We see this crisis as an opportunity to redesign and redirect all efforts towards a more supportive tourism, with long-term objectives and benefits for all...

Annie Young 2020-12-16 07:44:33

The COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to affecting businesses and communities that make a living from tourism, has significantly changed our priorities and the way we envision the future of tourism in Panama. At the Panamanian Foundation for Sustainable Tourism (APTSO by its initials in Spanish), we see this crisis as an opportunity to redesign and redirect all efforts towards a more supportive tourism, with long-term objectives and benefits for all.

In many countries it has been shown that Community-based Tourism has the potential to provide multiple benefits in the form of empowerment, employment, inclusion, economic development and conservation of natural areas; what should lead us in Panama to work in regenerating our destinations and strengthen our communities for the use of their resources in the future.

Based on that, the National Government, through the Tourism Authority of Panama with the new Sustainable Tourism Master Plan and in harmony with the objectives of Plan Colmena, recognizes the various assets that the country has to offer, as well as the connection that exists between communities (local identity and indigenous peoples) and the importance of protecting the natural and cultural heritage. At the same time, the scope is to promote multisectoral programs that guarantee the development of our communities.

Although there have been different initiatives to work on a strategy that builds resilient communities in Panama, we have not achieved a cohesive effort to align community tourism with poverty alleviation and conservation. Strong communities that not only adapt to the current situation generated by COVID-19, but also to a future characterized by the uncertainties of climate, water, food security and economic stability.

It is time for a strategic change. That is why APTSO, in collaboration with PLANETERRA, a world leading organization in the development of community tourism companies, works on the design and implementation of a Community Based Tourism Program in Panama with the support of FUNDACIÓN NATURA and other strategic allies to financially support this important project.

We will work closely with at least 10 communities to diversify their economies, preserve their authenticity, increase food security, conserve natural resources, and increase the well-being of their residents.

With this pilot program, we will prepare these communities in all aspects of the tourism value chain, reducing their dependency to the central government and providing rural tourism entrepreneurs and farmers with the skills and capacities they need to strengthen their businesses in community-based tourism, while diversifying and increasing their resilience (physical, cultural, economic, social, environmental).

These actions can be achieved through the design and management of each community's own resources in a sustainable way, increasing their resistance and prominence in local and regional governance spaces, developing quality standards and reducing the digital gap between rural products and national and international tourism markets.

Community-based Tourism will be an international trend post COVID19, as it promotes adventures and authentic experiences in corridors of protected areas. It is a collaborative tourism that transforms both visitors and residents, generates multicultural relationships, increases understanding through differences and promotes the love for our national and regional identity (gastronomy, folklore, cultural manifestations, crafts, etc.). Let's work together for the tourism of the future in Panama!

APTSO = Love For Panama + Solidarity Tourism = Opportunities for Everyone

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