Issue - October 2008

October 2008

What is ecotourism? Is this kind of tourism in Bolivia? Why? Who gets involved in ecotourism? How important is it to be responsible with nature and small communities? more...

October 2008


An interview with Sistor Uturunco, the Director of Destinos, Cochabamba's magazine of rural and cultural tourism.
Destinos was born two years ago to promote the tourism initiatives of the villages of Cochabamba but it soon developed, extending its field to include the whole of Bolivia.
Every month Destinos researches an interesting Bolivian natural area, communicating useful travel information to readers.
The magazine is dedicated to all travelers and it is distributed across the city, from libraries to the airports.

Cocha-banner: How did you start your profession?

Sistor Uturunco: I started as a journalist at Los Tiempos, the newspaper of Cochabamba. Here I began to deal with local tourism and I continued working with this area which led to the creation of Destinos, where now I work with my wife.

CB: Who is Destinos dedicated to?

SU: The public is heterogeneous: foreign travelers, students preparing their thesis and collectors. You do not find Destinos in newsstands but we distribute it in strategic places such as La casa de la Libertad in Sucre or La Casa Nacional de la Moneda of Potosí, architectonical palaces which attracts many visitors every day. Our purpose is to show what Bolivia has to offer; its richness sometimes is even unknown for the inhabitants.
Bolivia has a wide natural heritage but it is yet a potential. We discover it and make it known to the public to produce a genuine interest in these places.
Each edition investigates a natural and cultural place or introduces a local festivity.
We also print monthly special editions which are like an addition to the main magazine – which is sold every three months – and complete it with gastronomic, archeological and anthropological information.

CB: What are the criteria for the choice of themes?

SU: We often receive suggestions; we try to meet the traveler’s interests but we always prefer the less known solutions. We personally travel. I always test the tour I am going to propose: the various means of transportation available, the hostels, the best restaurants and some suggested activities compose a short “traveler’s guide”, situated in the last page of the magazine. For example we recently discovered the “Ruta Intersalar”, an alternative route to visit the Salar of Uyuni which also crosses its surrounding district.

CB: Traveling around Bolivia, you have the privilege to personally live in these places and the chance to know what tourism really represents for Bolivia. As you said before, this field still has to grow but what are the problems with tourism?

SU: The problems concern two main areas. As regards the Institutions, we do not have a State policy. The people who work with tourism are not specialists at all; they work behind this reality. We do not have laws to preserve this “business” which can be so defined because it is a fundamental source for the development of this Country. While on the side of the communities, we face a lack of the basic services: the destinations are often not equipped enough, they are not furnished with the basic services such as drinking water, shower and the food is sometimes inadequate. Besides, tourist is still synonymous of “dollars” and the foreign travelers often pay more than anyone else: this problem is hard to solve because this belief belongs to our culture.

CB: What kinds of people are involved in these projects?

SU: Many people are involved in Ecotourism projects: the places, the culture and the richness owned by the inhabitants; the public institutions and the private ones such as tourism operators and agencies. A project developed around a natural area can not be independent from the town and the district where it is located. Finally there is the promotion of the means of communication which connect the reality of each natural area and the people who want to be informed about these eco-tourism initiatives.
To not cause damages to the environment and to protect the rural realities, it is important these actors working together.

CB: Is there a difference between environmental and communitarian tourism?

SU: I think these words have the same meaning: a type of tourism developed in harmony both with the communities and with the environment. In my opinion, tourism has to be integral; it has to involve each of the subject before stated. The idea is that the community is the author of its own improvement; however, tourism does not have to be the main activity for it. Many little and medium enterprises have recently joined this field, working alongside the communities and trying to make their interests meet the native’s ones. I think that tourism, here as elsewhere, is an inexhaustible resource that local people should try to increase to make a distinction between positive and detrimental tourism.

CB: The publication has started dealing with the Department of Cochabamba and soon has extended its attention to the others. What will be the next subject of the Destinos?

SU: The next number will explore Caracollo, in Cochabamba again. Since the beginning the themes have extended but Destinos is essentially a Cochabamba’s magazine, a local publication where the inhabitants can recognize themselves.

The Bolivian non profit organization DELPIA ( Fundación para el Desarollo local de Pueblos Indígenas Amazónico-andinos) founded in 2006 is an initiative of young professionals who want to protect the culture and the territories of the Yuracaré and Trinitarians...

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