Humberto N. Calabria Arrieta

Strengthening tourism training in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta - Colombia

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is a mountain range located in the city of the same name in the department of Magdalena in Colombia, which is conceived as the 'Ancestral Territory' of the original Arhuaco, Kogui, Wiwa and Kankuamo peoples, rising steeply from the shores of the Caribbean Sea to reach a height of 5,775 metres at its snow-capped peaks Bolivar and Colon, declared a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979 (UNESCO, 2020). 

The sierra is home to the Teyuna Archaeological Park "Ciudad Perdida", one of Colombia's main international tourist attractions, which faces the lack of training of its peasant and indigenous communities, which are not integrated into the projects developed in the area, being left out of community production chains in tourism. This confirms that the main barrier for tourism to contribute to the development of the peoples is the general lack of knowledge of the sector. Various authors state that peasant and indigenous communities settled in territories with a tourist vocation do not integrate these processes due to the lack of tourism enterprises, lack of applied work experience and low or zero levels of education, which leads to a lack of training, interest in managing tourism businesses and making the right decisions, ignoring the opportunity for sustainable development that planned tourism brings to their territories (Bennett, Lemelin, Koster, & Budke, 2012; Briedenhann & Wickens, 2004). 

This, added to the configuration of tourism as one of the main economic drivers at international level, gaining more strength in developing areas, being these geographical areas rich in cultural and natural resources such as Colombia" (UNWTO, 2019), and specifically in the city of Santa Marta where there are about 1490 tourism service providers, of which only 0.5% operate tours to the Sierra Nevada and only some integrate members of peasant and indigenous communities in their work teams. 

In this sense and with the aim of training in fundamental aspects of contextualisation, practices and application of tourism to the indigenous and peasant communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and thus contribute to the sustainable tourism development of this territory as a tool for social transformation through tourism training, the University of Magdalena through the Tourism Business Administration Programme - By Propaedeutic Cycles has been developing since 2018, a tourism intervention in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta through the project of Extension and Social Projection: Strengthening of Tourism Training in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. 

This intervention has been promoted from the methodology of participatory action research (PAR), a qualitative method of study and action that seeks to obtain reliable and useful results to improve collective situations, involving local agents in the process of learning and obtaining results through the promotion of collaboration through participation, knowledge and the search for social transformation, empowering participants in two main phases, which are detailed below: 

Training in Tourism and English for Members of the Kogui and Arhuaca Indigenous Communities and Peasant Communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Face-to-Face - 120 hours). FINISHED (Developed between April and September 2018 - 2019) 

Phase No. 1 of training, developed between April and August 2018, started with six modules, which developed topics in: Ecotourism, Introduction to Tourism, Tourism Legislation, Community Tourism, Trends in Service and Customer Service and Basic English, for this the communities of the Sierra Nevada, put all their efforts and every 10 or 15 days went down to the main campus of the University of Magdalena to receive classes and thus meet a classroom intensity of 96 hours, culminating in the certification ceremony benefiting 14 Members of indigenous communities KOGUI and ARHUACA and 7 Members of Peasant Communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta certified in Tourism in English. 

Training for Students and Teachers of the Ethno-educational and Cultural Institution El Mamey de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Virtual Platform ZOOM 50 hours) FINISHED (Developed between May and October 2020) 

Continuing with the training process, between July and September 2020, using the ZOOM platform, a 40-hour training day was held on Introduction to Tourism, Tourism Geography, Cultural Tourism, Community Tourism, Tourism Planning, Tourism Marketing and Design and Creation of Tourism Products, for the educational community of the Ethno-educational and District Institution El Mamey located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, benefiting 19 students in grades 10 and 11 and 4 teachers certified in the Seminar on Tourism Contextualisation of the IED El Mamey Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Development of Webinars Tourism and COVID-19. 

Aware of the challenge of overcoming the negative effects of COVID-19 on Colombian service providers and tourist destinations as a complement to tourism training for members of indigenous communities, farmers, teachers and students of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, researchers and representatives of tourism service providers in Colombia were brought together virtually through the development of Webinars in April and May 2020. 

The first webinar was entitled "Mitigation plan for the hotel industry in general during COVID 19" and was a keynote lecture by the entrepreneur of the Coffee Cultural Landscape Iván Restrepo Restrepo, who proposed a set of tasks aimed at strengthening the tourism sector and developing new, more responsible types of tourism.

The second, entitled "Effects of COVID-19 on service providers and Colombian tourist destinations", brought together experts and researchers in tourism, generating a space that allowed the analysis of the perceptions of Juan Pablo Mariño from the Universidad Antonio Nariño, Camilo Botero Saltarén from Playascol Corporation, Nohora Alfonso Bernal from the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia - UPTC, Beatriz Helena Díaz from the Universidad Autónoma del Caribe, Alejandro Martínez Carvajal from the Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira, María Fernanda Espinel from the Instituto de Formación Técnico Profesional - INFOTEP de San Andrés Islas and the third and last Webinar was also called "Effects of COVID-19 on Colombian tourism service providers and destinations", but this one consisted of a forum with businessmen representing tourism service provider organisations. Juan Manuel Mora Palacios, Marketing and Sales Manager of the Hotel GHL Relax CORALES DE INDIAS and Catalina Muñoz Escobar, Corporate Director of Marketing and Sales of the Stanzia hotel group, operator for Best Western International, participated in this forum. 

Taking into account the contributions generated by the businessmen, academics and researchers invited to the Webinars, and highlighting the different alternatives and proposals put forward, the TOURISM Vs COVID-19 DECALOGUE was constructed, which through an acrostic with the word "TOURISM", lists 10 principles or strategies that would allow companies in the sector and tourist destinations in general to adapt their activities to the "new reality" generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Basic Course on Traditional Cuisine in the Department of Magdalena. 

To date, phase 1 has been completed: Training, using for its development: classrooms within the main campus of the University of Magdalena, audiovisual aids, institutional ZOOM platform, teaching staff specialised in tourism from the Tourism and Hotel Business Administration programme, printing of certificates, refreshments and lunches, transport for sending certificates to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and in-person closing and certification ceremonies. Similarly, between August and November 2002, a Basic Course on Traditional Magdalena Cuisine is planned, with the aim of contributing to the diversification of the tourist offer and the social transformation of the indigenous and peasant communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. 

All of the above has had an impact on the contribution to the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage present in the territory (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta), the formation and training of human resources both to integrate the productive chain of tourism in the territory, the strengthening of the historical heritage, cultural identity and collective esteem that enhance the tourist attractiveness of the territory and the enrichment of intercultural exchange between visitors and residents, thanks to experiences based on mutual respect, tolerance and understanding.


  Humberto Nicolas Calabria Arrieta

Universidad del Magdalena - Colombia  

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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