Naciones Unidas



Although tourism has been promoted as a driver of investments and local development, it has also come under criticism for its impacts on host communities and ecosystems. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed these vulnerabilities: unstable employment, lack of diversification and low resilience to external shocks. As tourism is at a standstill, the pandemic provides a unique opportunity to assess the sector’s socioenvironmental performance so far and imagine a resilient and sustainable transformation.

The future of tourism must be sustainable for all. Workers are the face of the industry; therefore, decent work, protection of labor and health rights, and professionalization are key to reboot a more competitive industry. Similarly, micro and SME are the main tourist providers in the region and contribute an important amount of employment. The shock to their businesses and upcoming tourism trends demand the construction of modern entrepreneurial, financial and digital skills, as well as access to finance for innovation. This will allow communities, which are the heart of the experience, to actively participate in value chains through the provision of attractive and sophisticated services, boosting local development. Considering that international travel will be restricted for the short to medium term, and that lower income families have less access to tourism experiences, domestic tourism will have the dual function of reactivating the economy while it recognizes the importance of access to leisure for everyone.

Environmental sustainability will be key in the reactivation and future of the industry. As travelers were already preferring socio-environmentally sustainable experiences, the need for social distancing has the potential to boost natural and rural tourism. In Latin America, it could be a driver towards a new rurality by taking advantage of the cross-cutting nature of tourism to promote local development: diversification of activities, sustainable energy, internet for production, conservation of ecosystems, territorial planning, and efficient mobility. It is also a great opportunity for agriculture, not only by strengthening its participation in the touristic value chain, but by exploring gastronomic, cultural and agro-tourism.