Argentina – The Sustainable and Supportive Tourism Program of the Argentinian Northwest (TSNOA), with the “Conectando Destinos, Uniendo Personas” (“Connecting Fates, Uniting People”) Project, has won third prize in the “Innovar para Viajar” (Innovate to Travel) contest sponsored by the Argentinian Ministry of Tourism. Thanks to this prize, the TSNOA network will be able to create an online platform to publicize the touristic proposal of its 60 entrepreneurs, and it will have the chance to take part in a training course for business incubators. But what is its value from the United World Project’s point of view? Let’s find it out in Anita Martinez's new article.
The advertisement of one of the most popular adventure and nature channels in Argentina argues that "the world needs fewer tourists and more explorers".
Today, people begin their travels with the latest model cameras, ready to post live "stories" on their favorite social networks, posting different hashtags to get the most possible “likes”. They choose the classic touristic destinations, take selfies in front of the most famous monuments and, to avoid any risks, for lunch or dinner they choose worldwide fast food chains over rare traditional restaurants, which are becoming even more "international" and less typical.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with practicing this kind of tourism. Traveling, however, is something else. And exploring…means becoming part of the place we visit, building relationships, and contaminating our culture.
A travel style that forms the basis of the Sustainable and Supportive Tourism Program of the Argentinian Northwest (TSNOA), a local development project aimed at improving the economic conditions and the quality of life of underprivileged communities by promoting sustainable and supportive tourism. The tourist business thus becomes a job that allows local people to increase their activities, to become aware of their talents and values, to be able to donate them, and grow as people and as a community.
Furthermore, this project allows to safeguard local identities, respect the environment, and develop fraternal hospitality. This means that it creates the opportunity for those who need work to responsibly take advantage of the resources that their land makes available to them and, for those who want to have a different tourism experience, to discover the world from the point of view of the others, becoming part of a local community.
This is the experience lived by Stefano De Sanctis, an Italian traveler who crossed the Hornaditas area, 124 kilometers from San Salvador de Jujuy, in Northwest Argentina, which is part of the program: "I often feel that for some people traveling is a bit like watching the world through a window. We carry our Western standards and our security with us, and we live the places we visit in a superficial manner, seeing them ‘from the outside’ as in a display window, namely [...]. A country is not only made of monuments and souvenirs but it is made of people. And then being these people’s guests and sharing their home, their meals, and their music is the most authentic way to travel. I really liked this idea of community tourism and I felt it as my own. This kind of tourism can never be a “consumeristic” one. It requires one to open up, it takes time. You must stop, listen to those places, let yourself be surprised, and even endure some small discomfort. It's worth it. Compartir! (to share) - this is the Spanish verb that I learned best during my trip to Argentina.”
A way of traveling closer to the campesinos, farmers like Clarita and her husband Hector who told us: "We wanted to travel abroad but we could not afford it. So, we opened the door of our home and the world came to us."
The TSNOA project was established 7 years ago under the auspices of the Argentine Catholic Bishops' Conference, to promote the development of Community tourism. The intervention of the Italian non-profit organization AMU (Action for a United World), in conjunction with the Economy of Communion network, has allowed to improve the receptive capacity of five communities through a training program, the supply of technical equipment, and a "Reciprocity Fund." What does this mean? It means that those who receive support to start an activity or recover it in case of an emergency or disaster, once their stability is re-established, will pledge to support other entrepreneurs, workers, or families who need it. Just in these past weeks, the Turu Yaco Association delivered its first microcredit, the result of implementing the principle of reciprocity by its associates. Renata Gonzalez, coordinator of the TSNOA program, explains: "The program came about because of a situation that we were living in Argentina: there was a danger that foreign investments would ‘burn’ local development over time. That is why we proposed to improve the rural habitat through a development program that has begun to make progress."
"Thanks to the TSNOA we have the proof, the demonstration", adds Francesco Tortorella of AMU, "of how to work for development while protecting the culture of native peoples, their relationship with the environment: by working for gender equality and promoting the protagonism and the role of women and young people."
Lorena Junco, one of the stakeholders of the project, claims that in those areas "It is impossible to hold another initiative. Because we are so far away from the city, from other cultures, from other possibilities of life. This is a very touristy area and we must learn how to make the most of it, for our own good". Norma Vega, another resident of the area, says she was discriminated against by her neighbors, who called her "negra", "coya" (a word used in Argentina to specifically refer to the Andean people), or "poor thing": "I believe we must learn to value ourselves, so that others will value us as well. We cannot wait for it to come from the outside. I am the one who values myself and therefore I see others differently,” she said. One must not be surprised to see such awareness because, as Renata Gonzalez explains, "The most ‘sensitive’ point in the chain is the dialogue with the grassroot community, the dialogue with its people, because this program looks first and foremost at the individual. The crucial point is the person."