Antonio Santos del Valle 

Tourism, crafts and cultural identity 

Antonio Santos del Valle 

Tourism, crafts and cultural identity 

As a result of the 2nd edition of the Master "Trends and keys to current tourism - Florida" I have been lucky enough to work on different topics where tourism, crafts, cultural identity, the value of the cultural fact in tourism, promotion and shopping tourism have been present in all the presentations, discussion groups and in the "micro think tanks" generated.

Cultural identity is one of the main values that tourists seek, whether consciously or not, when they travel to a tourist destination, regardless of the objectives of their trip, but how can we define cultural identity?

Cultural identity refers to the set of values, traditions, customs, beliefs, artistic and social expressions that characterise a group of people or a particular community. It is an essential part of the personal and collective identity of individuals and is closely linked to their origin, history and cultural background.

Cultural identity is built through the interaction and learning of a community (tourist destination) over time. It includes tangible and intangible aspects, such as language, religion, music, dance, gastronomy, architecture, traditions and festivities. These cultural elements form a vital part of the sense of belonging and the way people identify with their ethnic, national, regional or local group.

In this sense, and more so now that we live in interconnected societies, cultural identity is not static and can evolve over time due to external influences, migrations, social changes and technological advances. However, preserving cultural identity is important to maintain the diversity and richness of the cultural heritage of a group of people and their connection to the past.

Respecting and valuing cultural identity is fundamental to promoting coexistence, understanding and tolerance among different communities and societies. Cultural diversity enriches the world and allows us to appreciate and learn from different ways of life and cultural expressions.

Importantly, cultural identity should not be used as a tool to exclude or discriminate against other groups, but should be a basis for dialogue and enriching collaboration among the diverse cultures that make up our globalised world. By understanding and respecting the cultural identity of others, we can foster tolerance and harmony in an increasingly interconnected society. Thanks to an activity such as tourism, one of the pillars of which is the interconnection of destinations, the value of the cultural identity of these are key elements for the enjoyment and appreciation of tourists and travellers.

Likewise, tourism can have both a positive and negative impact on the cultural identity of a destination:

Positive impacts include:

Negative impacts that should be taken into consideration include the following:

To ensure a positive impact of tourism on cultural identity, it is essential to promote sustainable and responsible tourism. This involves promoting practices that respect and value local culture, involving communities in decision-making and sharing the benefits of tourism in an equitable manner. In addition, education and mutual respect between tourists and communities should be promoted to foster an authentic and enriching cultural exchange.

As the clearest example of a resource in tourism destinations, handicrafts stand out as being closely related, as handicrafts are an important part of cultural heritage and a significant attraction for tourists in many destinations around the world. Crafts are the result of the manual work and creativity of artisans, who use traditional techniques to create unique and authentic objects that reflect the cultural identity of a region or community.

Tourism can be a valuable opportunity to promote and preserve local crafts, as tourists are often interested in experiencing and taking home authentic souvenirs of their destinations. By purchasing local crafts, tourists directly support artisans and the local economy, which can have a positive impact on the sustainable development of the community.

In addition, tourist destinations often organise craft fairs and markets to showcase and sell handicraft products. These events not only attract tourists but also provide opportunities for artisans to showcase their work and generate additional income.

Crafts can also be a way to enrich the tourism experience, as visitors can participate in workshops and activities to learn about the techniques of making craft products. This allows them to gain an insight into the local culture and appreciate the effort and skill required to create these unique works of art.

However, it is important to approach tourism in a responsible and sustainable manner to ensure that local crafts and culture are properly preserved. Mass tourism without careful consideration can lead to the exploitation of cultural and craft resources, as well as the production of low-quality products intended solely to satisfy tourist demand.

Tourism can have a significant impact on the value of crafts. When a region or destination becomes a popular tourist destination, demand for local craft products tends to increase. This can have several implications for crafts and their value:

In this sense and as a specialisation in tourism, shopping tourism and crafts and design are closely related, as shopping tourism often involves the search for and acquisition of authentic and distinctive products, such as local crafts and design products unique to a region.

As we know, shopping tourism refers to trips undertaken by tourists for the specific purpose of purchasing products and goods, although in some cases, the acquisition (purchase) of local crafts has become a primary objective of tourists seeking unique and authentic shopping experiences, and this includes the acquisition of handicrafts and design products that reflect the cultural identity of the region they are visiting.

Crafts and design play an important role in shopping tourism for several reasons:

However, it is important that, as we have said before, and now emphasise, shopping tourism is developed in a responsible and sustainable way. It is essential to ensure that artisans and designers receive a fair price for their work and that their rights and working conditions are respected. It is also crucial to protect cultural authenticity and to avoid mass production and exploitation of local cultural identity to satisfy tourist demand alone.

Tourism and cultural identity are closely interrelated. Cultural identity is the set of values, traditions, customs, beliefs, artistic and cultural expressions that characterise a community or group of people. Tourism, on the other hand, involves the movement of people to places other than their usual environment for leisure, recreation, education or business purposes.

To conclude, and taking into consideration the case of Latin America, and at the request of participants such as Carla Brown (Chile), Osvaldo Castillo (Colombia), Juan Carlos Ramírez (Peru), Luana Nosseti (Argentina) and Sofía Sánchez with her inseparable Pedro Torres (Mexico), whose group work has been excellent, we ask ourselves, what about the case of Latin America?

Briefly, the conclusion is that Latin American craftsmanship is one of the richest and most diverse in the world, with a great variety of techniques, styles and materials used by the region's artisans. 

In relation to tourism, this plays a fundamental role in the promotion and valorisation of Latin American crafts, as travellers visiting the different countries of the Latin American community have the opportunity to discover and appreciate the authenticity and beauty of these cultural traditions.

Some of the ways in which tourism impacts Latin American crafts are:

Tourism therefore has a positive impact on Latin American crafts by providing a platform for their promotion, preservation and appreciation, but it is essential that both governments and local communities work together to foster sustainable and responsible practices that benefit artisans and the region's rich cultural tradition. Primarily with innovative promotional tools that cover the spectrum of product needs, and not with market places that are indistinguishable from the thousands that exist, resulting in the frustration of artisans, among other issues, due to lack of sales, ultimately lack of marketing, and therefore, not being able to receive payment for their work.

And this is where the promotion factor comes in.

We all agree that for tourism, promotion is a key tool to foster the development and growth of the tourism industry and as Prof. Carl Elli commented a few days ago: "tourism promotion is a key tool to foster the development and growth of the tourism industry. Carl Elli commented a few days ago: "tourism promotion has several objectives, since it is not only used to increase the visibility of the destination or tourist service, or to attract tourists by diversifying the types of tourism, such as cultural, ecological, gastronomic, sports, among others, it also means fostering the local economy by generating employment and wealth in local communities, while contributing to create a positive and attractive image of the place to strengthen its positioning".

Promoting local values in tourism means competing in a global market where we find an increasingly refined, innovative and massive offer, the result of which is that not all destinations will be able to continue playing in a league where the winners will be able to benefit their citizens from an activity as complex, but at the same time generous as tourism.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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