On May 3, ORBITA, the Bolivian Observatory for the Sustainable Tourism Industry, was launched with the aim of promoting tourism as an engine for sustainable development and achieving gender equity in Bolivia.

The event took place in the “Solydes” auditorium of the Universidad Privada Boliviana (UPB), La Paz, and was attended by the Canadian Ambassador, Ralph Jansen, municipal authorities, international cooperation, and national academic authorities.

ORBITA seeks to generate information to influence the decision-making of public, private, and community stakeholders, to build bridges between sections, and thus build a tourism sector that breaks the dependence on the primary export matrix and generates new opportunities in Bolivia.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism was one of the most dynamic sectors in Bolivia, with productivity indicators that stood out among the most important sectors in the country:

  • It achieved an average annual growth rate of 10% for 13 years (2006 to 2019), which shows that it was growing at double and even triple the growth of the national GDP.
  • According to the Political Constitution of the State, tourism is a strategic sector, which is also an exporter of services and an attractor of foreign currency. In the last decade, it has positioned itself as the 4th largest attractor of international currency; that is, the first in low-carbon economies, with gender inclusion and not dependent on natural resources.
  • Tourism also has the great advantage of being an income multiplier: it integrates a nationwide cluster of more than 40 links in a chain of products and services. It is a sector that democratizes access to opportunities for young people, women, and men.

ORBITA promotes research and data generation and integrates information available in the national territory, and massive data (Big data) of global tourism. Early research showed that the return in terms of foreign exchange generation of public investment in the tourism sector is more competitive and productive than industries based on natural resources, agribusiness, and extractivist sectors.

With respect to gender equality, the tourism sector shows great progress. In the decade 2010-2020, for the first time, more women than men registered tourism businesses with FUNDEMPRESA. Overall, approximately 72% of all labor income in the sector is earned by women. In 2016, the tourism sector employed 145 thousand women (76% of the total number of people employed in the sector) in a variety of ranks and with a smaller wage gap compared to other sectors. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) 75% of tourism jobs are held by women. These jobs will generate more welfare and even the level of income is better than that of other traditional industries in Bolivia.

ORBITA has developed an intervention model based on a dynamic helix that allows making decisions based on intelligence and information to promote tourism, based on the creative economy and digitalization of the destination Bolivia, for the attraction of high-value markets.

Thesis financing

The first call for the financing of theses on tourism, gender and sustainable development in Bolivia has also been launched, aimed at undergraduate and master’s degree students who wish to conduct research on the relationships between these areas. During 2022 and 2023, 25 undergraduate and master’s theses will be financed. The beneficiaries will receive an economic incentive of Bs. 14,000 and guidance from ORBITA’s Academic Committee during the research.

The launch event also promotes the photographic exhibition “The Nets We Weave: Tourism’s Potential in Bolivia” (“Las redes que tejemos: el potencial del turismo en Bolivia”), organized by the Lúmina gallery. The IES Cultural Hall, located in the UPB postgraduate building on 5th Street in Obrajes, houses the different works of four national photographers that show the diversity of the country. The works are for sale and the exhibition is open from now and for the following weeks.

ORBITA also collects data and facilitates applied research on the nexus between tourism, gender, and sustainable development in Bolivia; creates partnerships to support the recovery and growth of the sector; trains small and medium-sized tourism businesses in new digital technologies for the tourism industry, and promotes equal opportunities for women in the sector.

The project is the result of a partnership between the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN Bolivia) and the Fundación Innovación en Empresariado (Fundación IES). The project is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of the Government of Canada.

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