Community-based tourism is a form of sustainable travel that has grown significantly in recent years.
Let’s explore how this way of travelling can contribute to the development of regions in the world while enriching a travellers’ experience.
What is community-based tourism?
Community-based tourism can be defined as a way of travelling that is distinguished by its emphasis on interaction with local communities.
It is most often practised in rural, rather poor areas.
In addition to the economic benefits (equitable redistribution of income, job creation…) for the entire population, community-based tourism has the following objectives:
- Making the host population responsible for the welcoming, guidance and well-being of travellers;
- Participatory governance;
- Strengthening the sense of pride and belonging among the locals;
- The promotion of culture, traditions and local heritage;
- Investment in local structures already involved in tourism (accommodation, restaurants, etc.).
All participants in a community-based tourism project must contribute to improving the quality of life of the local population and ensure its sustainability.
They must also be interested in the social, environmental, cultural, political and economic impacts that the project may have on the destination.
What are the benefits for travellers?
Community-based tourism does not only bring advantages to the host population.
For travellers, this form of immersion in the lifestyle of the local population – for example, simply by choosing a homestay as your accomodation – offers significant benefits:
- The creation of relationships between host populations and tourists;
- More than a trip, living an experience of intercultural sharing;
- A stay immersed in a specific culture and its traditions;
- The discovery of places preserved from mass tourism;
- The pleasure of choosing a more responsible way of travelling;
- An ideal opportunity for travellers in search of authenticity and participative projects.
The keys to successful community-based tourism projects
Putting the local population at the centre of tourism projects must be a priority.
The residents of the destination visited must show an interest in these projects and approve them before any action is taken.
The objectives sought and the means planned to achieve them must be clearly explained to the community; in fact, each member of the community must have a clear understanding of how each project will be carried out, as if he or she were the initiator of the project.
To help in the decision-making process and to ensure that everyone participates equally, a person or persons in charge can be designated.
A high degree of cooperation between the people involved and respectful behaviours at all times are the keys to the success of a community tourism project.
Community-based tourism around the world
Several community-based tourism initiatives have taken place and are still taking place in different parts of the world.
For example, in Guatemala and other parts of Latin America, which have been affected by the revolutionary culture, collaboration has been established with different organizations.
In Quebec, the community of Manawan, which is part of the Aboriginal Atikamekw Nation, has designed a community-based tourism project that consists of welcoming travellers in a context of cultural exchange and adventure with local guides.
The program includes an overnight stay in a real tepee. This project has helped create new businesses and jobs, while promoting the beauty of Quebec’s landscapes and the richness of Amerindian traditions.
In Kenya, community-based and sustainable tourism projects have become just as profitable as the export of tea, coffee and horticultural products.
In Jamaica, more specifically in Montego Bay, the Rastafari Indigenous Village cultural centre welcomes tourists who come to discover Jamaica’s natural heritage. They meet authentic families of Rastafarian culture and are invited to share their daily activities: handicrafts, local cuisine, traditional horticulture, music and dance, initiation to organic medicinal herbal medicine.
Do your research first
Some tour operators may be more interested in marketing the natural beauty of a destination than in preserving its integrity.
Where the environment in question has been damaged, they may propose virgin territory further away for your travel experience.
Understandably, locals are concerned about this attitude and want to ensure that their environment and their well-being as a community are respected.
Those interested in experimenting community-based tourism must therefore ensure that they choose serious travel operators who take into account current and future social and environmental impacts.
Community-based tourism is often the lifeline of many developing countries. In addition to giving them new economic opportunities, this way of travelling in a different way encourages equity and solidarity.