First GSTC Latin American and Caribbean Summit in Santa Marta, Colombia

Colombia, the country of beauty will be the epicenter of this important meeting in Latin America and the Caribbean on sustainable tourism, which will seek to promote sustainability and regeneration in the industry and establish a working plan to strengthen the region’s sustainable development practices.

The first GSTC Latin American and Caribbean Summit will be held in Santa Marta, Colombia, on May 27-29, where delegations from more than 20 countries will form a collaborative network to coordinate actions in Latin America and the Caribbean to advance sustainable tourism practices.

This invitation-only event is organized by the GSTC and the Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, financed through Fontur. Also part of the organization are important entities such as USAID’s Destination Nature Activity Program, the Colombia Más Competitiva program, a collaboration between the Swiss Embassy in Colombia and the National Government, facilitated by Swisscontact; and the Mayor’s Office of Santa Marta.

The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Germán Umaña, celebrated that “Santa Marta has been chosen as the venue for the first summit that the Global Sustainable Tourism Council decides to hold in Latin America. It means that Colombia, the country of beauty, leads sustainable tourism initiatives in the region, being one of the few countries that implement a public policy in this area and to demonstrate that it is possible to make tourism an alternative for economic transition and the protection of nature”.

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism will invest approximately $650 million through Fontur, and also seeks, through shared experiences, to strengthen the implementation of the country’s Sustainable Tourism Policy with actions such as the development of a Tourism Climate Action Plan and the signing of the Glasgow Declaration, which proposes that the sector halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero as soon as possible and before 2050.

The General Manager of Fontur, Álvaro Balcázar, said that “Santa Marta, as the venue of the First Latin American and Caribbean Summit, is undoubtedly the perfect scenario to promote the participation of tourism sector stakeholders who are committed to sustainability and responsibility through strategies that can improve both national and international connections”.

Santa Marta was chosen to hold the event because of the tourism actors and experiences that converge in its territory: two national natural parks (Sierra Nevada and Tayrona), Blue Flag beaches, mangroves, bird watching, hiking, gastronomic offerings, and the historic center of the city and Ciudad Perdida as a historical heritage of its ancestral cultures.

“The programmed activities include panel discussions on sustainable tourism, with the participation of countries such as Sweden, Switzerland and Colombia, as well as workshops on conservation, climate change and tourism with practical approaches to success stories such as Colombia, Ecuador and the Republic of Palau. The conclusions and roadmap established at the Summit will be fundamental for future policies and strategies in the sector within Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

The Mayor of Santa Marta, Carlos Pinedo Cuello, explained that “the fact that Santa Marta is the first venue for the Latin American and Caribbean Summit of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, with the participation of more than 20 countries, represents an invaluable opportunity to coordinate actions that promote sustainable tourism in our city. Santa Marta has a great natural and cultural wealth, which makes it the ideal setting for this summit. I am confident that from here we will set the course towards a more responsible and sustainable tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean. The city will be an example of the teamwork that, together with the Ministry of Commerce through Fontur, is being carried out”.

For the Director of Indetur, José Domingo Dávila, this type of event represents a positioning of the district of Santa Marta as a destination for nature tourism and ecotourism, which ratifies the commitment of the administration of Carlos Pinedo Cuello with the sustainable development of the city in preparation for the celebration of its 500th anniversary.

During the opening, important figures such as the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Germán Umaña Mendoza; GSTC CEO, Randy Durband; USAID Colombia Mission Director, Anupama Rajaraman; USAID Destination Nature Program Director, Julián Guerrero; the Ambassador of Switzerland in Colombia, Eric Mayoraz, and the Mayor of Santa Marta, Carlos Pinedo Cuello, will share their visions and objectives for a more responsible and sustainable industry.

Anupama Rajaraman, Mission Director of USAID Colombia, commented that, “for USAID and, in particular, for the Destination Nature Program, this summit is a vehicle to position our commitment to regenerative nature tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as to promote concrete actions, from a national public policy perspective, for tourism development in a way that contributes to biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation”.

At the end of the agenda on May 28, the participating countries will sign the declaration on sustainable tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino.

In addition, on May 29 there will be a visit to the Tayrona National Natural Park and the Katanzama Natural Reserve. These destinations, located in northern Colombia, are an extensive protected area that covers the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, bordering the Caribbean coast.

Participants will have the opportunity to explore the rich biodiversity and culture of the indigenous peoples. This excursion will provide attendees with a unique insight into the conservation efforts in the region and the importance of protecting these valuable ecosystems, as well as an experience to get closer to the cultural values and wisdom of the indigenous communities.

“For USAID and especially for the Destination Nature Activity Program, the ultimate goal of participating in and supporting this Summit is to foster coordination and collaboration among participating countries and organizations and to provide examples and inspiration, such as the projects carried out in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta that participants will learn first-hand, to promote the implementation of best practices in sustainable tourism. Likewise, we are convinced that, within the framework of this event, there will be an important exchange of knowledge and valuable experiences in sustainable and regenerative tourism practices,” said Julian Guerrero, Director of USAID’s Destination Nature Activity Program.

Amalia Vásquez, Director of Swisscontact Colombia, said that “the Colombia + Competitiva program seeks, among other things, to implement best management practices for sustainable destinations and attract responsible tourism, both nationally and internationally. We are proud to participate in this meeting and raise our voices for more than 20 destinations in the country that, for the first time, will be heard at this Summit. We will provide valuable information and data from the destinations, regarding the implementation of sustainability criteria in tourism, promoting the development and preservation of natural and cultural wealth for future generations”.

This first GSTC Latin American and Caribbean Summit is an invitation-only meeting, bringing together leaders and experts under one roof aiming to build a more sustainable future in tourism for the region.