Article by Andrea Rodriguez, Ripess Europe

Many cities have been transformed by high levels of tourism which, in recent years, have opened the door to the process known as gentrification. These changes in the basic (infra)structures of urban centers have been carried out without taking into account the opinion of citizens and have resulted in the closure of local businesses in streets that are now filled with Starbucks, McDonald’s and large multinational businesses. In addition, residents have to move out of what are now “trendy neighborhoods” where most homes have been converted into touristic apartments. All this, together with the fact that the culture and peculiarities of cities have been transformed according to the demand of tourism, has ended up generating irreparable damage in our societies at a political, economic and cultural level.

On the other hand, mobility is also provoking the phenomenon known as “brain drain”, which causes, especially, that young people have to leave rural areas and move to urban/metropolitan areas that are more attractive in terms of access to services, quality of life and employment opportunities.

In this sense, tourism and general mobility is one of the sectors that have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, something that has strongly shaken those countries that have built a model of dependence on this sector. But in reality, the pandemic could be seen as an open door to develop other models, and as a result of this, work could be done on the construction of a new paradigm, one that takes into account the human community and the environment. The idea would be to leave aside ethe cultural colonialism and exploitation to put networks of affection and long-term labor, cultural and activist collaboration at the center.

From RIPESS EU together with other networks such as ANIMAR, Cooperativa Nazareth, KOAN and ATES we are working on a project that aims to develop a new form of mobility that we have called “Solidarity Tourism”. This new term intends to go beyond the mere fact of organizing a trip, and refers to the needed alliances that tourism should develop with the local population and community. Undoubtedly, the target group of this project is young people, because as mentioned before, they are the ones who move the most in search of job opportunities and quality of life, and they are also the ones who suffer the mismatch between expectations and the reality of what it means to arrive in a big city, which results in a generation of disempowered and passive young people.

The intention of the project is to take advantage of two current trends: 1) young people have been building a new sensibility, demonstrating their willingness to be actors of a positive change towards a more sustainable, inclusive and responsible way of living; 2) the ease of access to mobility is making it one of the most attractive and effective educational and learning tools. Therefore, our goal is to reimagine mobility and tourism from being an exhausting getaway to an experience of connection and exchange, promoting the value of solidarity as a driver of our actions and fostering the transition from individualism to cooperation. The solution we propose is the aforementioned, Solidarity Tourism (ST), capable of merging the experiential appeal of mobility with inner responsibility towards our common home, where no one is left behind. Under this new mobility model, the virtuous experiences of the Social and Solidarity Economy will be highlighted and values such as the promotion of sustainable lifestyles, interculturality, active participation and solidarity will be disseminated; low-density areas will also be activated, promoting the dynamisation and promotion of the local territory and generational change.

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