Global challenges for SMEs in Latin America
The current context of the Pandemic has generated the worst Crisis in the history of the Global Tourism Industry, which until 2019 represented 10% of the world’s GDP. The situation in Latin America generates great challenges in the face of the recovery of the sector, but it is also a window of opportunity to rebuild based on new sustainability pillars.
The recovery of our Industry is a path that will require courage, resilience and empathy. In this starting over, alliances and cooperation will play a central role.
In addition to the challenges of building new sources of work and generating income from tourism, there are great obstacles that have to do with the conditions of inequality, extreme poverty and vulnerability that our countries experience as a result of the Pandemic.
At the center of the recovery are the SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) that predominate in the Industry, as well as the micro-enterprises.
The good news is that we have experience and training in overcoming obstacles, responding to emergencies and analyzing forecasts, our Adventure Tourism activity is unfailingly linked to risk.
Difficulties are often compared to the ascent to a mountainous summit, well, we must relearn how to climb it, put aside what we knew so far and try again in another way, equipped with previous experiences, innovative ideas, an open mind and renewed energies.
Let’s see which aspects represent the greatest challenges for us, as a Destination and as an Industry, so we can redraw the map that will finally lead us to a sustainable future.
The Latin American economy and SMEs
Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises represent 96.5% of the economy in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), 60% of the employed population and approximately 25% of GDP (IDB, 2020), it is a reality that it is also reflected in the tourism sector, so a recovery plan should include policies for access to financing for this sector of the economy and mitigation measures due to the massive loss of jobs generated by the closure of borders and strict restrictions imposed to contain the virus. A big part of the SMEs depended on foreign tourism as a major source of income and internal tourism is still very low in the region.
Public-Private Cooperation and Investment in Infrastructure
According to the Report Latin America Travel & amp; Tourism Competitiveness Landscape , published by the World Travel and Tourism Forum (WTTC) in June 2020, the reality of most countries in the region is that despite having valuable resources Natural and cultural, they lack the necessary infrastructure, as well as sustainable environmental policies and a favorable environment for the growth of economic activity.
These factors imply for Adventure Tourism Companies, as for those of the rest of those that make up the Tourism Industry in general, an imperative: to participate in the recovery through public-private collaboration. Transformation is possible, but it is necessary to participate in the debate and in the construction of a more balanced and equitable future. There are issues that must be solved together, on the one hand, Tourist Destinations to be competitive, must mainly invest in infrastructure, and accompany the plans with long-term public policies.
Holistic approach to sustainability
Beyond these data, there are other factors that are even more important for the competitiveness of the Adventure and Nature Destinations of LAC, one of them is certainly access to quality education, which contemplates an inclusive future, so that the people who make up our Industry can resume their activity under better conditions than those before the Pandemic and this includes better management of rural and community tourism.
In this sense, the Sustainable Development Goals that are part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, can become a roadmap that allows diagramming actions oriented towards goals that complement each other. Regarding Sustainable Tourism, we can include the following goals as priorities: improvements in employment conditions, transparency, social inclusion, gender equality, poverty reduction, responsible consumption and climate action (mitigation of climate change) .
Rebuild with Purpose
According to the definition of the RAE (Spanish Royal Academy), to challenge means to face difficulties with determination, and that is what the times require. These times constitute the greatest challenge that our Industry has had, since the economic recession of 2008, and cannot be compared in magnitude.
SMEs in the Adventure and Nature Tourism sector have the power to transform reality if they establish purpose-oriented actions, promoting strategic alliances with the public sector and other relevant actors, taking into account the transversality of the Tourism Industry and its impact, especially in vulnerable communities and on the environment.
We must put quality education at the center of this challenge faced by SMEs, but we cannot remain with good intentions, we must act accordingly with the principles, which I am sure are shared by the pioneers of the Adventure Travel Industry, working every day to build a better world. We can and should educate future generations based on our previous experiences, it means we learned something and that we can certainly make it better.