Rapa Nui: Memories of the Future

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Children see the world from an even fresher standpoint than first-time tourists. Can that wide-open perspective be helpful in destination planning and generational future-proofing?  Karen Luz Córdova, Co-Founder of Chile-based Cuidadores de Destinos, answers with a resounding yes. Here’s how it worked on remote, heavily touristed Rapa Nui (formerly Easter Island).

Rapa Nui’s famous moai statues.

In Chile, a New Approach: Children as Stakeholders

In life, particularly in adulthood, human beings tend to overlook that which collectively benefits them. For instance, something as essential as breathing air places them in a community of  ‘breathers’ yet they often fail to recognize it. It’s this very omission that excludes them from the most beautiful actions, where collectivity with others can transpire into something extraordinarily wonderful.

In tourism, interacting with others is as evident as breathing air; it involves people, nature, and territories. And it is precisely people who hold the greatest potential for change.

What happens if we listen to the voices of children?

Aimed at creating a shared narrative for a wonderful future, forging meaningful partnerships among residents, defining the purpose of tourism as a tool to help make real those possible futures and defining new ways to measure the success of tourism activities, Memories of the Future was born.

Memories of the Future is a playful methodology that our organization, Cuidadores de Destinos – Destination Stewards or Caretakers – employs to incorporate the voices of children in tourism destination planning and management. This process helps bring young dreams to reality; it leverages tourism as a mechanism to creatively and innovatively drive sustainable development, and also protect what youth value most: their traditions, identities, biodiversity, and their future ambitions.

Memories of the Future transforms tourism into a tool that can be used in various ways, adaptive to the desires and intentions of the destinations where it is deployed.

It’s refreshing how youthful energy can breathe life into a space by awakening creativity and increasing the power of the collective imagination, which in turn integrates young aspirations for a better future into the territories and places they inhabit.

Memories of the Future is a journey that converts into a powerful tool for strengthening citizen participation from the outset, while eliminating special interests. The methodology also allows us to delve deeper and more meaningfully explore what makes destinations unique.

From the perspective of Cuidadores de Destinos, incorporating the voices of children in destination management only brings benefits, such as:

  • A Unique Perspective: Children perceive the world differently, and they think and dream as a collective. Their visions are organic and they are less judgmental than adults, characteristics that foster the development of innovative and creative ideas that adults might overlook.
  • Learning and Active Participation: Involving children in tourism destination management provides opportunities to educate them about the importance of sustainable tourism, respect for the environment, and the preservation of the cultural heritage in their territory. This promotes a sense of responsibility towards their environment and community.
  • Inclusion and Empowerment: Opening a space for children to participate in decision-making related to tourism in their community creates a sense of belonging and empowerment. It teaches, but more importantly shows them that their opinions are valued and that they play an important role in building a tourism destination, where care for place is at the forefront.

Rapa Nui Stewards

With this innovative methodology, we traveled to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the South Pacific Ocean, recognized as one of the most isolated and fascinating places in the world. Today, Rapa Nui is experiencing a challenging reality where the climate crisis has emerged as a latent threat, as it has in many fragile destinations, and younger generations do not feel indifferent about this threat.

The challenge, and goal, was to reach each of the grade schools on the island, understand their reality(ies) and, from the voice of these young residents, co-develop a Tourism Development Plan for the commune.

Children use maps and stickers to lay out visions for the future.

The result was as incredible as the landscapes of the place they inhabit. We met with a diverse collective spanning numerous age groups and life circumstances. Through this engagement, we found, without a doubt, that the most important common thread to drive the future for the island in 2030 was the protection of their ecosystems and traditions.

Four workshops were conducted where the results reflected the high sensitivity that the children and youth of the island have towards themes such as:

  • Environment
  • Climate crisis
  • Care and preservation of both material and non-material heritage
  • Education
  • Infrastructure Improvement
  • Care and protection of the sea
  • Community work and collaboration
  • Tourism awareness focused on visitors and residents

 

From the results obtained in the work sessions, we concluded, without a single doubt, that it is absolutely essential to continue incorporating the younger generations in the destination management of Rapa Nui.

Collectively, we identified four key dimensions for the sustainable development of the territory.

  1. Environmental and cultural education
  2. Participation in conservation projects
  3. Promotion of responsible tourism
  4. Participation in community planning

As a result, we believe that involving children in planning and decision-making can enhance a sense of responsibility and connection with their home, as well as promote greater transmission of knowledge and cultural traditions to those visiting the territory. The participation of children in destination management in Rapa Nui is key to the sustainable development and preservation of the island.

Now, with the results from Memories of the Future developed with the children of Rapa Nui, it is expected that they will be incorporated into the island’s Tourism Development Plan. The project, driven by the Municipality, considers various programs to be developed by the year 2030, and undoubtedly the profound vision of the new generations is a concrete contribution to a successful outcome.

The aspiration of Cuidadores de Destinos is that the work with children remains sustained over time; their perspective is clear, well-founded, and realistic. Similarly, they navigate without prejudice, embracing dreams that include others; their participation and ideas are a valuable addition to any project that envisions wonderful futures for the territory they inhabit.

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