction magazine OBRAS as one of 5 "Intelligent Buildings" of that year, appearing as cover story in the July 2003 issue.
At present, he is developing architectural projects related to ecotourism, ecolodge development and ecological housing in several localities in Mexico, Colombia, and Borneo.
In 2004 he was awarded the first Colibri Ecotourism Lifetime Achievement Award by Planeta.com. He is also keenly interested in ornithology, bird watching and bird conservation, and has identified to date 3,946 bird species in their natural habitat around the world, which places him as the highest ranked Mexican birder in the world, according to ABA (American Birding Association).
Héctor believes that by nature, architects should be more concerned about the environment than most other professionals, so he is convinced that his architectural profession definitely influenced his pioneering role in ecotourism. He also believes that an “eco-architect” should be more humble when designing a building and not just trying to impose his ego on the environment. Saving energy, minimizing waste and avoiding toxic materials are among the dominating characteristics of his architectural work. Héctor is particularly interested in liberating architectural forms from conventional cubes and rectangles. Most of his designs are “organic” in shape, with free-flowing lines which harmonize more easily with nature and generally provide more amiable spaces for human beings. Many of his designs seem to sprout from the ground in the manner of plants or rocks.