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    Bahia Tourism - Five Stars for Sustainability

     

     
     
    International Trade Forum - Issue 1-2/2008 
     

    ©ITC Local craftsman

    The Coconut Coast Project in Bahia, Brazil, supported by ITC, provides consumers with first-class quality tourism and products, while achieving first-class results for the local community

    The fact that tourists who travel to Bahia can access high-quality products and services delivered by renowned resorts such as Costa do Sauípe, Super Club Breezes, Reserva Imbassaí, Iberostar, Ecoresort Praia do Forte and Vila Galé Mares Hotel Guarajuba, might be old news.

    What makes this worth writing about are the stories hidden behind the facts. The stories of hundreds of the people in the region that have had their lives deeply touched and transformed by such initiatives designed to foster employment, improve salaries, preserve cultural heritage, integrate women, and help the development of small producers.

    Everyone knows that when it comes to doing business, poor people can suffer the disadvantages of little or no education and connections to those who can help them expand their business in the formal economy.

    The ITC programme links local communities with the value chains of the products and services they can supply. It works with the communities to help them organize themselves locally or regionally to improve skills through training and business assistance. Since its implementation in the region in 2003, more than 2000 jobs were created. The revenue in the community coming from tourism increased 500% and the attendance in the local primary schools increased eight times.

    The programme is designed to enable hotels and tourists to jointly contribute to the realization of inclusive tourism. The results have been impressive. On the one hand, the needs of tourists are met more effectively. On the other, the local population benefits directly from the same tourism they once resented.

    Inclusive tourism enhances the experience of the guests who find it satisfying to know that the same resorts that offer them international standards of comfort also contribute directly to the development of the local community.

    ITC, with the support of several local partners, encourages community involvement in value chains, related both directly and indirectly to tourism. Various developments still under construction will generate more than 20,000 new jobs in the next four years. Slowly, villagers are being empowered and the effect of this in each local family is major. One example of such empowerment is a cooperative of 60 women that has already been established to produce uniforms for hotel staff. The number might seem small, but 60 women means 60 mothers and 60 wives who now have a better chance of raising their children in a more dignified way. The first hotel school in Bahia (established through ITC support) will annually train 950 people from local communities and resort staff, enhancing the base of professional qualifications.

    In the agricultural sector, 500 small-producer families are being offered technical and financial assistance to produce vegetables for the resorts, with an added incentive to use clean production technology. Organic agriculture is being supported to stimulate soil recovery through the use of organic fertilizers produced from the accelerated biodegradation of the organic waste generated by the hotels themselves. It also allows in excess of 500 farmers to purchase organic fertilizer at subsidized rates.

    A warehouse for agricultural products - managed by a cooperative composed of 105 stakeholders - has been constructed and is marketing honey and other organic produce from the region.

    Bahia tourism is also looking to promote cultural entrepreneurialism by sponsoring the development of small cultural and entertainment businesses, with a view to enhancing the cultural experience at resorts. This is expected to generate additional employment and business opportunities for about 350 local entrepreneurs.

    Local sourcing of products related to tourism in Bahia currently extends to fruit and vegetables, soaps and shampoos, clothing, seafood, art and craft.

    Technical training is also being extended to computer skills and civil construction services related to resort development.

    These developments mean not only an improvement in the financial resources of the region, but also the chance of a better life for the local community.