There is not just one way of promoting tourism, but different modalities according to how we want to distribute the results of touristic activity. In these lines, we propose a tourism that, at the same time, reinforces the potential of the sector and enhances the social and territorial distribution of its results.
In contemporary economies, the more profitable segments of touristic activity tend to concentrate in the hands of large international operators and their associates in the country. Those who locally invest in tourism make it in small or medium ventures that allow them to access more modest results. The most serious issue is that a myriad of families get excluded from touristic activity. There are several forms to overcome this reality, one of such is our proposal, to coordinately tackle two challenges: rise operation scale of existing small and medium tourist ventures and facilitate technical, managerial, and financial assistance to families from popular sectors to join the touristic activity.
Indeed, it is not easy to overcome this double challenge, as it will be necessary to make several interests converge in an initiative that is viable, sustainable, and that distributes results with equity among those who participate in it. Thus, we need to choose an organizational modality that allows to articulate with effectiveness and fairness so many different actors. This author chooses one as example to show how to materialize intentions into concrete decisions.
Major features of this initiative that distributes its results with equity
The structuring axis of this touristic activity is based on a network of several articulations: existing small and medium ventures with new small family inns and these with a broad network of local suppliers of goods and services.
How to organize these family inns and their articulations? In this example, we choose the modality of community franchise. That is, we take from commercial franchise the notion of association of productive units based on a series of rights and obligations but without the classic franchiser-owner of the franchise. In the community franchise, franchisees participate in ownership of the franchise associated with other actors that contribute strategic direction and management to the whole franchise. In this way, the ownership structure of the community franchise allows for a combination of actors, the own small inns together with participants that promote and finance the franchise. This structure foresees participation levels and instances of each actor and how results are distributed equally.
Each franchisee is a family that manages its own inn as owner. On one side, s/he has the right to receive from the franchise access to financing, assistance to build, enhance, or equip his/her premises, flow of visitants through a unified system of reservations, ongoing training and advice. On the other side, s/he has contractual obligations to comply with, such as respecting norms and standards that franchise stablishes regarding physical infrastructure, equipment, purchase of supplies, customer service, being part of the unified system of reservations, among others.
For a medium-size territory, one franchise would be enough; for larger territories, more than one franchise could be established.
The network of articulations
Each franchise of family inns would establish two types of articulations. On one side, with existing tourist ventures; if they are small, they would be invited to integrate into the franchise in similar conditions as the new inns. Middle-size ventures could find profitable to join the initiative working as their catalyzers. For example, they could assist in training the smaller ones and help them solve eventual difficulties, share commercialization and reservation system, joining efforts in buying supplies, negotiating prices and discounts with transportation system, accessing national tourist operators and those from abroad in better conditions (offering scale and quality).
Given the diversity of local circumstances, this first level of articulation would be structured case by case, always orientated towards catalyzing today disconnected efforts in benefit of all the parts. These negotiations, mediated by franchise promoters, can become spaces for consolidating fairness, unlike those situations where power abuse exercised by the strongest or best informed prevails.
The other articulation level to establish by franchises would be with local suppliers of goods and services. Here come producers from family agriculture, provision of furniture and diverse management services, artistic, cultural, and sport activities to attract more visitants. Needed agreements would be established according to local laws.
In summary, while the central nucleus of the initiative are franchises of small family inns supported by a diversity of promoters and financers, their sustainability is in the series of articulations of the franchises with medium-size touristic ventures of the region (if there exist) and with a myriad of small local suppliers of goods and services.
Profile of the tourist offer
The type of tourism that is offer require selected locations: if they were urban, in neighborhoods with singular profiles and, if they were rural, in spaces with natural and community attractions. Recreation is offered in an enabling atmosphere for reflecting and recovering energy. This includes, guided walks or horse-rides through well-chosen paths, campfires where local stories and legends are told, music, dance, and popular theatre; healthy exercises and practices of environment conservation; food that integrates regional gastronomy with appropriate cooking styles for visitors, local fauna and flora observation tours, adventure tourism in rivers, lakes, mountains, free time for thinking, writing, or reading without the distractions and tensions of daily life of large cities.
Those who promote and organize these tourist initiatives
There can be diverse promoters, such as local governments, national tourist authorities, small-enterprises promotion agencies, developers of popular economy ventures, universities, development organizations, foundations, and enterprises. The ideal would be a well-coordinated group of promoters, each contributing his/her area of expertise.
Once promotion of the initiative within a territory is settled, a small and very effective Board would be established, responsible of defining the structure; that is, the criteria for profiling the franchise, defining roles and responsibilities, identifying participants, and choosing an executive director that formalizes the project and sets it in motion.
The financing of the initiative
It would be necessary to tackle the financing of (i) the initiative promotion, (ii) establishment and startup of the franchise, (iii) building, equipment, and operating expenses of the inns, (iv) existing medium-size tourist enterprises that can join the initiative, (v) equipment of local suppliers of goods and services for serving the visitants.
Initiative promoters would finance with own resources or those of third parties the initial stage of identifying, mobilizing, and organizing the diverse participants. They are modest amounts but they show third parties their commitment with the initiative.
Franchises would be capitalized with contributions by public and private actors, development agencies or foundations that promoters might be capable of enlisting. The ideal would be to count on a national government that promotes popular economy with developers and trusts specialized in popular base ventures.
Each family inn would count with the physical assets it might have (land and access to water, electricity, gas and other services), plus funding for construction and equipment provided by the franchise, working-capital credits by local banks with the franchise guarantee, in some cases cash advances against future billings of confirmed reserves and, certainly, with the eventual positive cash flows.
Already existent touristic ventures that decide to participate of these initiatives would find credit facilities from local banks supported by the better perspectives expected from the initiative.
Local providers of supplies and equipment would access credits given by development banks or providers of microcredits guaranteed by agreements with the franchise, with existent medium-size tourist ventures, or some family inns.
Access to markets
Upscaling means that a franchise of 30, 50, or 100 family inns (according to the territorial extension) dramatically changes the way of relating with national and external operators. It is no longer about an individual inn that offers a couple dozens of rooms in little-known territories, but rather an entity, the franchise, that offers hundreds of rooms with good location, equipment, excellent service and a singular profile of tourist offer that can satisfy diverse market niches. This approach would be complemented with differentiated offers for enterprise employers, pensioners, and students, among others.
Tourism of excellence
This tourist initiative represents an opportunity for participating communities to share with visitants their traditions, customs, way they conceive life and nature. The singularity of each community and territory enables a significant experience for those who come from other quite different places. Thus, excellence is not restricted to having an adequate threshold of comfort and recreation but rather it includes another critical dimension: the attitude with which each visitant is greeted, the will to understand their circumstances, and what they long for in their lives.
The initiative should also achieve excellence in organization and management of the entire activity, obtaining results that allow (i) capitalizing franchises, securing their sustainability, (ii) enhancing family incomes, and (iii) benefit the locality in which they operate (multiplying effects for local businesses, helping to retain population, developing local leadership, expanding the tax base).
Those who participate in these initiatives will face the challenge of connecting with foreign cultures preserving their own. This contact of cultures with different values, interests, needs, attitudes, emotions, reactions towards success, shared effort, and adversity presents opportunities but also tensions that need to be foreseen and addressed appropriately. Respecting idiosyncrasies of visitors, each initiative will choose from local perspective of live what can enrich the shared moments.
One last paragraph to think a denomination that characterizes this type of initiative. Maybe the creativity of some reader can propose a name that reflects this tourist offer of excellence, inclusive, that distributes results of a shared effort with fairness.
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