This year marks the thirty-ninth year of World Tourism Day with the theme “Tourism and Jobs, A Better Future for All.”
Beginning in 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization began the annual celebration of World Tourism Day on September 27 with the purpose of raising awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.
Each year, a new theme is chosen and as per the UNWTO General Assembly decision at its Twelfth Session in Istanbul, Turkey in 1997, a host country is designated each year to act as the Organization’s partner, and this year, excitement abounds in India, this year’s World Tourism Day host!
Getting down to brass tacks, what does this year’s theme really mean in practical terms. Well, it would appear that there are three basic components to successfully launch initiatives moving forward. These include Education, Skills and Jobs, regardless of geographic area.
From a global standpoint, international travel has never been bigger and it continues to grow. In essence, the world has gotten smaller because of technology, social media and overall growth socio-economically during the last half century. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that internationally there were just 25 million tourist arrivals in 1950. Just 68 years later, in 2018, this number has increased to 1.4 billion international arrivals per year. This is a 56-fold increase.*
People have become more interested in the far-reaching corners of the globe - which is relative depending on where they live - and with the growth in the international tourism industry, travel has never been more accessible. However, with this increase in demand comes the need for better educated tourism professionals, with honed skills that include not only knowledge of the places to which they are either assisting people to visit, but also an appreciation and respect for the communities within which they are creating tours and travel opportunities.
The skills required for travel professionals are increasingly under the global microscope with the need to be more sophisticated as a result of the plethora of online rating sites that can make or break a business’ reputation.
The Bronx, New York, is an example of a New York City destination which is becoming increasingly recognized as an important tourist focal point. Through growing internet exposure and word of mouth, curiosity is on the rise for this outer borough which is home to national historical sites and unique cultural neighborhoods and nuances and joins the ranks of many other formerly less visited places around the world.
As a result, the necessity for qualified local tour guides with a keen knowledge of the area, relationships with local business owners and a commitment to sustainable tourism has never been more critical.
Whether it is The Bronx or any international locality, a vital aspect of being a well educated and skilled tourism professional is the incorporation of sustainable business practices which show a greater respect for the local residents, the community at large and the native culture and social components that make up the area. The result is that it impresses a sense of consideration and local awareness on their visiting clientele.
These sustainable businesses practices include using public transportation and walking through neighborhoods and villages, keeping tour group sizes small and manageable, supporting small businesses and local vendors (which brings economic growth to individual neighborhoods) an insistence on respect and polite interaction with community inhabitants and a commitment to preserving the culture and strong sense of history for the tourist area.
New York City is taking action by creating a pathway to promote sustainable practices. The Big Apple aims to make the city carbon-neutral by 2050 and buildings more energy efficient.
When it comes to jobs, consider the fact that travel and tourism provide employment to nearly 300 million people in the world either directly or indirectly. This number equates to 1 out of 10 jobs in the world being provided by the Tourism sector. In fact, when it comes to small nations like Bhutan, Maldives and Cambodia, to name a few, 40% of the people earn their livelihoods from the travel and tourism Sector.
What’s more, this sector of the jobs market affords equal opportunities for both men and women with relatively accessible skills unlike other professions that may require advanced degrees and technological knowledge. Tourism jobs are quite diverse as well, considering the comprehensive nature of the travel industry. Building a career can range from becoming a travel agent and planner, to hotel industry professional, tour operators, event planner, tour guide and even fringe craftspeople such as chefs, public relations executives writers and online critics and webinar teachers.
It would seem obvious that this could become a growing field of study for institutions of higher learning around the globe and a career choice worth considering.
Till next time,
BAAD in The Bronx
By Diego Robayo
The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD) was founded in 1998 and started out as an association to promote artists that belonged to minority groups whose rights at that time were still unrecognized by many in society by dancer Arthur Aviles and writer Charles Rice-Gonzalez, two LGBT rights advocates, and artists that leverage art to prompt societal development.
Although their professions are different, they both use art to promote inclusion of groups that have traditionally been excluded from society.
In 2013, BAAD left the South Bronx and settled down in the Westchester Square neighborhood of the East Bronx in a historic landmark building that was built between 1882 and 1883.
Queer artists and artists of color have been able to express their ideas and feelings in the welcoming atmosphere of BAAD. This was an extraordinary social advancement at the time the organization was founded, considering that in 1998 the foundations of gay rights were still fragile.
However, several events that occurred that year strengthened them. For instance, the first open lesbian, Tammy Baldwin, was elected to federal office in 1998.
Aviles is a world-known performer who has been awarded with the highest distinctions in dance. In 1996, he established his own dance company in Paris, called Arthur Aviles Typical theatre, and one year later, he moved it to the South Bronx, the place where he was raised. He then teamed up with Charles Rice-Gonzalez to create BAAD.
Rice-Gonzalez’s writings highlights the humanity of the South Bronx, which has been largely overshadowed by the neighborhood’s “messed-up reputation.” His debut novel, El Chulito (2011), was deemed as the first queer Puerto Rican novel set in the U.S.
Although they both focus on different forms of art, they posses the common passion of advocating for gay rights, and this inclusion has been the core foundation of BAAD, which today presents empowering work of women, people of color and LGBT community.
The Bronx has been an incubator for many cultural movements, setting models to follow for new artists. For instance, in the 1970s, the borough was credited for conceiving what ultimately became known as Hip Hop.
This cultural efflorescence in The Bronx allowed BAAD to advance its cultural initiatives, despite how irreverent they were considered by some people.
Despite being a borough that has been a cradle of progressive cultural movements it is also home of religious communities that may perceive BAAD’s presence with scorn. Compared to other ethnic groups, Latinos have one of the highest rates of affiliation to Christianity, and their connection to Christianity tends to come with derision towards ideas or movements that challenge their values.
One of BAAD’s most recent arts initiatives is called Trasnvisionaries and it features cabaret dancers, poets, musicians, dancers and performers who identify themselves as Transgender. It is a courageous process that has brought about expressions of ostracism from community members that disapprove BAAD’s progressive and liberal thinking.
However, the overall acceptance from the public has been favorable, even among traditional and conservative groups.
When BAAD moved to its current location in 2013, it organized a welcoming event, inviting community representatives that included a sister from the Episcopal Church which owns the building where they are located.
The event included a performance of half naked men with hefty bodies kissing each other and by the end of the show the sister thanked BAAD for the evening after having enjoyed the show.
BAAD’s relation with the Episcopal Church illustrates how art unites people of contrasting ideas, in a way that other forms of expression cannot. Arthur Aviles is a widely acclaimed dancer whose performances transmit such beauty that other aspects of him, which are more controversial, are faded into the background of puritan minds.
In 2003 The New York Times wrote: “If you don’t know Mr. Aviles, you haven’t seen one of the great modern dancers of the last 15 years.”
By Diego Robayo
Encouraged by subsidy programs that offered zero-down mortgage payments on houses in other counties, most of the middle-class had left The Bronx by the 1970’s. The borough became an enclave for working- class immigrants, African Americans and Puerto Ricans, many from East Harlem or El Barrio.
Unfortunately, an unwanted visitor was also making its debut.
An almost invisible visitor in the form of a white powder that filled people’s lungs with an acrid smoke, crack, called by some the “fast food” of drugs, brought with it an epidemic of additional poverty and crime.
In the midst of this gloomy time, Mike Amadeo found the perfect conditions to start a business. He established a store that would maintain the spirit of Latino culture in the same place where another Latino music store, called Casa Hernandez, had been functioning since 1941, before Mike took over the place. Mike named his new store Casa Amadeo, and since the 1960s until today, it has been in the same place in the South Bronx. It remains the oldest Latino music store in New York City, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
Mike Amadeo’s affinity for music began when he was a little boy. He made a living out of this passion when he arrived to New York City from Puerto Rico. As a member of a salsa music group called Los Tres Reyes, he recorded his music with a company called Compañía Alegre (The Happy Company), which was located in the same building as Casa Amadeo. In his lifetime, Mike has composed over 200 songs.
Mike moved to the South Bronx in 1969 when he rented a shop at 786 Prospect Avenue (also known as 850 Longwood Avenue) for a price much lower than the average rent of the city. At the time, many of the longtime residents were fleeing the area, which was starting to feel more like a war zone than a neighborhood, but Mike was lured by the cheap rent and the increasing Latino community.
New York City has always been the home of diverse cultures and values, and this diversity created the perfect place for Mike to prevail and establish a profitable enterprise. The Hispanic population was becoming the majority in the South Bronx, and they became Mike’s most distinguished customers. He filled up the stalls of his store with Latino music.
Latinos love to dance, and all the countries that comprise South and Central America have their own original rhythms with the same festive cadence. They all are danced vividly, and give Latino countries a cheery ambience. This cultural bliss was sustained by Casa Amadeo, as Mike was providing the community with the most iconic salsa discs.
Large numbers of Latinos began to arrive to the South Bronx in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and they encountered a bleak atmosphere infested by drugs and decay. To uphold their culture, Latino nightclubs began to prosper, and they became a shelter for the joyous identity of immigrants coming from South and Central America.
Soon enough, these nightclubs became Mike’s privileged customers. Mike was supplying jukeboxes in Latino nightclubs with compact discs, and his customer base continued to grow, while at the same time he was paying a very low rent in a depressed neighborhood.
Only a few people had Mike’s determination to stay in The Bronx at that time. In the 1970’s, this borough lost one in five residents, and its population declined from 1.472 million to 1.169 million. As The Bronx continued to be neglected, the circumstances for Mike became harder, but his determination to stay remained strong. .
For more than two years, the building where his store is located was abandoned and no one was collecting the rent. Junkies constantly broke into the building, and sometimes into his store. Utilities were shut down, and Mike had to get water from the fire hydrant outside his building which he carried with a bucket into his space. He eventually convinced ConEdison to reconnect the utility supply.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter visited The Bronx and walked along Charlotte Street, just some blocks away from Casa Amadeo. The New York Times covered this visit by saying that the president “viewed some of the country’s worst urban blight, rubble‐strewn lots and open fire hydrants, and people shouting ‘Give us money!’”
Amongst this bleak landscape, Mike’s business was flourishing. The store became a gathering place for Latino culture and his creativity grew delightful songs written by him on the counters of the store. The entire borough was falling apart, but the interior of Mike’s store was radiating colorful beams of imagination that united the community.
Today, Mike has a deep bond with his store, even though it does not provide him with the necessary income to cover his expenses. However, the emotional reward of having overcome those dark times is ample satisfaction.
Mike blames the decline of his store on two reasons : the disruption caused by digital music and the Giuliani administration. Most traditional businesses had to reinvent themselves in the last decades due to the arrival of the digital platforms. Mike’s business was in the center of this wide-reaching turmoil.
Additionally, in the 1990’s, Mayor Giuliani’s administration required that specifically zoned “cabaret” business apply for license renewal every two years for a fee up to $1,300. This requirement got rid of many informal nightclubs that were operating without any license. Mike believed that by doing so, Giuliani criminalized the city’s nightlife.
Casual buyers of music could now access to all the music they wanted online, and many nightclubs with jukeboxes that demanded Mike’s compact discs are now on the verge of disappearing or are gone, but Mike’s determination has remained strong. From Monday to Saturday, he arrives at 11:00 in the morning to keep his store running.
At the age of 84, he is energetic enough to pull up the heavy gates of his store, answer the phone, offer interviews, and attend to his customers; most of whom are seniors that spend a great deal of time walking around the store, staring at compact discs of old salsa orchestras that trigger a sense of nostalgia.
That same nostalgia, and perhaps melancholy, is also present in Mike, as he shows an LP record that contains the music of his father, who also was a prominent musician, and abandoned Mike when he was a little child living in Puerto Rico. Mike talks of his father with both admiration and sorrow. He proudly played the music of his father, while saying “What kind of affection could I have for someone who abandoned me when I was a child?”
Elisa is a travel blogger and freelance writer. She is co-founder of TravelinCousins.com travel blog and writes a weekly column for ThisIsTheBronx.info.