In opportunistic times, people who know must be given a voice. Noelia Medina is one of them and that is why she has written the book How to rewrite tourism in the times of COVID-19 in 3 steps: a case study from the Canary Islands. Noelia Medina (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1970) has a degree in Translation and Interpretation from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and in German Philology from the University of Barcelona. His linguistic training has been complemented with a master’s degree in Management and Planning of Companies and Tourist Destinations, a second master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and a doctoral thesis on the personality of tourists who visit Gran Canaria . For eleven years he has taught German language and culture at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and currently works at the Gran Canaria Tourist Board as the head of tourism promotion on the Island in German-speaking countries. It is also a member of the International Network of Promoters of ODS Tourist Destinations.
Noelia Medina is a woman with a vision of the future, with so much vision of the future that she considers that the threat of climate change is a real risk and even more devastating for the Canary Islands than the effects of COVID-19 because it would lead us to lose our main attraction, Those 23 degrees on average all year round that make us the Islands of eternal spring. It is resilient, so resilient as to affirm that “migrants in hotels do not harm the image of the Canary Islands destination and they do, instead, the images of them sleeping in the open on the Arguineguín dock or the statements of some politicians promoting rejection of these people ”. It is also pragmatic, so pragmatic as to point out that “we cannot allow ourselves to continue with the entire accommodation plant paralyzed, when should we be working on adapting our complexes and infrastructures for people with reduced mobility, blind people or with different types of syndromes, at the same time than in offering them attractive options such as rehabilitation centers, within these same complexes, or excursions, as does the Inclusive Tourism company in Tenerife, which takes people in wheelchairs to visit Mount Teide. And he is also optimistic. So optimistic as to be able to see in the zero tourism crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic the opportunity to change the Florida model (tourism for grandparents) from which we still live in the Canary Islands and to which, according to the author, “ He has at most fifteen years to live, taking into account the average age of the senior tourist that we now have, which is 70 years ”.
If we had to summarize in one word Noelia Medina’s book, the word chosen would be sustainability, since it is the key to her work and on which the new model of tourism that has come to stay and that new tourists are imposing on us pivots. : millennials and centennials. “We cannot offer these new tourists what their parents and grandparents are looking for in the Canary Islands, which is the sun and tranquility, the beach, the mild climate and warm bones in winter here, fleeing the cold of Central Europe. They are digital natives who do not use tour operators to travel and who seek to get involved in destinations, take away experiences, and these experiences are achieved through contact and contact with the local ”.
Noelia Medina is clear about it, “we have to adapt to these tourists and this implies a total revolution towards sustainability, integral sustainability that consists of three aspects, the environmental one, which entails adapting our infrastructures and companies and making them efficient from the point of view energy, economic, which implies a distribution as equitable as possible of the benefits generated by tourism and that these remain in the destination, and social sustainability, which has to do with the social responsibility of companies and public administrations for the environment in which the tourist activity is carried out and in relation to the people who carry it out ”.
The tourism expert proposes to carry out this total revolution towards sustainability in 3 steps. The first is the creation of new tourism products in which the Canarian DNA is patent and give a sustainability wash to the globalized products that we have. “It is not about liquidating all of the above, but rather modifying the way we exploit and sell our resources,” Medina clarifies. “Sustainability is not contrary to sun and beach tourism, but we cannot continue to sell the globalized tourism products that we have been offering for more than 25 years and that you can find in any destination.” The novelty of her proposal is that the Gran Canaria author proposes to start up all the machinery at zero cost, returning to our DNA, to what makes us unique, creating our own tourist products in which traditional Canarian activities such as net fishing are recovered artisan, transhumance in the Risco Caído and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria, the draft in Ingenio or the crafts in Arucas, activities that, in this way, would be carried out again and that would be offered to tourists as experiences to enjoy in destiny”.
The second step is digital transformation. For Medina, digital transformation is a fact, but we run the risk of it being used as an end in itself and not as a means to achieve sustainability. “It is useless to have a powerful website if then the products we offer are going to be the same and if we do not apply social responsibility in the company.” And the third step to rewrite tourism in the Canary Islands in times of COVID-19 has to do with the social responsibility of companies and public administrations that also has to reach the classrooms. “We have to teach our children to be sustainable, to be socially responsible and this will translate into the care that the new generations make of our resources and of nature, of people and of animals, in short, of the environment in which they are who live.
Medina also explains in his book the risks involved in continuing to ignore the urgent need for sustainability and states that “more than any other pandemic, the Canary Islands should fear the risks posed by climate change for the Archipelago.” According to a study carried out by the SOCLIMPACT project, led by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 68% of tourists would stop coming to the Canary Islands if heat waves continue to increase. This means that if instead of being 30 degrees in summer, our temperature rises 5 or 6 degrees more, these tourists could choose to travel to other destinations. It is an upcoming and very real threat, taking into account the latest statements by the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, calling on world leaders to declare a joint state of climate emergencyGiven that the world is now 1.2 degrees warmer than it was during pre-industrial times, and if we don’t change course, we could reach a catastrophic 3-degree temperature rise by the end of the century.
Sketching a profile of the German tourist
Germany has returned to make the Islands an unsafe destination in recent days, our main emitter of tourists advises against flying to the Islands due to the lack of control of the pandemic. In the midst of this scenario, Medina draws up a profile of tourists from the Teutonic country, whom he knows well. “The German tourist is the most faithful we have, he is the quintessential repeater of the Canary Islands destination. It is a tourist who spends an average of 140 euros a day in the destination, although it is still in the dark, it is the tourist who brings us here ”. Faced with the negative stereotypes of other visitors, such as the British, who are also very important to us, but who have been associated with drunkenness, fights or leaving little money, Germans are well-loved tourists in the Canary Islands. “He is a very respectful tourist with nature, with local customs, and who likes to know where the money he invests in his visit is going,” says Medina.
The also professor of culture and German language at the ULPGC recalls that some 31 million Germans selflessly carry out voluntary actions related to social issues in their free time and that they were the tourists who most harshly criticized, along with the Nordics, the issue of the chambermaids, known as kellys, exploited at work, and who have even denounced sexual abuse by clients during their working hours. “This has been an important stain for the image of the tourism management of our destination, transcending our borders, since the international media have echoed the news on multiple occasions,” says the teacher, and tourists have stated on websites and social networks “who do not want to go back to a tourist destination where for them to have clean rooms, some ladies have to be exploited and forced to clean more than 20 rooms a day.” Noelia Medina affirms that this shows that they are “socially responsible and coherent, what they do in their country they also do when they go on vacation”. Therefore, if the Canary Islands tourism companies want to win over the German tourist, especially the new generations, millennials and centennials, they will have to work on sustainability and also social responsibility in their way of doing business.