Federico de Arteaga
Head of Project
Tequila Inteligente
Expert Contributor

The Answer Is ‘No’

By Federico De Arteaga | Mon, 08/23/2021 - 13:03

I am often asked if Tequila has changed its strategy because of the pandemic. And the answer is no. A complex system, such as a city, a tourist destination, cannot change its strategy because of an adverse variable. It is necessary to treat it as such and let the system mature, self-regulate and look for possible solutions within itself.

Obviously, there are degrees. A pandemic lasting a year or two is not the same as a hurricane or a drought. Cities react at first but as time goes on, they have to generate new competencies.

What are some of the tools available? Prevention models, business models, citizen awareness, resilience and risk management.

There is a lot of talk about resilience; according to the OECD, resilient cities are cities that have the capacity to absorb, recover and prepare for future shocks (economic, environmental, social and institutional); but not enough is said about risk management, prevention and the role of citizens.

In a system, subsystems are important but without the others there is no holistic approach.

What has Tequila done to strengthen its system?


Tequila has implemented complexity in a systemic way: prevention through the use of technology, digitalization, information and the carrying capacity of the destination; the need for resilience in all its forms human, political, functional, cultural and natural; effective governance, where the government allocates resources, exercises its political will and its authority; business models from where co-prosperity is generated, where investment continues to exist; citizenship, with individual freedom, respect of regulations, getting vaccinated, keeping a healthy distance and achieving social cohesion in the face of adversity; and sustainability, sizing the carbon footprint, betting on education and seeking to grow its gross domestic product.

Other variables have been taken into account in the system, differentiating between know-how and know-what, the use of the real power of the people in their own destination, the improvement of connectivity to reduce the digital divide, certifications in security, sustainability, free carbon footprint, real-time information for better management, the tourist/resident balance accompanied by a management of the territory; all in a system of collaboration and knowledge networks. This type of system also has degrees of freedom and the more complex they become, the more degrees of freedom they have. 

In reality, what has happened in the pandemic months?

I) The territory shrinks

II) Businesses close down

III) More connectivity is used

IV) Carbon footprint is reduced

V) Social alarm rises

VI) Changes in the type of interactions

VII) Social media provides asymmetric information

VIII) Uncertainty is the norm

IX) Society looks for referents.

What have been the lessons learned?

  1. Use technology to assess risks: Conduct studies using technology to support governments in setting safety standards.
  2. Incorporate territory into analysis and decision-making: Cities will need to constantly update their urban analytics to identify the most vulnerable urban spaces and manage them.
  3. Encourage the use of reliable information: Establish local information systems and access real-time data.
  4. Plan flexible control programs: Risk management must be able to adapt to the requirements and specifications as complex events mature.
  5. Complexity must be learned: Problems have become complex not complicated and complexity must be learned to be managed.
  6. Think in regional terms: Problems do not start and end at municipal boundaries.
  7. Design prevention models: Cities must have scenario simulations and clear emergency protocols, constant monitoring and early response; they cannot just react.
  8. Invest in technological infrastructure: Digitalization and connectivity have been key for economic and social activity to maintain a certain level of resilience.
  9. Analyze tourist and resident flows: Use urban analytics to estimate the maximum carrying capacity of public space with appropriate constraints.
  10. Invite all actors to collaborate for better governance: All stakeholders must work collaboratively to understand and act appropriately on the phenomena faced by the city.

Many of the decisions that have had to be taken during this time have been flagged with red signs for a long time but we did not want to see them and did not want to face them. Let's not wait for another pandemic, whatever it is called, to make the decisions that need to be made, and one of them is to understand complexity in full.

Photo by:   Federico de Arteaga