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Tourism Can Benefit Mountains and Mountain People, Especially in Latin America

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Mountain Partnership (MA) have released a joint report on Wednesday to understand the potential of mountain tourism and identify missing data on the sector.
The publication also identifies trends and offers a series of recommendations to advance the measurement of mountain tourism, including advances in official tourism statistics and the use of big data and new technologies.
Mountains are home to some 1.1 billion people, some of whom are among the poorest and most isolated in the world.
At the same time, the mountains have long attracted fans of hiking, climbing and winter sports. They also attract visitors for their spectacular scenery, rich biodiversity and vibrant local cultures.
However, in 2019, the most recent year for which figures are available, the 10 most mountainous countries (in terms of average height above sea level) received only 8% of international tourist arrivals worldwide, says the report, titled Understanding and Quantifying Mountain Tourism.
“Measuring the volume of visitors to mountains is a vital first step. With the right data, we can better monitor the dispersion of tourist flows, support proper planning and create appropriate policies that promote sustainable development and ensure the benefit of local communities,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu and UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili write in the foreword to the report.
Tourism has proven to be a lifeline for many communities in mountain regions and can play a leading role in protecting livelihoods adapted to these fragile ecosystems, which face continuing threats from climate change and overexploitation.
As the sector recovers from the unprecedented consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an opportunity to rethink mountain tourism and its impact on natural resources and livelihoods, but also to better manage it and harness its contribution towards a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future.
Effective planning and management of mountain tourism requires a better understanding of its scale and its economic, social and environmental impacts. To date, the available data is very limited.

Data and recommendations
The study aims to address this problem by developing a new methodology and providing as clear a picture as possible, based on available data and customised surveys, of global and regional mountain tourism trends in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.
Not all countries were included in the study, which is a follow-up to the 2021 publication, Mountain Tourism, Towards a More Sustainable Way. Instead, countries were selected that were considered relevant for estimating global and regional volumes of mountain tourists. In total, 46 countries were surveyed.
Based on the survey methodology, it was estimated that in 2019 (latest available data) international mountain tourism would account for between 9% and 16% of international tourist arrivals worldwide, i.e. between 195 and 375 million tourists. The scarcity of data on domestic tourism did not allow estimating the contribution of this important segment.
The report also provides examples of innovative approaches to measuring mountain tourism and planning and managing its impact.
It recommends a collective effort, involving public and private stakeholders across the value chain, to improve data collection, standardisation and delivery in order to obtain a more comprehensive assessment of mountain tourism in terms of volumes and impacts, so that it can be better understood and developed to align with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The report also calls for concerted efforts to help raise awareness of the socio-economic importance of mountain tourism and targeted policies to create jobs, support small and medium-sized enterprises and attract green investments in infrastructure and digitisation of tourism services.

Potential in Latin America and the Caribbean

The report provides figures by sub-region to understand the potential of mountain tourism in each region and recommendations for developing sustainable tourism that benefits communities.
Thus, the estimated share of mountain tourism in international tourist arrivals, based on 2019 data, is between one to two million in the Caribbean, three to five million in Central America and seven to 12 million in South America.
Specifically, mountain tourism accounted for 10-20% of international arrivals to Ecuador, 20-40% of arrivals to Chile and Venezuela and 40-60% of visits to Nicaragua.
The Andes mountain range, which stretches across many South American countries, is positioned as a major mountain tourist attraction throughout the region.
In Peru, for example, 78% of all international tourists undertook a hiking activity during their trip, with mountain tourism accounting for more than 60% according to survey results.
In relation to winter sports, up to 35% of all skiers in Chile are foreigners, a figure that reaches 20% in the case of Argentina.

Source : Atalayar