200 students from different Colombian educational institutions participated at the Forum on Talent Development in Tourism organized by the University of Medellin and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to discuss topics related to education and tourism.
Medellin, September 2015 – Students from all over Colombia arrived early in the morning to attend the Forum on Talent Development in Tourism, an event organized by the University of Medellin and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
They were convened to this important meeting to discuss the role tourism plays in economic growth and social transformation. Waiting for them at the University of Medellin’s Auditorium were Mr. Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary General, Ms. Sandra Howard, Vice Minister of Tourism of Colombia and Dean Nestor Hincapie Vargas.
Two of the participating students had the opportunity to share their own experiences as young entrepreneurs in the tourism sector.
Design Your Own “Silleta,” Floral Display
Felipe Londono comes from Santa Helena, Antioquia; a small town surrounded by mountains where he works as a flower farmer. With the support of ProColombia Felipe is attending the Colegio Mayor de Antioquia and learning how to offer the best and most effective attention to his farm’s visitors. Most of them are international tourists eager to learn how to design their own “Silleta.” A “Silleta” is a large basket filled with an elaborate display of different flowers from the region.
Since working with ProColombia Felipe has improved his quality of life and that of his family and community.
Felipe arrived on campus for the event wearing his traditional clothes of “silletero,” – the person who carries the floral displays and presented UNWTO Secretary General with a small figure representing a “silletero” as a gift.
Upon presenting the art piece, Felipe said “On the behalf of all Colombians, I ask you to help us in promoting Medellín and all of Colombia throughout the world.” The exchange ended with an emotional embrace between the two of them.
“I Want to Use Tourism to Close the Gaps”
Nataly Pineros Suárez is a 25 year old student who traveled from Bogotá to participate in the forum. She was invited by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism as an accomplished student who started working in the sector by opening a family owned restaurant near her university.
Nataly’s focus is on improving the quality of the food offered to travelers. However, her long term goal is to be able to find ways to close the existing gaps between the younger generation and the tourism sector.
These gaps often come from a lack of innovation and authenticity as stressed by Secretary General. “Tourists want to learn about the region they are travelling to. By offering authentic experiences such as local traditions and gastronomy, a region can increase the number of visitors and generate more income.”
Ms. Suarez asked Mr. Rifai, “How can achieving peace in Colombia benefit the country’s young tourism entrepreneurs?” To which UNWTO Secretary General responded “with peace in Colombia, many of the country’s regions and business people that could not benefit from tourism before will be able to participate in the sector and create productive ventures.”