"I believe social innovation is the most promising element in ecotourism and sustainable tourism management"
Dr Campo Elias Bernal has over 21 years of experience in the Colombian National Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (COLCIENCIAS), the last five years appointed as the National Director for Innovation. Dr Bernal is the Founder and Executive Director of the Colombian Federation for Ecotourism, Ecoparks and Adventure Tourism (FEDEC) while he has served as President for two terms at the National Tourism Education Board of the National Service of Learning (SENA). His expertise focuses on leadership in local communities development through nature and cultural tourism, particularly in San Agustin and Lengupá Province. He obtained his Doctorate from the Salamanca University in Spain in the context of which he researched knowledge and innovation management in Sustainable Tourism. He has worked as an international consultant in innovation and ecotourism development for over 10 years and he is currently leading the project “Network for Innovation and Science & Technology in Nature and Cultural Tourism”.
ECOCLUB.com: Based on your immense experience with the public administration in Colombia, please tell us, now that peace has finally arrived, in what ways can Tourism play an active role in healing, peace-building and job creation in affected communities?
Dr Campo Elias Bernal: The Colombian Government, to face challenges and strengthen the peace process, and with particular care to hot spots, has developed “The Strategy for Tourism and Peace”which is led by the Vice-minister of Tourism. In the recent “International Tourism Day Meeting”, the Tourism Vice-minister invited some local communities to share their experience in applying a “model for strategic management of tourism and peace”. It is worthy to mention that important advances in building peace with the participation of Government, local communities, reintegrated former combatants and young entrepreneurs took place in the following areas: Sierra de la Macarena, Caño Cristales, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Camino Teyuna, Putumayo, Mocoa y Valle del Sibundoy, Darién Chocó, Urabá Antioquia, Montes de María, Palenque, Puerto Nariño and others. Most of the sites mentioned are located in the middle of the jungle, where guerillas found shelter. Now, this tourism peace program represents a brilliant way to convert violent zones to an ecotourism paradise thanks to the beauty of the landscape and the unique, multicultural and biodiverse characteristics of this destination. Implementing the peace process involves careful study of beliefs, values and practices, focusing on sustainability and equity, and at the same time, preserving the individual freedom and way of thinking of Indians, peasants, raizal and mestizo communities.
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