Tourism represented the first peaceful invasions in history. Today it is an industry of peace, culture and happiness, one of the main engines of wealth and job creation in some countries - Spain, Mexico and Portugal - and could well be a driving force in the development of many other nations or areas, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, in need of new understandings and effective management of its many possibilities.
They are desirable destinations for their incredible natural, scenic, cultural and leisure possibilities, for their large cities and wonderful countryside, for the richness of their gastronomy -Peru is an inexcusable reference point-, the quality of their products, their many avant-garde hotel facilities and, of course, for the friendliness of their people.
The European tourism sector is business-based and has centuries of experience, is extraordinarily competitive, and is the perfect example of how to build an economy subject to very specific vicissitudes. It is very sensitive to crises: economic crises -inflation, etc.-, pandemics, strikes, pollution, wars, terrorism, climate change, environmental problems, natural disasters, etc.; but it enjoys great entrepreneurs and workers, who are aware of their well-defined common objectives: deseasonalisation, connectivity, training of professional staff, etc., and overcoming problems such as overcrowding, the risks of gentrification (Venice effect), illegal competition and campaigns such as tourism-phobia or the occasional collapse of borders and airports.
The sector represents the leading industry in Iberian countries, with a transversal nature that is decisive in its modernisation, which it transfers to areas such as agro-industry, transport, construction, insurance, digitalisation, telecommunications, advertising, etc., as well as contributing with its taxes to the payment of welfare systems: health, education, pensions, infrastructure, conservation of archaeological, museum and architectural heritage.
The point is timely in this post-pandemic recovery period, and necessary, as it could be a reference for countries such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Paraguay and others, which could well multiply their income exponentially through a concept that brings modernity, creates jobs - even low-skilled ones - and which, if well structured, recovers impoverished areas and preserves the environment. I do not consider Venezuela, Cuba - where tourism is important, but with unique characteristics - or Nicaragua. Let us not forget that tourists demand, above all, legal, police and health security, as well as freedom.
It is necessary to establish well-prepared plans, reproduce successful models, professionalise the tourism administration, consolidate a portfolio of products, legislate to protect the traveller, the habitat and local cultures, ensure transport and offer quality services, guarantee investments... All this must be the focus of the work of the actors involved, political, economic and social, public and private, in each area, who must be willing to change their approach and understand the opportunity, their possibilities and responsibilities, to establish clear rules of the game and not make repeated mistakes in places that have already been successful.
Revenues must be transformed through authentic and satisfying traveller experience and investments must be secured, not least by not imposing new taxes or charges.
In many countries, almost everything remains to be done, with each country finding its own model and re-launching and protecting its global brand and image. It is not so much the ideologies that govern them that matter, but rather the understanding and consensus on the essentials, the positive disposition to relaunch their many possibilities. Foreign exchange will surely follow, and with it the well-being of their citizens.
Alberto Barciela/The Diplomat
Journalist, member of the Mesa del Turismo de España and vice-president of EditoRed