The “X Change” program
Tourism leakage indicates the dispersion of revenue generated by tourism to other countries’ economies. According to the UNEP, for every 100 $ spent by a tourist in a developing country, only 5$ remain in the host community. All- inclusive travel packages prevent travellers from interacting with local communities, that are slowly excluded and forced off their land due to tourist developments. On the other side, travellers are more and more looking for authentic and deeper experiences.
The increasing demand for experiential travel has the potential to create a new travel market with a profound effect on poverty alleviation. However, opportunities to support local communities are still scarce, especially in those countries where natives are not involved in any entrepreneurial projects and cannot communicate in English. In order to enhance economic benefits to the local community, it is necessary to increase linkages and integration between the tourism sector and the local economy. Language, however, is the first barrier.
The project -X-change (to be read as “Exchange” but also as “For change”) wants to create solid linkages through the power of learning, teaching travellers a new language through the interaction with the local community. Exposure to the new culture, conversation with natives, street challenges, volunteering opportunities are at the core of this anti-conventional learning system.
The exchange will be bilateral as the project is intended to create a permanent impact in the local community. Profits are both shared with locals that are involved in the experience and used to finance English lessons for local children and adults, bridging the communication gap between local communities and travellers.
The project is starting in Panama, in pristine locations where tourism is still at a developing stage and much can be done to orient it toward collective benefit and communities’ inclusion.