Two important recognitions to the EoC Sustainable Tourism Project "Conectando destinos, uniendo personas".
by Francesca Giglio
At the end of September, as the hashtag #Travel, Enjoy, Respect! was being spread by UNWTO, in line with the latest actions with which the United Nations are starting to conclude the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, two wonderful news arrived from Argentina. With a surprising coincidence of time, they tell about and hand out rewards to a great story, an exemplary project showing how tourism can have a unique and strategic contribution in the field of social, economic and environmental sustainability.
It is a story that is really making a difference, which today incorporates many instruments and actions, but is born above all from human relations, from intra-cultural and intercultural ties, a story that smells of reciprocity and great collaboration, a synergy of different minds and contributions, an economic engine of strong social inclusion and innovation, in which the person is at the centre, shared work is one of the cornerstones of the program and development is not only the final goal, but a link that unites all of them - this is what Renata Gonzalez, one of the chief promoters of the program tells us.
Let's imagine the following snapshot: the North-western part of the country, the Pre-Andes region, rural areas between the provinces of Salta, Jujuy and Catamarca: several indigenous communities are still lacking some means of subsistence, including scarce access to drinking water, infrastructure and electricity. Looking at this cross-section, there is a strong desire to act against the risk of abandonment of these precious lands and populations.
Orlando and Agustin are also part of the snapshot presented: the former, originally from one of those communities in Salta that since selling handicrafts, has realized that tourism can be a work opportunity for the whole community; and the latter, one of the coordinators of the project today, who, before starting to study tourism and travelling in the rural areas of the country, had the same anxieties as Orlando. Life brought them together 7 years ago, and they began to work, together with other protagonists, on the development of some isolated communities with a high tourism potential.
It is the way it is done that will eventually prove to be successful! It could be seen from the very beginning, in the process of making the various proposals, collecting the ideas of local groups and sharing training experiences.
That’s how a program was launched, promoted by the TSNOA, network, (the acronym is short for North-West Argentina Sustainable and Solidarity Tourism), also supported by AMU and the EdC companies, all of whose efforts are adding up to create a teamwork that aims to develop and promote the community tourism capabilities. In other words it allows many families involved to play an active role and get benefits, not only by improving agricultural production and craftsmanship, but also by generating complementary sources of income, as they themselves can now offer a quality service to the tourists who would like to get a taste of their daily lives in an environment of extraordinary beauty.
The project, moving away from a more sterile commercial system, is innovative from a social point of view as it fully involves local communities, promotes their cultures, respects and strengthens the dignity of the person and the social fabric. As a result, it also manages to involve both private and public external contexts, making them capable of getting inside the problem and producing tangible results on the beneficiary. This is one of the strengths of the project highlighted by Renata and the whole team.
And it is all confirmed by the two important recognitions, which also allow this story to develop further:
On the one hand, the Governo Argentino is rewarding the project “Conectando Destinos, Uniendo Personas” (“Connecting Destinations, Uniting People” – the tr.) with a 3rd place, selecting it from over 1000 innovative tourism proposals presented at the Competition "Innovar para Viajar" (“Innovation for Travel” – the tr.). The state contribution will finance the implementation of a plan to promote the current project, through the creation of an interactive and multilingual web platform that, by stimulating a new ethical and sustainable way of travelling and directly involving tourists, entrepreneurs, craftsmen and tour operators, increases the visibility and marketing of the products and services offered by families. It is an important step forward for many rural communities that, while being able to come up with a tourist offer of value, are often cut off from the digital world and its environment.
- On the other hand, the Italian Episcopal Conference approved a request for funding, diverting a contribution from the funds of 8x1000 (“eight per thousand” means 0.8% of tax return that Italian citizens may devolve to an organised religion or social assistance scheme – the tr.), which in the next two and a half years will allow the program to be extended to 2 new indigenous communities (7 in all), thus reaching a total of 262 beneficiaries directly and approximately 25 thousand indirectly, says Francesco Tortorella from AMU.
The prizes bring joy and support, the co-funders, old and new, provide that seed capital that is so useful to the life and consolidation of the project, but from the beginning it has never been a relationship of power; the winner has always been the integrated approach, the real cooperation in a system in which each actor has its role within this pastoral mission.
It is in this perspective that giving and receiving become reciprocal, solidarity leads to fraternity and the journey, the meeting of people and life is elevated to something superior. It is with such examples that we can strongly target the tourism sector as one of the key and indispensable tools for progress towards the Millennium Development Goals on social inclusion, employment and the reduction of poverty.
Muchisimas Felicidades Chicos, congratulations!!! And may these precious projects live long!