Santa Fe and Beyond


Maria Boccalandro and Daniel Mirabal



What exactly is Sustainable Tourism?


A sustainable activity denotes “doing the right thing” for the people, the planet and the economy (the “triple bottom line”). Sustainable Tourism activities avoid damage to the environment, enhance the local economy, and—perhaps most importantly—responsibly promote the culture and natural resources of a location as tourist attractions.


What is the aim of Sustainable Tourism?


The aim is to ensure that tourism development becomes a positive experience for the local people and businesses that rely on tourism, and that it respectfully supports the richness of a location’s traditions and culture. The focus of sustainable tourism, therefore, is a city, town or rural area itself. Important to the success of these projects are the partnerships that must be created between businesses—such as hotels, resorts, tourist agencies, restaurants and transportation providers—and locals, such as artists and craftspeople, farmers and healing arts practitioners.


When does Sustainable Tourism become viable for a community?


The Sustainable Tourism model takes into consideration and integrates the culture, natural resources, public infrastructure and touristic services of a location. A location’s natural resources may have beauty and magic, such as Santa Fe’s mountains and sunsets, but it must also have a community that cherishes its identity, its authenticity and its unique cultural diversity. Sustainable tourism becomes viable when a location is able to accommodate and facilitate activities for visitors. This means having the necessary green infrastructure for both locals and visitors, such as adequate water, electricity, transportation, health- and security services.


In short, we want tourist activities that respect and reflect the culture and heritage of a community and give the location a “brand” that attracts tourists. Just as importantly, the natural resources must be preserved and used in a way that highlights their uniqueness.


When do tourist services appear?


They appear when the inhabitants of a location want to share their culture, their way of living and their natural resources with others.


Is it possible for rural New Mexico to benefit from the economic success associated with the tourism of a city like Santa Fe?


Yes. In the city of Santa Fe, there have been partnerships among the local government, nonprofit cultural groups and entrepreneurs to create a welcoming destination for tourists. In terms of sustainable tourism and rural NM, the challenge is to develop partnerships with individuals and groups such as organic farmers, Native American tribes and entrepreneurs who can facilitate eco-friendly activities such as bike riding, hiking, trekking, paragliding, bird watching, healthy farming and cooking, traditional cultural performances, art & crafts, etc.


And we must not forget “service learning” opportunities and the newly popular volunteerism—where a volunteer group sponsors a work project. This appeals to people who are supportive of a cause and would like to use their vacation time to do things such as improve the well-being of a local community by helping build a school or save local plants or animals.


What needs to happen once these partnerships are created?


The promotion and marketing of these sorts of rural activities have to be accompanied by green/sustainable practices and services to accommodate the tourists, such as recycling, water harvesting, regenerative agriculture, and clean transportation options, as well as healthy local food options and ecological lodging.


What about the risks to natural resources from tourism?


There are risks from the impacts of development and from tourists. However, the sustainable tourism model not only mitigates those risks by incorporating eco-friendly construction and operation guidelines, it also enhances the preservation of a community’s resources for future generations.


What makes a location special?


Is it not just a location’s architecture, artwork, cuisine, iconic figures, traditions or history; more than anything, it is identity. A community’s people and their diversity create this identity.


Santa Fe’s identity is unique and unforgettable: first, the diversity of the people, its architecture, its historic cultures, and its creative options for tourists, such as its ancient cultural traditions, the plethora of art galleries, theater, dance, jewelry, spiritual activities, outdoor recreation, healthy food and living.




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