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Airbnb, UNESCO Partner to Promote Cultural Tourism — Starting in Mexico

The initiative will promote destinations and experiences outside the traditional tourist circuit — engaging local tourist communities, integrating the creative and cultural sector into local tourism value chains, and contributing to the development of responsible tourism.

As we all know, global tourism careened to a stop last year, thanks to the pandemic. Once the industry panic attacks subsided, many tourism operators used the break to pause and reflect on what a sustainable future for tourism might look like — more thoughtful approaches that encourage travelers to venture beyond the too-often-beaten paths to mitigate overtourism; taking slower, less carbon-intensive journeys; and immersing themselves in new cultural experiences that engage with and benefit the host destinations and communities as much as the travelers.

With that in mind, Airbnb joined forces with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to contribute to the reactivation of tourism in a responsible and sustainable way in Mexico, and to expand the benefits of cultural and creative tourism to more communities.

Through the partnership, which builds on the work of its Office of Healthy Tourism, Airbnb will promote destinations and experiences outside the traditional tourist circuit — promoting the empowerment of local tourist communities, integrating the creative and cultural sector into local tourism value chains, and contributing to the development of responsible tourism — all in an effort to protect Mexico’s cultural and natural assets by integrating experiences that contribute to the appreciation and knowledge of its cultures.

According to Airbnb's Report on Travel and Living, released in May, sustainable tourism and visits to destinations far from traditional touristic corridors have become a top priority for travelers. In Mexico, the percentage of nights booked for summer 2021 in small communities has almost tripled compared to the same period in 2019, going from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Another recent survey revealed that half of Mexicans want to travel to a place close to nature once the pandemic is over, with 29 percent confirming that they will seek Pueblos Magicos (“Magical Towns”) or small cities for their next national trip. Similarly, eight out of 10 Mexicans declared that sustainability is essential when deciding their accommodation or travel destinations.

These opportunities to promote tourism in Mexico prompted Airbnb to partner with UNESCO to produce complete projects that will include tourism innovation and community inclusion in order to incorporate micro, small, and medium creative, cultural, and tourism entrepreneurs in the tourism value chain.

“Airbnb recognizes that at this moment, tourism must be part of the economic recovery and community inclusion in Mexico,” said Jorge Balderrama, Public Policy Manager of Airbnb Mexico. “Consequently, this alliance seeks to set the foundations for co-responsible and sustainable tourism that contributes to local economic development, community inclusion, and biodiversity protection in destinations so that this initiative can be replicated across the country and Latin America.”

This initiative will begin with tests in Mexico City and the Yucatan Peninsula — seeking synergy with public, private and social actors to boost the supply of creative, cultural and nature tourism. The partnership will also promote the development of tourism entrepreneurs’ skills and technologies.

UNESCO Mexico representative Frédéric Vacheron says this alliance signifies an essential step for Mexico’s Office to promote sustainable development in the collaborative economy — which encourages the optimization of human resources and existing materials, reducing the environmental impact of creating new materials, and supports entrepreneurial innovation in times of crisis by offering services through online collaboration platforms.

“The collaborative economy models provide excellent alternatives to combat excessive consumption, waste and unemployment — which are the challenges that the 2030 Agenda urges to solve to achieve the sustainable development and the comprehensive transformation required to avoid new global emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” Vacheron said.

The partnership with UNESCO follows Airbnb’s “México por Tierra” initiative that supports responsible enjoyment and safeguarding of the country’s cultural and natural heritage through more conscious tourism.

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