By Marco Caceres
Within the next few weeks, humanitarian and volunteer workers traveling to Honduras by air will be greeted at the country’s four major airports (Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and Roatan) by banners thanking them for their efforts to help the people of Honduras.
Each of the blue and green “spiders” will read…“Welcome Volunteers, Honduras appreciates your helping hands.”
The campaign is an effort by projecthonduras.com and the Institute of Tourism to begin to express their appreciation to the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of groups that visit Honduras each year to donate their time, expertise, experience, and talents to implement grassroots projects to empower the most disadvantaged segments of the country’s population.
The number of individuals and organizations going to Honduras to provide assistance has noticeably increased since Hurricane Mitch hit in 1998… a classic example of a “blessing-in-disguise” tragedy. On any given flight to or from the country, you can count on about one quarter of the passengers belonging to medical brigades, church missions, university student teams, or some other type of group involved in social service activities.
These “social tourists” provide tremendous material and moral support to the poor, and I think Honduras must do all it can to ensure that they keep coming back year after year, and are also inspired to recruit their friends, relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances to join them.
With an enthusiastic army of tens of thousands of humanitarian and volunteer workers traveling to Honduras each year and coordinating via the projecthonduras.com online network, Honduras is pioneering an alternative model of development that relies less on financial capital and more on “human capital”.
Everything possible should be done to grow this “unconventional movement” to change Honduras for the better and enable it to exit its cycles of bad times and less bad times. Publicly saying “thanks” is certainly a good place to start.
Note that social tourists also spend a fair amount of money in Honduras. We estimate that the social tourism segment of the country’s tourism market accounts for about $75-100 million in revenue annually. Social tourists buy airline tickets, stay in hotels, take taxis, visit museums and parks, eat in restaurants, and purchase souvenirs.
So while it is to the advantage of Honduras’ poor that social tourists remain passionate about Honduras, it is in the country’s economic interest as well.
One of the features of Conference on Honduras in Copan Ruinas during October 20-23, 2005 will be a Social Tourism Workshop designed to bring representatives of Honduras’ tourism industry together to brainstorm a strategy for creating an alliance between them and social tourists that guarantees a growing volume of business for the former and discounted rates for the latter.
If you are interested in participating in this workshop or attending the conference in general,
please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://www.projecthonduras.com/conference.