Today we packed up our belongings, said a long goodbye to all the townspeople, and began our return trip. We stopped at a cultural museum in San Cristobal run by another volunteer on the way back. The museum was small and filled with incense smoke which really didn’t do it for me, especially since I was still a little sick after the car ride. I did learn two really important points from their charla though:
1) Tourism is about the community, not just about one organization or business. The people that visit your operation are going to eat in the local restaurants, buy snacks or trinkets in the local stores, and generally support the local economy. Provide them with opportunities to do these things and stick around your town rather than rushing them through your tour and shooing them away.
2) National tourism is a much larger part of the industry than I had previously thought. Internationals only make up about 40% or less (and I think that’s a generous estimate) of tourism here in Guatemala which means promoting locally is key. Promoting to schools is even better because if children understand why something is being protected, if they understand why a natural resource is important they are going to share this with their parents. Children are the perfect module for carrying information to the general public.
The ride home took about 5 hours and we were all pretty dead from the week before so I just listened to music nearly the whole way home. Coming home was a weird feeling, like we were really coming home. I mentioned to someone in the van the feeling one has when returning back home after a summer vacation or after a semester at college and how the feeling is intricately warm and comforting and also a little strange. That same feeling hit me as we descended the last hill into our town and as I began to see the buildings and houses that I look at everyday. It felt like home.
Charlas received today: 2 hours
Charlas involved in this week: 20.5 hours
6 years ago