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News Article

Entrepreneurial Spirit and Human Connections

By Gabriela Román | Fri, 04/10/2020 - 17:43

Responsible tourism was defined in Cape Town in 2002 as “a movement anchored on principles of sustainability, ethics and responsibility from all ends of the tourism supply chain in order to support better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.”

According to the UN, 1 in 10 jobs worldwide are in the tourism industry and the sector makes up 10 percent of the global GDP.  According to the Wolrd Tourism Organization, 1.8 billion people will travel internationally in 2030.

Mexico’s weather and unique culture make it an attractive destination worldwide, with more than 40 million visitors in 2019. Income generated last year increased by 10 percent in comparison with 2018, according to Miguel Torruco, Minister of Tourism. How does this impact local microentrepreneurs? Elly Rohrer from Human Connections explains:

Q: What are the challenges a microentrepreneur has to overcome to succeed in the tourism economy?

A: There are plenty of challenges, but a major one is seasonality. Micro-entrepreneurs that understand this and cope with it the best are the ones who diversify their products to match  seasons. For example, one of our partners sells tropical flowers to tourists and during a hotel´s  high season. In the same orchard she planted mangos, as they are ripe during the low season. Soon after, she can sell them to a local audience.

Q: What do entrepreneurs do to keep their businesses afloat?

A: At the beginning of my time with Human Connections, I egocentrically assumed I had insights that could transform local micro-entrepreneurs’ businesses. My biggest takeaway – an embarrassing one, since this should have been obvious – is that the entrepreneurs know their business better than anyone.

I found that micro-entrepreneurs, whose basic needs are not always met, have intricate mechanisms to keep their businesses afloat. These mechanisms sometimes contradict financial literacy teachings. Nonetheless, they work for them and are very respectable.

Q: What options do they have if they need funds to expand their business?

A: There are some options: a large number of loans, credit, family and social capital. Access to loans is widespread. Low-cost loan products are, however, scarce.

Q: How does your organization support local business and their families?

A: Human Connections' work starts with our partners. They are remarkable artisans and tradespeople in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit. We invite travelers and students to interact with our partners through day tours and student program, providing a platform for local micro-entrepreneurs to share their culture and stories. Interactions are also financially rewarding for our partners, as we pay them fairly for their time, help increase their sales and provide them with educational opportunities. Our goal is to empower local communities while fostering conversations that shift perspectives and increase understanding.

Q: How is your organization reacting to COVID-19?

A: We have created an emergency response fund to support artisans and informal vendors who are disproportionally affected by the lack of tourism. Our support will be multifaceted and extends throughout the low season, which lasts until November. It will include virtual points of sale for our partners as well as stipends to meet basic needs.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Human connections
Gabriela Román Gabriela Román MBN staff