El Cerro de los Siete Colores, Jujuy. (Photo via Emaze).

Oh, traveling. We love it, but it’s now impossible to ignore its environmental and social implications, as more and more places strive to reduce tourism instead of promoting it. While travel companies often tend to bury their heads in the sand, Airbnb is tackling these issues head on, last week launching a Global Office of Healthy Tourism, an initiative developed to drive local, authentic, and sustainable tourism in cities and countries across the world.

Through its diverse network of local hosts, Airbnb prides itself on leading travelers to destinations rarely visited by tourists, stimulating the local economy in communities not accustomed to benefiting from the practice. It is the antithesis of all-inclusive resorts; as statistics show that 53 percent of guests spent the money that they had saved by renting an Airbnb in local businesses in the city, giving communities more economic power and sharing the benefits of tourism more widely, in a sustainable alternative to mass tourism.

Airbnb is already a major player in Argentina’s tourism sector. In 2017, Argentine hosts welcomed travellers from 147 countries, but this most recent announcement demonstrates a proactive collaboration between the company and national governments to ensure that tourism growth is managed responsibly. Argentina recently committed to promoting eco-tourism, and this fits in with Airbnb’s new statement of intent. Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s Global Head of Policy and Communications, has emphasized Airbnb’s commitment to the cause of “local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable tourism.”

In its current state, global travel carries an enormous carbon footprint. Recent revelations have demonstrated that over-tourism has been one of its most damaging legacies. The Thai Government has closed off Maya Beach (that one from The Beach) and many other tourist hotspots are following suit, as their popularity has ultimately led to their degradation and possible demise.

(Photo via BBC/Getty Images).
Overcrowding at Maya Beach prior to its closure. (Photo via BBC/Getty Images).

 

Airbnb’s proposal seeks to counter the damage caused by over-visitation by offering visitors unique experiences off the beaten track. Instead of hitting the tourist hotspots and elbowing the hundreds of other visitors out of the way to get the perfect shot, they’re aiming to help travellers break free of ‘typical’ circuits, fostering growth in rural communities to bring them the economic benefits of responsibly managed tourism.

While Airbnb has seen an astronomical rise in its ten years, this has not been without its fair share of controversies. From renters causing €10,000 worth of damage to a crack-down on flats in popular tourist hubs like Barcelona, at one point it seemed like the company was sinking under a deluge of bad press. With this initiative, Airbnb seems to be bouncing back with an admirable demonstration of corporate responsibility, with a recognition of the dangers of over-tourism and a promotion of ecological practices by hosts.

Airbnb has also set up a Tourism Advisory Board, brining together members from four different continents. “We look forward to getting their perspectives on solutions to overtourism and tap their expertise to promote and drive healthy tourism around the world,” said Lehane. Instead of butting heads with governments as in the past, Airbnb has changed tactic, embracing a more collaborative approach.

Chris Lehane and Gerardo Morales, Governor of Jujuy. (Photo via AirBnB).
Chris Lehane and Gerardo Morales, Governor of Jujuy. (Photo via AirBnB).

 

Nowhere is this truer than in the northwestern province of Jujuy. Last week, Airbnb also signed a memorandum of understanding with the province, aiming to promote sustainable tourism and encourage ecological practices by hosts, as well as stimulating the regional economy.

This announcement follows Jujuy’s ranking in second place on NatGeo’s top places to visit in 2018, and demonstrates that Argentina and Airbnb are fully committed to eco-tourism. Rather than salvaging what has already been degraded, the province has taken steps proactively in the face of an anticipated surge in tourism to make sure that the region’s national wonders do not suffer as a result.

El hornocal – Jujuy Ph: @rrrudya

A post shared by Travel Argentina ?? (@travel.arg) on