Spoiler alert: The planet isn’t in its best shape right now. One of the problems is that people love to travel, which is a terribly energy-consuming exercise, between the planes, the hotels, and the ecosystems which are destroyed by the millions of people who seek out more extreme or remote locales every year. Fortunately, for the well-being of our environment and our future, eco-tourism now officially a “thing,” and Argentina wants to be a part of it.
In Naples, at the annual BMT Mediterranean Tourism Market, Argentina’s Minister of Tourism Gustavo Santos explained his vision for the country’s future in tourism. The fair hosted more than 400 stands covering gastronomy, history, culture, and technology.
Santos explained to Infobae: “We have one certainty: at a global level, tourism is one of the productive industries which will grow the most in the next ten years. What we are looking for now is to create the conditions to participate in this growth.” According to the World Tourism Organization (the UN branch for this area), in 2016 there were 1.2 billion trips made globally, and in 2030 this number will grow to 1.8 billion.
However, the incredible growth of tourism is going to impact the environment and the most-visited urban areas: how do you accommodate the temporary overpopulation brought on by tourism in the already-crowded streets of Rome, Barcelona, or Paris? In some of these European cities, anti-tourist movements are emerging, as the citizens lose control of their homes to travelers from abroad.
Moreover, these tourists are now more interested in running away from the metropolises in which they live and work to discover quiet and peaceful areas during their holidays. And this is where Argentina comes into play.
Becoming a renowned eco-tourism destination would offer many advantages to Argentina. While avoiding the massive five-star tourist complexes which mar the natural beauty of the most pristine places of Brazil and Mexico, it offers a more upper-class clientele, more inclined to spend time and money in the magical, natural landscapes Argentina has to offer. As a result, visitors grow more aware of the environment they are in and the respect they should show toward it.
For emerging markets, tourism is also the best publicity a state can count on. “Tourism is a formidable and direct tool to position Argentina in the world,” assures Santos. “The country has a leading role to accomplish this, because the people are asking for what they don’t have, like nature. We are going to double the number of national parks in addition to places such as Mar Chiquita and Traslasierra. In 2017 the National Park of Los Alerces was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO. This is going to give to every region an incredible potential for premium tourism.”
Now the main challenge for the Ministry will be not to make eco-tourism a reality just on paper: many criticize this new trend, which is growing 20 percent annually, to be nothing but smoke and mirrors; even if your hotel is working thanks to solar panels, you will still have to take the plane to travel to the country, and the gas-fueled Jeep to observe the wildlife, thus encouraging global warming.
Responding to these doubts, the Griffith University (Australia) conducted a study. Eight out of nine animals studied are globally benefiting from eco-tourism, the best example being the orangutans who would be otherwise extinct by now due to the deforestation if it weren’t for eco-tourism. The study also places emphasis on the role of local population, which quickly realizes that the wildlife is more appealing financially alive than dead. In Argentina, cooperating with local populations could also help to save indigenous cultures and languages thanks to an influx in interest and investment from outside.
In Naples, the Minister also assured that Argentina’s strategy will be based on new forms of communication, such as generating activations that are “out of the ordinary.” Such operations have already been successful in Madrid, where as a means of communication a gigantic asado was organized at the Plaza Mayor, carried out by legendary Argentine chef and rugged, bohemian dandy Francis Mallmann.
The last notion that was touched upon by Satos was the “geneological tourism” that Argentina shares with places like Naples. Indeed, many come to find traces of their family in a quest for history and truth, especially the Italians. The initiative was even promoted by the government with the “Día del Cugino (primo) Argentino” on the 26th of March, where until the end of the month, Italians with Argentine relatives will be able to book a return ticket to South America for just 764 euros.