Por Patty Rabanales
Tourism is one of the primary sources of income for Guatemala and, if it is managed correctly, can convert into a powerful economic alternative for rural communities who were before dependent solely on agriculture. It offers a way for them to utilize the natural and cultural resources that they posses in their environment.
Various communities around the country have already been involved in this activity, offering eco-tourism tours, cultural tourism, adventure tourism, agro-tourism, among others; without a doubt, all of these have been used erroneously at one time or another, and have been generalized and commercialized to such an extent that they have lost their essence or mystic, as can happen with mismanaged community tourism. When we refer to community tourism, we mean to say that it is the type of tourism that is managed by the communities that develop these unique experiences that each site offers; it is to say that the communities are the ones who facilitate the housing, the food, the tours, the artisanal demonstrations, etc., and that they also develop these services in a way that invigorates the local economy, generates dignified jobs and opportunities for everyone, and creates equality among all the young people, adults, women, and men in the community. Additionally, this type of tourism serves as a way to revitalize, save, and conserve community patriotism.
Aside from this, when we refer to ecotourism, adventure tourism, or agro-tourism, we are describing the motivation of the tourist and the utilization of the resources which the community counts on to create unique experiences, and to offer tourism that is locally and communally managed.
However, it is important to take into account that in order for the communities to develop and commercialize their touristic services successfully, they need to go through a process of training to develop organizational and administration abilities (in addition to operational abilities), that permits them to define their objectives, make effective decisions, plan, organize, managed, know the market, implement marketing stradegies, and develop their projects so that they are able to be economically self-sustainable and, at the same time, environmentally and culturally sustainable. This formation process, in many cases, is inaccessible for the communities from a socioeconomic perspective, since conditions of age, sex, ethnic groups, and poverty levels have excluded them from formal education, and there are high percentages of illiteracy in rural areas that limit their developmental opportunities.
For these reasons, we say that community tourism is an opportunity for intregal multidisciplinary development and, if it is managed correctly, can generate jobs, invigorate the local economy, permit and encourage environmental conservation and cultural identity, recuperate historic memory, encourage social development, reduce gaps between men and women (as well as generational gaps), reduce migration to urban zones, promote sovereign alimentation and social justice. Not enough? For these reasons and many more, at EntreMundos we support these projects with the Program of Good Community Tourism Practices.
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