June 2007 Issue: Hanging Tough

Solidarity is a funny thing, and when it comes to the business community it can be downright hilarious. Here’s a group of people who live day to day in cutthroat competition getting together to figure out what’s best for the common good.

The history of industry associations in Xela is a checkered one at best. Over the years we’ve had hotel associations, bar and restaurant associations, Spanish school associations, tour operator associations – even Internet café associations. They all start off the same way – groups of enthusiastic, motivated business owners with ideas and drive who want to improve the sector, customer service and, as a result, their own situation.

Then the problems start – personal grievances, infighting, self interest and politicking. Numbers start to dwindle as the idealists lose hope and the pragmatists see that the meetings are really just talkfests. Pretty soon membership is a joke and not even the Board of Directors bothers to turn up to meetings.

Just as the magazine was going to print for the June issue, a new Board of Directors was elected to Quetzaltenango’s Chamber of Tourism (CAMTUR). Xela’s actually had a CAMTUR for a couple of years now, but you could be forgiven for not having noticed.

There’s no doubt that Xela needs a body like this – a formal grouping of the entire tourism sector from bars to restaurants, hotels, schools, tour operators Internet cafés, etc.

One possible irony is that, a couple of years back, a very similar group got together and formulated a Strategic Plan for the tourism sector in Xela. It’s a beautiful document – well thought out and full of excellent, forward thinking ideas. Most departments in Guatemala have a Strategic Tourism Plan, but those in the know say that Xela’s is one of the best in the country.

But here’s the kicker – not one word of it has ever been implemented.

Hopefully, Xela’s newly invigorated Chamber of Tourism will be an inclusive, cohesive organization, and one that backs up its fine sentiments with concrete actions.

What we need is a body that can manage the growth in tourism in the city in a thoughtful and productive manner, learning from the mistakes in the past and moving in a sure footed way into the future.

That’s what we hope, anyway. Show us what you got, Chamber of Tourism.

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