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UN Tourism: Putting Communities at the Centre of Tourism Development in the Americas

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Images by UNWTO

The Seminar “Enhancing Tourism Development through Innovation in Community-Based Tourism” was held within the framework of the 69th meeting of the UN Tourism Regional Commission for the Americas. The meeting served as a prelude to the institutional event and brought together leading players in the sector to address challenges, strategies and good practices in this tourism segment. The aim of the Seminar was to promote the development of community-based tourism through the empowerment of and investment in local populations, as well as the promotion of innovation in their products. 

It is necessary to continue exploring models that promote the autonomy and participation of communities in the tourism management of their territories. Creativity, collaboration and commitment to local traditions are fundamental pillars in this journey towards more inclusive and responsible tourism.

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UN Tourism, said: “Community-based tourism in the region of the Americas shows great diversity and opportunities for the sustainable development and economic inclusion of local communities. It is necessary to continue exploring models that promote the autonomy and participation of communities in the tourism management of their territories. Creativity, collaboration and commitment to local traditions are fundamental pillars in this journey towards more inclusive and responsible tourism.”

After the opening, Natalia Bayona, Executive Director of UN Tourism, highlighted: “Community-based tourism is a great opportunity for social innovation and allows us to be creative with the tourism product itself. In 2022, the global market for this type of tourism amounted to USD 575.9 million. Latin America and the Caribbean, with their natural resources and great nature areas where local communities flourish, announced 80 greenfield projects between 2018-2023 representing USD 3.89 billion.”

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The challenges of tourism and the role of communities

The topic of “Challenges, Strategies and Good Practices for Sustainable Tourism Development through Empowerment and Investment in Community Tourism”, was discussed by a panel including the Cuban Minister Juan Carlos García Granda and the Vice-Ministers of Tourism of Panama, Magda Durán; of Peru, Madeleine Burns, and of Colombia, Arturo Bravo. Gustavo Santos, Regional Director for the Americas of UN Tourism acted as the moderator of the discussion, as the participants outlined the current situation, shared experiences and expressed their proposals for the future of the sector.

A second panel consisted of a discussion involving both the private sector and representatives of the academic field. On this occasion, with the title “Promoting Social Innovation in Tourism through Impact Investments in Community Tourism, Human Capital and Business and Territorial Strategies”, the debate focused on investments.

A place for entrepreneurs and communities

Two startups belonging to the UN Tourism ecosystem participated in the last of the seminar’s debates. On the one hand, the company Quantum Temple, dedicated to the application of new technologies to conserve the cultural and natural resources of communities in Indonesia, and on the other, SmArt for Sustainability, from Panama, which incorporates cutting-edge technology and integration practices to move towards sustainability.

In addition to these meetings, local communities also had their space to publicize their work and showcase success stories, including the Women’s Association ‘Weaving Dreams and Flavours’ of Mampuján, Colombia, which has been an example of transformation for more than two decades. This group of women, including victims of sexual violence and displaced persons, has been able to weave suffering and transform it into a hymn to peace and a historical testimony.

The conference reflected UN Tourism’s efforts to promote the evolution of community-based tourism, among others, through its innovation network that includes a wide variety of startups and projects that promote this segment, as well as innovation challenges, which strengthen tourism initiatives in local communities, while helping to develop new strategies and give visibility to these projects at a global level.

Tags: Americas, Tourism development, UN Tourism

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