Continuing our series of women entrepreneurs and sustainability change makers, meet Mariana Madureira. Mariana tells us about the current state of sustainable tourism in Brazil, how social entrepreneurship is benefiting local communities, and the main challenges Brazil faces as tourist destination.
- Community-based tourism in Brazil;
- The current state of tourism sustainability in Brazil;
- The main challenges Brazil faces regarding sustainable tourism development;
- Tips for female entrepreneurs on how to succeed with a social enterprise.
Mariana, your home country of Brazil is widely admired for its breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural traditions, but also pitied for its social inequality and large-scale environmental degradation. Do you remember when you first thought about the sustainability of tourism? What got you interested in the topic?
I’ve started thinking about tourism as a force for good when I traveled to the USA for an exchange program during high school. I had the chance to live with a family totally different from my own and to experience a different view of the world. When I came back, I noticed I was a much more open and tolerant person than most of my acquaintances. I realized then how important traveling is for self-consciousness, and the potential tourism has for teaching us about people, history and the environment, as well as connecting us as human beings. So, at the age of 16, I decided to study tourism.
At university, I had the opportunity to think about the wide impacts of tourism on destination communities and the environment. I became particularly interested in the topics of gentrification, heritage and authenticity – on which I focused my master thesis.
Reinforcing the importance of local people and their culture, and valuing simplicity, seems to me a great tool to fight standardization and culture loss. If we add up the income generated through tourism as a stimulus for keeping people in their original places, community-based tourism [CBT] can really help sustainable development.
With Raízes we developed a five year project in the Jequitinhonha Valley that we are very proud of and which we consider a successful case of CBT.
I’m also a volunteer for Projeto Bagagem, an NGO that supports Turisol (Brazilian Network of Solidarity and Community Based Tourism) and promotes CBT in Brazil.
And I’ve decided to keep studying to better understand the potential of tourism for change: I’m currently a PhD researcher in psychosociology of communities and social ecology.