TOURISM: The activity, practice, and promotion of touring, especially for pleasure.
COMMUNITY TOURISM: Sharing of a local community with visitors for the sustainable benefit of that local community. The invited visitors contribute economically to the community, while experiencing the local customs, food, lifestyle, sets of beliefs, etc. Both visitors and locals are left with the feeling that they have enhanced the life of the other in a positive way.
ACTIVISM: The practice of action and involvement as a means of achieving goals.
ACTIVISM AS IT RELATES TO COMMUNITY TOURISM: Tour guides and tourists (travelers, for those of you who loathe to be called a tourist) performing actions and getting involved to benefit local communities, both during and after the visit; Speaking up for, advocating for, and amplifying the voices of the local communities to spread awareness and effect positive change.
Most of you know the types of trips that I guide in Panama, and have been developing since 2010. If not, the above description of “activism as it relates to community tourism” is what I’m all about. I’m going to be making some changes to my website soon to reflect a more significant move in this direction. What are the changes? I will be adding trips lead by local Panamanian, Indigenous, and Black guides, who I have recently been approached to help establish sustainable tourism projects to benefit their communities.
Even prior to the current Movements gaining momentum in the United States (Black Lives Matter, LGTBQ+, Latinx, Indigenous, Refugees, Immigrants) I’ve been brainstorming ways to bring this energy to tourism in Panama, to bring attention to communities that have been historically overlooked by tourism, and are often disenfranchised and somewhat ignored by government resources. The members of these communities, I have experienced, are often the ones with the strongest ties to each other, their culture and traditions. They rely on each other in a way that more privileged communities don’t have to, the latter resulting in a disconnect from one another. As for the former, one reason for this is that they haven’t been infiltrated by heaps of tourists. This is why our upcoming focus is on community tourism, and not simply tourism that takes and doesn’t give back.
How does the ‘activism’ part connect? The activism comes into play in the goals of the tourism activity, or entire trip. The guides who I will be working with and promoting are educators, community organizers and leaders, who are proud of their culture, and they want their guests to experience a truthful representation of what their lives are actually like. They teach about the struggles of their people, as well as their dreams and aspirations. When this is the goal of tourism, the guests make connections to the people, the place, and the history in a unique way. They are often called to action to speak up, advocate, and provide economically for these communities when given the opportunity. This type of tourism helps create these opportunities.
I have found that the guests who have gone on trips with me and trips with my co-organizer for the GoFundMe campaign (flier at the top and info below), Victor, are the people who have donated the most to our fundraiser. They contact me to ask about the communities that they visited. They ask about certain people, their families, and children. They experienced a glimpse into the reality that many people face every day, and that impression never leaves them.
GoFundMe Information: Since the start of the campaign in Mid-March, we (myself and Panamanian organizers who run a non-profit for children and local tour operation) have been distributing food bags to families in need in different areas in and around Panama City, as well as 5 Guna communities in Guna Yala. We have also been able to help other community organizers get donations. There is still much need and we will continue to do this work as long as we can. Please consider making a donation, and/or sharing this to your social media or through email. Every amount makes a difference. Thank you! Click here for GoFundMe campaign.