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A tourism model for Bocas that benefits everyone

Why do we continue with a tourism model focused on the tourist and not on the well-being of the resident population? The objective of tourism cannot be more tourism but a better standard of living for those of us who live here.

Tourism is so present in our lives and arose so spontaneously in Bocas that we never stop to reflect on what we hope to gain by bringing millions of tourists. Why and why do we have tourism on the islands? There are many possible tourism models, but we must be clear about why we want to have tourism in Bocas.

Our model has focused on tourists, what we can offer them, the money they can bring to the island and the more the merrier come. We have been thinking about tourism from the perspective of the tourist and fast business, thinking about how to adapt our environment and lifestyles to accommodate more and more tourists. And in the end we are selling our islands, environments and ways of life.

We have taken this paradise and in the tourist areas we have stripped it of everything ours, sacrificing architecture, towns, people, traditions and nature to create a space without character, reduced to sun and sea. We have turned it into an artificial place, located on the islands, but having nothing to do with them, a place designed to create artificial destinations for disinterested tourists. That tourist does not want local experiences, or history, or to know where he really is. He prefers not to have contact with anything that could make him suspect that there were towns, personal destinations, emotional ties with family and friends, jungles or forests. And that all that was sacrificed for a soulless tourism.

If we take tourism volume as a measure of the success of our policies, obviously we are going to attract precisely this type of tourism, a tourism that does not feel loyalty to us or to a place that it does not know and that has no problem changing this destination for any other that is cheap and has sun and sea. And I think that by now even those who have benefited the most from mass tourism understand that it is an unsustainable model.

The key is to understand why we want tourism, to think about it. It is essential to understand that tourism is not an end in itself, but that it has to be a factor that contributes to improving the lives of residents. And it can help us in many ways, not just by bringing money to our economy and jobs to the population. You can collaborate and help us to preserve our natural environment, to respect and appreciate our traditions and customs, to promote ecological agriculture, fishing and livestock, to recover abandoned houses and villages, to promote that there are more paths to walk or cycle, that there is more public transport and fewer cars, to bring something of cosmopolitanism to our society without denying our essences, to make our wines, fruits and other exportable products known in their places of origin.

For tourism to help and not destroy, it is necessary to change the model and that tourism adapts to us, the residents, our needs and our well-being and not the other way around. Our quality of life, that of the people who live here, should be the center of gravity around which any tourism strategy revolves. And our quality of life increases if we have a careful natural environment, if we can live in our towns, continuing with our lives, our professions, enjoying our festivals and traditions, living in our communities with our neighbors and friends. Only if we begin to take the quality of life of the resident population as a measure of progress on the islands will we all live better, including tourists.

All this is compatible with taking advantage of the privileged climatic and natural conditions of our archipelago for tourism and the income it generates. You simply have to choose a type of tourism that contributes rather than subtracts. We must select the type of traveler we want to have on the islands, who helps us live better and does not overexploit our limited resources.

And actually we already have enough experience to know what requirements you have to meet:

  1. The first thing is that they have to be much less, because the masses are destructive and unsustainable.
  2. In order to compensate for the decrease in the number of tourists, they have to spend more.
  3. And the spending has to be more in local businesses.
  4. We want travelers who are respectful of the island, its nature, its people and its culture.
  5. You have to think about attracting a type of traveler who can stay longer to reduce the environmental impact of their flight and to give them the opportunity to really live and spend here like all of us.
  6. We must avoid more tourist areas and that all areas of the islands can benefit from quality tourism, being distributed more throughout the territory and integrating more in our local communities.

 

It is the responsibility of politics to delineate, design and implement specific policies. We know from our own experience how complicated it can be to change a business or adapt to a new job, so we will have to have some patience and accept that there are going to be mistakes in changing the tourism model. And of course, we cannot leave our future exclusively in the hands of politics, we will have to pitch in and contribute in whatever touches each of us.

What we have to demand of all of us who are part of this society so exposed and dependent on tourism is that we always consider and remember what we want tourism for, that we have a clear objective, that we do not lose sight that tourism can and does It must be a tool to improve the standard of living of all of us, the residents of Bocas del Toro.

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