For my first 2020 blog post I would like to start publishing articles in other languages in addition to English. As I have mentioned before, it is time to reflect the diversity of views on global development issues in the language we use – something that instant translations often miss. I hope reading the article below in the interviewee’s mother tongue will help eliminate language (and power) barriers to our global conversation. Many thanks to Roxana Goldstein for her translation.
It has been almost five years since the world agreed the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (also known as Global Goals) to advance human progress by 2030. The keyword is ‘sustainable’: all of our activities, whether for survival, work or leisure, need to be carried out in ways that protect the planet for future generations. I discuss the specific issue of sustainable tourism with Roxana Goldstein, the founder of the Digital Platform for Sustainable Tourism in Argentina, which was launched in September 2019.
Roxana, tell me a bit about yourself. Why did you decide to focus your work on the issue of sustainable tourism in Argentina?
I have worked in the field of development, information management, open government, transparency and monitoring of public programmes. I am now applying my knowledge to the field of sustainable tourism. I love this industry because it is growing a lot in Argentina, compared to other sectors. We strive to preserve our traditions as a middle-income country with global and regional challenges.
Argentina is struggling to position itself as an industrialised country, not just a commodity-based economy. In this context, tourism is seen as a service industry that can attract investments, generate external resources, energise regional economies and create opportunities for small entrepreneurs and employment, especially in small towns. We now have the opportunity to raise awareness of sustainability on an economic, environmental and social level.
In your work you pay a lot of attention to the linkages between sustainable tourism and climate change. Can you talk about those linkages in your country?
In Argentina we suffer from climate change. The tourism industry needs more general infrastructure to make tourist destinations attractive and accessible. Our infrastructure must take climate change into account; we must face the new conditions it is creating. Also, in terms of quality and continuous improvement, we need to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions and move to more sustainable forms of energy.
You are keen to address sustainable tourism as a way to advance progress without compromising the future of our planet. How do you think Argentina is doing on this front?
Overall, Argentina has a tradition of aligning to international commitments, including on human rights, climate change, the Millennium Development Goals and now the Global Goals. However, most of the focus has been on monitoring these commitments, rather than implementing concrete action. A key question we need to answer is how to identify concrete solutions to concrete problems.
Sustainable tourism directly relates to the Global Goals on employment, sustainable consumption and maritime ecosystems but it really impacts on all other Goals as well. We need to better understand who can benefit from this kind of tourism at the local level, what are the restrictions and the opportunities in protected areas, such as natural reserves. The main problem in these areas is governance – they are usually managed by different authorities. National, regional and local authorities need to come together to manage tourist destinations as a whole. It is a very important issue in a nature-rich country like Argentina as we have many protected areas.
What are you hoping to achieve through your approach? What is new or different about it?
Together with my team, we follow a sustainability framework to identify needs and replicate solutions. We strive to increase the positive impacts of tourism on the Global Goals and reduce the negative ones. For example, a tourist destination that is managed according to sustainability guidelines is the Iberá National Park and surrounding municipalities. Here sustainable management is promoted both in the public and private sector. New facilities in this area must be built in compliance with nature conservation policies. Another good example in the North-West of the country is the international initiative Qhapaq Ñan, which connects different sites along the ancient Incas route in the Andian region, including Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina. The Qhapaq Ñan is a UNESCO cultural heritage site. National, provincial and local authorities involved work together to protect the cultural heritage of small towns and create local employment opportunities or support local handicraft. The objective is to retrace this route for tourism by focusing on its cultural and natural heritage.
Our work focuses on identifying good examples and best practices in sustainable tourism. We want to inspire others to adopt or scale them up based on the lessons learned so far. We work on synergies [with partners] in line with quality standards set by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and the Argentinean Tourism Quality System. Argentina is still developing its sustainable tourism strategy and, as the industry demands more, our country must respond if it wants to be competitive.
Promoting sustainable tourism has implications at the local level. How can tourists who wish to visit Argentina contribute to supporting local communities?
Most international tourists limit their visit to the capital, Buenos Aires. Very few visit other places in our country. We must work hard to promote other Argentinian destinations. Tourists could visit other fantastic places beyond the main cities. They could also help by preferring local businesses and handicraft. Or by consuming local products.
You have recently launched a Digital Platform for Sustainable Tourism in Argentina. Why do we need another digital platform and who should use it?
We launched new services in September to promote sustainable tourist destinations and offers, including the local industry. We would like tourists to interact with local communities and we want to promote sustainable practices along the transaction chain. [Roxana has also just launched an online Marketplace on the sustainable tourism value and supply chain in Argentina]. One way to do this is to promote ‘active tourism’, where people engage in sports activities. Active tourism is closely linked to sustainable tourism, since it requires quality in local services, helps in selecting new destinations, and contributes to creating linkages between tourism and nature conservation in protected areas. In this regard, we will soon launch a platform dedicated to the promotion of outdoor activities focused on the needs of women, called AbreSendas. Women must be given the opportunity to do more outdoor activities. Currently, most of these activities are geared towards male customers. A third angle we are using is to promote tourism providers that are either already certified or put in practice sustainable guidelines.
Do you have specific recommendations to promote sustainable tourism in Argentina and beyond? Who are they addressed to?
We suggest tourists pay attention to new offers that respect the sustainability of their journey. This will help the industry. Nowadays, it is both the industry and tourists that prefer these options so we need to work together to produce a positive impact. Other actors in the tourism sector should jump into the sustainability world; they will not regret it. And policy makers should work closely with local stakeholders to promote a long term vision based on the Global Goals.
Photo credit: Hebi B on Pixabay