Transforming Tourism: The Benefits of Community-Based Travel | SXSW 2024

Transforming Tourism: The Benefits of Community-Based Travel | SXSW 2024

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(audience applauding) - [Speaker] Hey, we need to talk. - This isn't working any more. - And it's not us, it's you. We just want different things. - Our idea of a good time is relaxing on the beach. - Hitting up the spa.

- Or, checking out a new restaurant. - You guys wanna get drunk in public and ignore laws. - Do you even remember what happened last March? (law enforcement sirens) - That was our breaking point.

So, we're breaking up with you. - And don't try to apologize and come crawling back. This isn't safe, so we're done. - And just so you know we're serious- - [Speaker 2] This March you can expect things like curfews, bag checks, and restricted beach access.

- DUI check points, $100 parking, and strong police enforcement for drug possession and violence. - Whatever it takes, because it's time to move on. - Maybe we can talk when you're done with your spring break phase. But until then.

(gentle music) - So my name is Arnie Weissman, I'm Editor-in-Chief of "Travel Weekly," which is the main travel industry news media platform. And I've been Editor-in-Chief for 22 years. And I've never seen a community give the finger to visitors quite the way that Miami Beach has just done.

This video was just released this past week. And, we're gonna be talking a lot about community-based tourism with a very distinguished group here. On my, your right, my left is a great honor to have Diana Flores. She is the captain and quarterback of the Mexico National Flag Football Team.

World champion. (audience applauding) And ambassador for Los Cabos. And to her left is Rodrigo Espanda. And he is the Managing Director of Visit Los Cabos, for the Los Cabos Tourism Board.

(off-mic panelist comment) - Yeah. (all applauding) (panelists chuckling) (off-mic panelist comment) - And at the far end is Julia Kinsman. And Julia is the Sustainability Editor for "Conde Nast Traveler."

(audience applauding) So if Miami Beach is sort of a cautionary tale for what happens when a community loses control for tourism, I'm gonna give a brief description of the opposite. And so in Los Cabos, probably about an hour north of Cabo San Lucas, maybe a little more, is a town called Cabo Pulmo. I'm gonna, I forgot I have a clicker here.

We're gonna talk about what is community-based tourism, and this is the example. This is a photo I took in Cabo Pulmo. It's a little Mexican fishing village, or it was a Mexican fishing village. Until over-fishing drove one of the fisherman, a guy named Mario Castro. He couldn't get enough fish to feed his family, basically.

So he left town, went south to Cabo San Lucas. Got a job at a dive shop. Learned that business, but he didn't like it.

He just didn't like Cabo San Lucas, it was too fast for him. And so he returned, and he was trying to think of what he could do. And he realized that if he was going to have any sort of life in the village. And they have the village maintains a sustainable presence. Something had to be done. So, he began working with universities, and applied that the area in front of it, because there's lots of reefs, living reefs, could be a national park, a marine reserve.

And he successfully showed the government that this could be done with the help of the academics. So, it became a national reserve. And then, he applied for; well he, not just him by himself, but the village applied to be an UNESCO World Heritage site.

And it became a UNESCO World Heritage site. And it seemed like things were gonna be really good. He said the only problem was visibility was diminishing because there was so many fish. So all of a sudden in 2011, a Spanish development company wanted to basically build a Cancun about six miles up the coast from him.

So this was approved by the Mexico Ministry of the Environment. And it would seem like it was just gonna happen. Really big interest in Spain.

So, Mario went to Spain. He tried to lobby the government there. He got Greenpeace involved.

And what finally worked was his son dressed a bicycle up like a fish, and he rode around the Zocalo, the main square in Mexico City. That, he had a petition with 2,000 signatures. That stunt earned him an audience with then President Felipe Calderon. Calderon looked at it all and said the development is off. So a small town can really, not only take control of its own destiny, but preserve the environment around a good deal of what's by it.

So when you look at what happened there, and this is, the counter balance of Miami Beach. There are some key elements, too, in essence, what is community-based tourism. And it's one, it seeks to create meaningful connections by collaborating tourism interest. Collaborating with the local community to help for the socioeconomic and environmental well-being of the destination. As you see, it's expected to reach $2.1 billion as a segment of the travel industry.

And it has a positive impact, not only on the wellbeing of communities, but also the travelers who visit them. It's one of those wonderful virtuous circles, because it helps the community affirm its identity, and assert its identity. And, it creates a line, if it bases its decisions on the traditions of the area, a through line from the ancestors and their way, to their descendants. And that's one thing that Mario Castro talked about a lot, was he wanted those reefs not only for his son, but his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren. So the slide you're looking a right now is a town called El Trompo.

And it's even a little bit further north in the middle of the state of Baja California. And it has, again, in this community-based approach, it's built a fantastic museum. I was up there, on the left, on the... Left, yes of there. And what the museum does, is it looks at the traditions of the people who have lived there, from the earliest times up through to the present, they've created a restaurant that cooks the food that's traditional for that area. And it's really, it's another extraordinary success story.

So travelers are willing to seek and pay for authentic experiences, and to, because they, too, wanna understand the traditions, and help in the conservation. So, I'm going to ask Rodrigo kind of the, a lot of people have a role in this. And Rodrigo, I have never met a tourist board that just didn't want more, more, more, more. And so, what is the role, what have you, the role Los Cabos Tourism Board, Visit Los Cabos, what has it had in the whole area.

Because the area is not just the southern part of Baja, but really extends up past La Paz. - Totally. Tourists, when they come to the destination, they don't know the municipality borders. So, tourists understand the geography of the place, as only one destination, and that's why we need to keep protecting the place.

As you have seen with the video, this is a critical topic for communities. And not only because tourists have been increasing in quantity, but also into the different places that now when they visit anyplace they get into. So everyday environments, communities, and local cultures get more, more exposed every day.

And that's why the tourism boards, we need to be aware of that. And we need to conduct and balance the needs of the communities. And the trends, or the desires of their potential visitors into the destination. The only reason that tourism board exists, are because we need to provide to the communities a place, and a safer and better conditions for them to continue living. Especially in the place as it is in Los Cabos, that it is the only economic activity. Every year we conduct a survey, an annual survey into Los Cabos to feel what is the perception of the community.

And of course on the positive side, we see that the economic conditions of the community keeps improving. 75% of the community that is in Los Cabos has all the formal social benefits, versus 40% that is at a national level. And so, we see that there, economic conditions, and the safety that the area has. It's given them a better standard of living.

But there are also other things that have to be improved, such as the traffic, or the mobility into the destination. But I think it's critical to keep evolving as a tourism board. And to listen to what a community has to say about it. - Rodrigo, can you give us an example of a specific action that the tourist board took? I mean, you generally do the surveys. But have you met with community leaders, and can you tell us a little bit about how that goes? - Yeah well, following the line of what you just described about about Cabo Pulmo, we have the same situation. I am an avid diver, and I started this position eight years ago.

So as I started going to Cabo Pulmo, we included it in the material, and all that, were promotional items. But then suddenly the community, Mario, his son, and others had approached and said, "You know, we're not totally aligned "with what you are saying about Los Cabo Pulmo, "because we believe that there has to be "a much more deeper topic." So we conducted along with some NDOs, a process of town hall, town halls and different meetings to really have a way that the destination would be aligning to the desires of protecting the community because they have a very interesting caring capacity control and they limit the number of travelers that again, get into the reef. That's the only reason why it's being kept the way that it has.

So we produce a mandate, 10 guidelines of rules of how to be a responsible tourist when you're visiting Cabo Pulmo, and now we're extending that to the whole destination. - Thank you. And Juliet, you traveled the world.

Have you've seen other examples of community-based tourism that has succeeded, and maybe you could tell us a little bit about them? - Thank you so much. Well first of all, I wanna say, how bold was that. Showing a sort of trailer from another tourist board. And I wanna thank Los Cabos for bringing me here in no way to sell their destination, because I've never been.

I'm here as an independent voice, who really, really wants to interrogate the idea of community-based tourism. And really remind us all that we saw that big impressive number up there. That's tourism, right? We forget tourism is 12% of the global economy. So when we see that big number, that is a hell of a lot of money. It's all about wealth distribution for me. And I think that when we hear about community-based tourism, we have to remember that this is a, every time we choose to travel, it is such a fantastic opportunity to think about how can I take money from someone that has into communities which might not? Also you know, we talk about, we say, "Let's go to this destination, they need us."

It's not a destination, that's how we think of it. It's a home, it's somebody's, it's many people's community. And I think with community-based tourism, or any tourism, when we travel, the truth is, I'm Sustainability Editor. I don't even like the word sustainability, right? You just make decisions. You think how is this good?

How is this positive for people, or for place, right? Or, is it negative. So, community-based tourism is going somewhere and thinking me being here is actually helpful to that community, and that's pretty tough, right? So I haven't been to this part of Mexico, it looks great. But I do see lots of big resorts.

And I think we have to remember, you know, it's not just a buzz word. It's not just jargon when we think about this, it's not just a trend to care about communities. Being a good global citizen, and you talked about a manifesto that's so interesting. And doing the right thing, that's not a trend. And we never needed it to do it more.

And you want examples from me, sorry. So some great examples, and look, I'm here to, their universalities, is that word? Did I make up a word? Right, okay. In community-based tourism. So I love Panauti in Nepal. And you don't need to necessarily look it up. But just understand this.

Panauti, there so it's this ancient village in Nepal. If you think Kathmandu, the capital, apart from the fact that it went through a devastating earthquake quite a few years ago. That is, it's overwhelmed, that is where most people go.

We hear about over-tourism, right? Well we want redistributed tourism. So Panauti, people would go for a day trip. But then this great NGO, working with World Planeterra, which is connected to G Adventures, if you know that. They started working with local community. And I'll just give you this example, just to really, really understand the power of community-based tourism.

They went into the village, they met the women who typically lived in, were in the homes. Homemakers, mothers, wives. And they created this scheme where they, well first of all, they gave them English lessons.

All the men are like laughing. What are these women doing? Why they wasting their time doing English lessons? We're walking through the village, chatting to them in English. And I can tell you those men were pretty, you know, they were pretty humbled by it. What they did was open up their homes, and they invited people to come and stay over. And what that did was left money in this village, but it allowed them to help their, typically that their daughters go to school, have a further education, it lifted them up. And gender, inequity, socioeconomic, inequity, it's all connected to the power tourism.

So Panauti is a great example. But also you know, Kenya. If you look at Kenya, 90% less animals there now than there were in the 70s, I think. But you don't see that in the brochures, because that doesn't sell holidays.

But that is reality. And why is that? Well, I won't give us all a big lesson on the climate. And I call it; well, climate emergency.

Rather than climate change which is way too mild. Climate crisis, climate collapse, climate chaos, all of these things. The effect it's having on the continent of Africa, a quarter of the world's countries, is really, really significant. So, you've got these people, you got the Maasai, the pastoralists, in Kenya. They're leaving because they can't survive.

They need to get jobs, they're going to other countries. It is breaking down communities, it is breaking down traditions, it is losing culture. By going there, spending money in that way in a community-based tourism. What you're doing is allowing... Well, the people who are typically cutting down the trees, making it into charcoal, or illegal logging, or killing the animals, they are becoming rangers.

They're becoming custodians. They are looking after their nature, they are staying together. And, I'm just giving these examples to make us understand the power of tourism. Because people say to me, "Oh sustainable travel? "That must be about not flying "and staying in hotels run on solar energy." No! It is about connecting with other people around the world, and stepping out of our myopia.

For many more, well, I'm obviously so passionate about this. For many more reasons which we'll talk about. Thank you. - Okay, thank you, Juliet. And Juliet, you're a journalist, you're a member of the media. Do you think media has a specific role in fostering community-based tourism? - Well, I mean, we've all heard it a million times. Stories are our way of making sense of the world.

They're our way of connecting with each other. Storytelling is a buzz word now in marketing. And I think as a journalist, I feel my responsibility is to tell stories that made people relate to things that they might not otherwise understand or care about. And I love the old, I think it was George Orwell who said, "Well, news is what somebody doesn't want you to print. "Everything else is advertising." Right? But in the travel sector, what's tell and what's sell is really hard to know.

So I think we really want to share stories that make people understand how they could be helpful, it all ties in. And actually, I Googled eco-travel Los Cabos yesterday just to see what came up. And an influencer came up, with a blog post of a picture of her having breakfast, and a picture of her in a hat by the pool, and a picture of her, and blah, blah, blah.

Where are the people in the community? What's that destination? What's the flavor of that place? Like you're missing the point of travel. My best memory in recent times, two weeks ago I was in Ecuador. My friend stopped, he said, "We're gonna pick up these hitchhikers." I'm like, "Are you crazy?" Anyway we stopped.

Grandmother gets in. Only a couple of years older than me. All of her grandchildren, he speaks Spanish. That was my richest memory.

Not that I stayed in a $2,000 a night lodge. I mean, it was amazing, Mashpi Lodge. But those moments of connection, understanding that when it was translated for me, our dreams aren't different, they're exactly the same. We do not travel to other places to experience other worlds. We are one world. And we forget that.

And so, I think travel, really, is one of the most powerful ways to give us the best memories, the richest memories. And yeah, we have, it's a huge privilege. - Thank you. So not only is Diana a champion, she is patient. Thank you for waiting for all of this.

But it's interesting, you're born right on the cusp between Gen Z and millennials. So you kind of have one foot in each camp. And is this, are the principles behind community-based tourism, something that both generations are involved with? How do you feel about that, and your peers? - Well, thank you. That's a very interesting thing to talk about. Because I feel that my generations, our generations, we are born in a world where globalization and connection is an everyday thing, right? Like, we're all connected. You can know what's happening in the other side of the globe right in the moment it happens.

News fly fast, and we have almost everything at the reach of a click, right? But ironically, even if we are one of the most connected generations, which tend to be one of the most disconnected generations at the same time. Disconnected from the present moment. And you can see right now, disconnected sometimes from our people. Disconnected from sometimes who we are. From our value sometimes, disconnected from people around us, in general. I feel that drives a necessity to everyone of us to connect with real people.

To feel that we belong. That we belong to a community to create communities every way, every where we go. Driven by the same values, driven by the same interests. We not only have that necessity of connection, but also to feel heard and seen. We have this necessity of feeling that what we do has an impact, a real impact.

Not only on ourselves, but on the people around us. And not only that, we're also living in a moment in time with the results from many, many years of not caring about sustainability. Of not caring about the impact of our actions. We're living in a moment in time, what we have gone through many, many natural disasters, more than ever. We went through a pandemic, a global pandemic.

And I feel that has shaped our generations not only a resilient generation, but also it has built, I could say an elevated consciousness compared to other generations and us. We're conscious about our actions, as I said. We're conscious about nature. We're conscious about topics like mental health more than ever. And, we're struggling with that everyday. That's an everyday thing for our, for the present generations and the younger generations.

So regarding that, I feel what it is amazing is to see more than ever how young people have this consciousness inside them. This acknowledgement that not only connection works for sharing interests and values with other people, but also the power that this connection can have in making a change. We are a generation that is seeking, as I said, to be heard, to be seen, but also who demand to be part of that change. And I feel that community-based tourism gives this generations that opportunity.

That opportunity to feel that we belong to someone. That opportunity to connect with other people. That opportunity to know about other people interests. To know how other people live.

To know what and how we can do to have a bigger impact on ourselves. To know that everything we do has a positive impact to making this bigger change. We demand to be part of that change. And I feel that's an amazing thing about community-based tourism. Because it opens that door of opportunities.

Not only for the local people in the area to feel heard and seen to know that what they think is heard and has a possibility to change as all the examples that we just heard. Change the way they live, and change the way the people they love, live. But also as a tourist it gives you that opportunity to disconnect from the world, to reconnect with yourself, and your people everywhere you go. - So when you travel, it sounds like you align your values with your travel. And could you give an example of something that you've done while you've been traveling that reflects that alignment? - Well as an athlete, I am in a constant process of developing myself of improving evolution, right? It is that way in life.

I am always looking on new ways to improve myself. New ways to learn, new ways to connect with myself. As I said, disconnect from the world, connect with myself in order to be a better athlete on and off the field.

One of the values I have shaped, or have shaped me through my career, I have to say, is the will to leave everywhere I go a better place as when I arrived, right? For me being an athlete that adds to my performance, or to who I am as an athlete by just thinking about what I can give back to my team further than my abilities as a player. It can be from my attitude. It can be coming from my leadership. It can be from my experience, or my expertise. Sharing that expertise with my teammates to go through a difficult situation. And those kind of little actions I've learned that are the ones that remain longer than when you leave.

When you leave a team, when you leave a competition. Those are the little things that remain longer. Those are the things that build your legacy.

So when I translate that to life, I look for the way, again, to leave, or yeah, make everywhere I go, or the people I meet leave them something that makes them better, or makes the place I go better than when I arrived. So that's why knowing that I have the opportunity anywhere I go to give back to the community, to the place in the different ways just not only by the fact of being there, but knowing that I'm making a real positive impact, economic impact on sustainability. On knowing that I am adding something to that community by me being there.

It is very, very important to me. - So we've heard the term wellness a couple of times while we've been talking. And I'm wondering, I mean, mostly when travelers talk about wellness, they're talking about spas, they're talking about massage treatments and things like that.

But are there other ways in which there's a linkage between wellness and the community-based travel? - Wellness. That's a very interesting thing to think about. I feel that wellness is a constant process for everyone of us. It has been a constant process to me.

To know that all the actions we do contribute to that wellness mindset, that wellness state for everyone of us. I feel that community-based tourism adds an amazing value into everyone's process, by giving us safe places. Safe places to connect with ourselves, safe places to learn from communities.

Safe places to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and a safe place to grow. I feel that the fact that a place can make you feel welcomed into their community, not by just making you feel as a tourist, but by making you feel as part of the community, is an amazing thing. And I experienced this, I have to say, the first time I went to Cabo. It was a year ago.

I went with my mom. And it was very interesting experience. Because my first time I got to experience this feeling of being part of a new family. I realized that in difference with many, many other places, all the people there, all the community, they really knew each other. They really cared about where the food was coming from, and they felt so proud about it.

They were so happy to share their best places, their best food with us. And not only that, they were telling us even the story, I remember, I'm gonna tell this quick story. I remember going to dinner with my mom one night. And the guy from the restaurant, we ask him for his recommendation on food, right? So he was like, oh, this kind of fish, I don't remember the kind of fish, because they have different fish depending on the season, which was the crazy and amazing to hear. So he was "Oh yes, this kind of fish, "it is delicious, you're gonna love it."

And then he was, "Oh, it arrived this morning. "and Pepe Martinez..." Even the name, like he every morning he brings fresh fish to this restaurant. And they knew the people, they knew where the food was coming from. And they were so proud and happy to share that experience with you. Because they also knew that it was not a common thing to do, right? That the food that comes straight from the ocean, or straight from the ground, pretty much, they were so proud and happy to bring it to our table, and share wellness in the same way.

Sharing a way of taking care of yourself, sharing a way of love. So I feel having those kind of experiences, really have opened my mind and to know that we can build a legacy. We can make a big impact not by the dimension of our actions, but by the intention and the frequency of those actions. - Arnie, can I just emphasize how important what we just heard is. And that instilling pride and dignity in destinations at eye level with people, we don't do that enough when we travel. That's all I wanted to say.

Was, I travel a lot. And we go to these hotels, and we stay in resorts. What you said there, that is the power of travel. Dignity and pride. When I, you know, I just thank you. (chuckling) - Thank you.

Rodrigo, I'm sure you get together with other tourist board managing directors and CEOs. When the discussion comes to best practices, what, how do you, what do you talk about in terms of saying you might wanna take this approach when you try to involve community-based tourism into your programs. - But as we have seen, I think there has a be a collaborative approach when you are looking to have community-based tourism integrated into whatever we do as a tourism board. And that includes, of course, all of the stakeholders in the community. Not only in terms of the those who participate in the activity. But also those who think, and they are part of the community, because they travel constantly to the places.

And that aligns precisely to what Diana was mentioning in terms of the different generations. So you cannot think that you are considering community-based tourism, if you are just focusing on one specific segment of the population. You have to be very open to do that. Fortunately in the case of Los Cabos, we have a very strong private sector community, that it's not only looking to benefit in what they do in their particular sector, or businesses.

But they are willing to have a much more long term vision for the destination. And we were just sharing, for example, the fact that the destination does not have any billboards at all. Any advertising. And people, when they come to the destination, they don't realize that we don't have any signs at all. In the highways, if you see the destination from the ocean, it's completely clean. And that's because of this collaborative approach that was done many years ago thinking not a destination for the next day, or the next year, but what would happen to the destination in 20 years.

And we have different things in that regards in terms of the urban planning with the restrictions that we impose in terms of height and density. Of course, it is not perfect, but that's a very important part that you have to be very open to a collaborative approach. And the second one that I believe that is very important, is that tourism is very fluid, it changes all the time. So, you need to be open to also integrate technologies into what we do.

We have a system in the Visit Los Cabos website. It is updated not only by us. So, we have the architecture, and we have more than 1,000 businesses from all sizes, companies, from small to large. A taco stand can, they can update their information on what it is in the website.

With links, with promotions, events, and different things. So we need to have that, and many other tools in terms of AI, that is going to be changing with whatever we want to do in terms of what we communicate for community tourism. - So, we've been talking, Rodrigo, about community-based tourism in what sounds like a very positive, everything is going to be great if we just involve the community.

But communities themselves have divisions. And I'm wondering when you come up, let's say the business community, may have one idea. And, some of the people who live there may have other ideas.

So, what are some of the challenges? And how do you approach them when you're trying to get some consensus in this collaboration? - Well divisions are part of our everyday. And a very important fact is, that's why we use all the stats and numbers. So, we have surveys, research, we provide all the different numbers of what is happening in the destination, precisely to align the consensus, and provide real facts to what is happening. So if somebody comes and says, "I believe that it is," then we can show hard data in sense of this is what is happening in the community.

And this is what people believe and what it is. And of course, there will always be divisions, but if you have the facts and you stay to the overall benefit of the longterm for the community, that helps a lot. - Thank you. And, Diana, you're of the generation that certainly among the four of us is likely to live with the results of climate emergency, climate chaos.

How does that figure into your travel? Because there's a lot of people I know, and I think your generation is particularly active who take almost an anti-travel stance. And they say, Juliet mentioned it, if you fly, you're contributing to the problem. If you stay in a hotel that is consuming, or if you've ever been to a laundry room in a big hotel, but that is a huge amount of energy. So how does that figure in to your travels? How do you think about it when you travel? Are you somewhere in between, or is it just? Tell me how you regard that when you travel, these sorts of questions. - Well my way of thinking on that is that it is a reality, yes. There are a lot of things that we cannot change.

I mean, on my job as an athlete, I travel a lot. A lot for tournaments. A lot for different kind of speaking engagements and things like that. But even if that's a thing that we can, maybe right now, cannot avoid.

The way I try to approach it is well, with this situation, how can I turn it into the most positive thing that I have? How can I reduce as much as I can the impact I'm doing. How can I do the positive impact everywhere I go? How can I leave the place I'm going as a better place? Even if I'm just staying for one day, two days, or a night. And that comes into thinking like sometimes the best way you can do, or the best way you can contribute to that is through community, right? To helping community, local community everywhere you go. So one thing that I really like to do is everywhere I go, one of the first things I do is to go out for a run. A morning run. And, not because I am an athlete.

And, not because it helps to mental health. It's because it helps me to connect with the place I am at. And to connect with local people. And start this conversations with them, "Like, oh, what place do you recommend me to go?" "What place do you recommend me to visit?" "What's your favorite thing to do?" And most of the times you end up hearing amazing stories.

Like you know, like when closing, he has this little restaurant, or this little bar in this little town, you must go. And then you go to the uncle's bar and restaurant, and that's a way you can contribute to that community in just one night. So it is not about sometimes looking into the big impact, or damage we're doing. It is about making those little things, those little actions that are gonna build our legacy in the future. - Thank you.

And Juliet, what would you say are your biggest tips for travelers who want to give up, participate in a community-based tourism? - Diana just got me thinking. I always think in terms of what does the world need? What is helpful, right? I don't need to give you all packing tips, you know all that stuff. But just listening to Diana then, what is helpful? What does the world need? Well, the world doesn't need the rich getting richer. And if we just cast our minds back to 2008, just quickly, the global financial crisis. The whole landscape of hotels changed, right? They became about being assets and management companies making money for those typically in other destinations.

So what I would say to you is, really think about who you're giving your money to. How much of that money is staying in a local community? The United Nations says for every $100 spent, only $5 stays in a local economy, right? Economic leakage is real. So I think about that a lot. I think about, also Diana inspired me when she said, you know, about the sense of belonging and connection. Put our phones down.

Don't choose guides curated from by people outside of the place. Stop. You know, you might not get the best coffee, you might not get...doesn't matter. I can tell you that bed in Panauti, Nepal, not that comfortable. Itchy blankets, flat pillow. Get out of your comfort zone.

It's much richer memory. I really think that it's key. And ask people like, if you are in a hotel, and we like hotels. Just ask more questions. Ask difficult questions. Be curious, say to the concierge, "How can I connect? What's a local experience?" It might not just be that you get a local experience as a result.

He or she thinks about it for the next person. They bring them onboard. Keep asking questions. That's how we inspire change. We make people think. I know I don't need to tell you all of this.

I mean, it's just common sense. But it's really important. We think of travel as having a huge potential for positive impact.

And I think going back, just that final idea. What does the world need? What is my tip? Well, I ask general managers, I say, "Look, what can you, are there any no-go areas?" As conversation, so they can, you know, particularly in luxury hotels. And the general managers say "Oh yeah, three things." Can you guess what the three things are? They say they cannot talk about it, just don't do it, don't go there.

Religion, politics, third one, actually in Ecuador, they made me aware there are four. Diana might know the fourth one. Third one, climate. Fourth one, sports. But imagine if we all talked more respectivefully with people from a different way of life about religion, politics, and how climate is affecting them.

Right? That's why we travel. Is to shift our mindsets. Thank you. (laughing) - Thank you. And if you have questions, this would be a good time to go up to the microphones, we'll go into questions in just a moment.

What Juliet and Rodrigo, and Diana have all said, kind of putting it all together, is that the benefits of community-based tourism are not only for the community, and not only for the tourist. That is is really one of those times when there's again, the word alignment, between what somebody, both get something out of it. As opposed to in a way, both exploiting the other. So there's much more of a genuine connection, and- - I just wanna also, we're talking about community-based tourism.

We can't not talk about Indigenous people. And people, okay? That's one of the biggest, that really. It's tougher. We've talked deeply about that heritage and history in Los Cabos. And as with many places in the world, it's complicated, right? History is complicated. But I just have to say about Indigenous people, because you know, whilst they only make up about 5% of the world, population, eight billion people.

They are custodians of about 80% of bio diversity. We haven't talked about bio diversity either. And we have to be, bio diversity crisis is the flip side of the climate crisis. And when we look after nature, and we look after people, they're deeply connected. And so, whilst community-based tourism might not always be about typically the rainforest, the forest folk, and staying in those eco lodges, it's just thinking about going back to those people there who are really tied to that destination. How can we keep them, exactly answer Rodrigo said, it's really important when the private sector collaborates with the public sector.

And not many places get that dynamic, and you do. Okay, so it's sort of up to us always thinking, "What are they doing that's the long term? "How is this really helpful?" Anyway but we just, I saw a great talk yesterday from, about Indigenous people. We do have to think about that, as well. - And absolutely. And so many of the traditional ways are actually much more sustainable than modern ways for sure.

So let's talk about what you wanna talk about. So, please introduce yourself, and tell us your question. - [Quala] Yes, thank you so much. I'm Quala, and I am a Impact and Inclusion Consultant and Culinary Tourism Scholar, who really believes in this power of community-based travel and food as a way of connecting people, and driving inclusion.

And so my question really was around how community-based travel is obviously like a very, is one way of driving equity in a very inequitable system. So, even thinking about Ecuadorian, Amazon, where Indigenous people for went, forgoed their their traditional ways of farming to participate in tourism. Because they weren't a part of that system. Or even here in Austin, how Black communities have been shut out through redlining.

And so, just thinking about how the rise of travel post-pandemic, and as remote workers cosplay locality. What negotiations do you think the travelers and DMOs need to make to ensure that all people, and all community members are part of this discussion in the development of tourism? And I guess this post-pandemic era? - Okay, Graham, I'm gonna throw that one to Rodrigo to start with. And DMO is destination management organization, like a tourist board. - Well, I think you are totally right. And the DMOs, we have a big responsibility to listen to what is happening in the communities, and what they want.

And you referred to the gastronomy, to the food. And I think that is one of the particular elements that traditionally are out in the hospitality industry. Because that's probably the easiest.

When any hotel comes, and they want to bring their standards that are international. And standard that includes food. And that includes bringing food from all the different sources, outside, thousands of miles out. And they want to use that as the way to keep the quality, and that shouldn't be the case.

Because if you are moving into one particular destination, you should be adapting into what the community is providing first. And if you can do, we have very interesting examples in Los Cabos which have amazed me. On property, luxury hotels, where they come, and they modify completely the sourcing, to use only zero kilometers. We are now part of the Michelin guide process that is going to be launched in May, in Mexico. And we were not even aware of many different sources that are all local, and zero kilometers. So that would be one of the particular elements that we as DMOs most can definitely get involved, and can actively held community-based, to be involved, and to be better off.

That will be easier than what we think. - Yeah, I want to add on, it would be very interesting, we talked about DMO, destination management organization. Five years it was, DMO stood for destination marketing organization.

And, that's sort of how far we've come in terms of thinking about a stewardship of destinations. So, thank you very much. - [Participant] Thank you. - [Participant 2] (speaking in a foreign language). Thank you guys all for coming to my hometown. It's really fun for one week a year this becomes like such a global, global place.

My introduction to Cabo, is actually, I'm grateful for it. And it was terrifying. Because I was working for a developer out of Denver, who was like, "This is awesome. Todas Santos. "A magical little town, it's on this, "like environmental oasis. "And we're gonna build a college campus there. "And we're gonna build a wellness resort."

In this town with like roughly 3,000 people, depending on who you counted. We're gonna build 2,000 homes there in the American style. Right? We're talking about vehicle miles travel increasing.

We're talking really heavily paved roads. We're talking about desalinization plants, that we're possibly gonna be altering the migration pattern of the whales, that you know better than I do, are a treasured part. And displacing fishermen. But when I watched the marketing videos during the hiring process, it was like wellness destination.

Go fishing with the locals, learn to surf. And so, I would love to hear, in the 10 years that I left that company, and studied environmental design in Mexico, what do you guys see as a route to kind of avoid that green washing, or that community tourism washing? Whether it's in places you've visited directly, or in like your dreamscape of the future? I would love to hear that from y'all. - Excellent question. And Rodrigo, I think we'll pitch it back to you.

- Well I think that you're totally right. And we believe that, as part of this collaborative approach that every destination needs to have, is precisely to have this check and balances. So the worse thing that any destination could do, is to completely open it up to an idea that would be probably very lucrative, financially speaking, but very destroying into what it is, the traditional environment, and the local identity of the place. Todas Santos, or any destination would be continued growing because it has to be affected by the growth of the visitors.

Even if we don't get more visitors, but the same movement of the visitors that are in the area, has an impact. And precisely the idea of measuring the caring capacity control. Listening the what the community has to say, protecting and restoring the identity of the place. We are now in the process of recovering all what it is, a traditional California, that is precisely in the south part of the peninsula, where the Europeans discovered, and they call these piece of rock, and this piece of land, they thought that it was an island, California. So that belongs to the community. To what it was thousands of years ago.

So even that cultural part of the process that, so it's on the cultural identity on the people. And of course, it has to be benefiting the community. Economically, socially and (indistinct) cultural, but.

- Yeah, we're gonna have to come up with a word for green washing and community values. - It's called social washing, and it's real. - Social washing. - And I mean, thank you for saying that. Can I just say the words that we have to address here are growth and development.

And the fact that concrete is responsible for the construction and the built environment is responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions. And it's really important that we acknowledge that. And I cannot tell you how many press releases I get about great hulking eco-resorts.

Made of concrete, where because you have a bamboo toothbrush somehow it's okay. So, it's just evaluating how is this helpful, how is this positive? How's it helping nature? How's it helping people? - [Arnie] Thank you, Juliet. Yes? - [Stephanie] Hello, I'm Stephanie, and I'm the publisher of "Travel Guides." So I hear what you say, and those kind of tips what you give, that's normally also what we give in our "Travel Guides." So community-based traveling is wonderful.

I have one problem, and I think a question. How is mass tourism going together with community-based traveling? Because the whole world wants to travel. And it would be wonderful, everybody could come to such a community-based tourism. But there are just too many tourists.

And actually for sustainability, the best would be that all tourists stay in this one resort, and be there, and not to spread around too much, because that is also bad for the tourism. So, how do those two things go along? For example, skiing. Skiing if they are doing hiking skiing, that's the worse for sustainability.

It would best if they all go on one slope and stay there, and not going to the nature. So how do those two things go together? - I have some thoughts on this. And things that I've seen. But, does anybody else wanna go? Okay. So there are a number of kind of honeypot destinations.

Barcelona, Venice, Debrovnik, which became very well-known for what is called over-tourism. And I've seen some really interesting ways that people have dealt with it, and it does involve less density of tourists, typically. So, when it comes to nature, I think you are exactly right. That you don't want to be having this kind of creeping into areas that are untouched and really beautiful, which can be easily, easily disrupted. But one of the best examples I saw was the city of Florence, in Italy.

It was getting just too much for the locals. And they have museums that have incredible treasures that people wanna see. So, they lent them to villages outside, like within a 100 kilometer radius. And then, so if you wanted to see these things, you had to go outside.

And that actually benefited economic, these villages economically. People didn't necessarily stay there for the whole time, but they would go, and if you're in an area where people are already settled, I thought that was a pretty good solution. It's very difficult, I know, Barcelona has passed a lot of laws. One of the things that has been very bad in terms of urban tourism development is Airbnb. And I think in many ways, it is something many of us I am sure, have stayed in Airbnbs.

But what is happening is, someone will buy an apartment building, kick all the tenants out, which reduces the housing stock, which causes rents to go. And then, there's all of a sudden a lot of people in a community, in a neighborhood that really isn't used to having people in there. So I know that Hawaii, Barcelona have passed laws to say that if you're gonna be, that rentals have to be 30 days or more. Or even more than that, 90 days in some cases. Enforcement is still an issue.

Those things are happening, the laws get passed, and they didn't fund any sort of enforcement. That was true in Hawaii, it was a big deal. And then, disappointing results, ultimately. - I will say one thing that really helps for what you are mentioning, is the caring capacity control.

So, tourism has to be planned. And there has to be a way that the impact has to be measured. The only fact that Cabo Pulmo is successful, is because they track how many people get into the place, and how many people can access the reef by week, and by month. And once that side, that particular side that is measured by in conjunction by scientists, and they measure and they say the impact in order to avoid any impact is this number of people by week. Once it's reached, then nobody can get down until the next week, and then so on. That, the same approach can be done by skis, by visitors to any city.

That have, how many people can be staying in Airbnb, versus hotels and so on. It's not perfect, but it think that approach has to be expanded into many o there places. - Okay, we have probably for just one more question.

- [Participant] I'm a little nervous to ask my question now, because it's about Airbnb. (Arnie laughing) So, I'm a host, I'm a Airbnb host in New York City, where the laws have changed drastically. As an Airbnb host, sharing my home with travelers, I'm curious about the impact of Airbnb on community-based travel. Do you think it contributes positively, or negatively, to your specific community? And, I'll just share my experience real quick.

I'm from Brooklyn, New York. I'm a home owner. And the way Airbnb has really helped me, is to become an entrepreneur, and start my business. I'm a little bit different, in that I share my, I do home share. So travelers come, they stay with me, and they kind of get the real Brooklyn experience, and then, they're on their merry way.

New York City changed the laws drastically effecting people who do the not-so-good, like you were speaking about. And people like myself, who actually live in the community and open their doors. And I'm just specific to other communities, like how has it impacted community-based travel to you guys? - It's really a good point. And that's what Airbnb always says in its defense, is we are really just a connecting entrepreneurs.

And I think there's a true division there. There are people like yourself who are really doing home sharing. But the term home sharing has grown so much, and developers have gotten involved, and there are multi-million dollar businesses that use Airbnb as the platform. So it is, like everything, it's not everything good, everything bad.

But the bad tends to create the regulation, which impacts the people who are doing it right. And I feel for you on this. I also live in New York. And it's gotten very tough for people who are actually wanting to share, and do what you have been doing.

- Can I contribute two words as well, just to reflect? Transparency and ownership, right? So it depends, it really matters who we give our money to. So if it's someone who's an individual like you're saying, or if it's somebody in it just for the profit, or someone's who's in it for a cultural exchange and the experience, that's great. So let's hope that so Airbnb can be more transparent about ownership. - Thank you. - [Participant] Thank you. - So, I'd like to thank the panel, fantastic panel. Thank the audience very, very much.

(audience applauding) And Los Cabos has a boat with a, a boat? A booth with a very cool whale. It's a local artist, I had met the artist when I was down there, he's a wonderful, wonderful artist. And we're gonna come over here. I just wanna give a shout out to one audience member, and that's James Thornton.

James, will you stand and raise your hand? James is CEO of Intrepid Travel. Which is, I think, one of the... Well, it is in my opinion the tour operator that most closely aligns with the types of values that we've been talking about. Around the world. They are number one leader in terms of animal protection, in terms of being sensitive to societies. James, I think you are doing a great job.

- They're b-corp, the world's biggest b-corp travel company. They call it the SBTI, which is the Science-Basted Targets Initiative. And, these are things to look for in travel.

- Yeah. - Super fan. - Thank you again, very much. Thank you again, panelists. - Thank you. (audience applauding)

And we don't have a boat, but we have real-sized whale there. That you can go see, so you're more than welcomed there. Thank you, everyone. - Thank you. (audience applauding) (gentle music)

2024-04-08 04:25

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