How Community-Based Tourism Benefits Local Communities


Photo by Kristina Tolmacheva

When consumers engage with community-based tourism, they support locals in a way that is economically, socially and environmentally regenerative. This week’s blog will break down three specific benefits of community-based tourism: female empowerment, marine conservation and sustainable wildlife experiences.

What Is Community-Based Tourism?

The term “community-based tourism” signifies a form of sustainable tourism where community members invite visitors in and provide them with an authentic experience. It helps residents access 100% of the financial benefits instead of corporations or a third party. Community-based tourism also places emphasis on resource conservation. Some companies put a portion of their profits into protecting the local ecosystem, supporting sustainable agriculture and emission reduction technology.

This tourism variation is also affordable for any tourist budget and choosing excursions and other trips locally is more cost-effective than choosing corporate alternatives. Individuals who choose CBT can still stay within their budget while having a unique travel experience, which is a win-win!

Before highlighting a few examples of community-based tourism experiences, let’s dive into why community-based and community-run tourism products are the way forward by looking into how they contrast with corporate tourism practices.

Contrasting Corporate Tourism and Community-Based Tourism

Before unpacking the benefits of community-based tourism (CBT), it is important to first see how practices differ between CBT and corporate or large-scale tourism practices.

Where big name cruise liners and tourism operators offer an easy and luxurious way to visit many hotspots around the world, locally-run experiences offer small-scale and unique experiences for those wanting to get to know the place they are visiting. These types of travel products not only bring benefits for the communities themselves, but also manage biodiversity and the surroundings in a more sustainable way.

With this reasoning, a local guide would be more likely to sail individuals out to a snorkeling spot as a way to minimize tourism’s impact on their local ecosystem. Whereas, a corporate entity would be more likely to have a tight itinerary and use a faster method (like a motorboat) to shuttle tourists back and forth, not taking into account the impact of reefs or biodiversity in the area.

It is important to keep in mind that corporate entities value grand experiences that pack a lot of activities into short periods of time and many times do not take local ecology into account when planning excursions. They may shuttle individuals to an excursion spot on dumping pollution into the ocean and releasing greenhouse gas emissions from fuel and energy, a huge part of their carbon footprint. Consequentially, these CO2 emissions increase the environment’s light-to-heat conversion rate and overtime raise the planet’s temperature, creating adverse ecological effects like ocean acidification, a factor that is causing negative impacts on the ocean like coral bleaching. Minimizing emissions and surface pollution is therefore essential for tourism operators of all sizes in high-tourism regions and for local communities who rely on natural assets to attract tourists. This motivation, to keep their homeland thriving, is why local or community-based tourism practices will be more prone to operate in a way that is more environmentally sustainable.

Outside of visitor benefits, community-based tourism has the power to support residents and the environment, which you’ll read more about in the three examples below.

1. Female Empowerment

Community-based tourism can provide opportunities to support women in areas where unemployment is high or where inequalities have previously kept them from entering into the workforce. An example of a success story is in Nepal, where a group of female community members cook, maintain their homes, and guide tourists around the region.

When visitors began entering the community, women took advantage of increased job opportunities. They began charging tourists for their meals and hospitality services, earning a fair wage out of their hospitality. The women in the community also discovered that they could use their knowledge of the land to create new trekking opportunities for tourists as mountain guides. Before establishing community-based tourism, doing this kind of work would have been unprofitable, but the prospects from CBT changed that by creating fair and lucrative job opportunities for these women.

2. Supporting the Aquatic Ecosystem and Local Livelihoods

Local instructors and tourism professionals know their surrounding marine environment better than anyone. If there is an endangered species in the area or a coral reef, locals will know how to navigate in a way to avoid harm, teaching visitors about marine biodiversity at the same time and promoting conservation.

The marine tourism industry is a huge driver of local economic growth not only for those working directly in the industry, but also for the surrounding hotels, restaurants and tourist businesses in the community.

Therefore, by choosing local spots off the beaten path, this form of community-based tourism ensures that tourism does not cause harm to marine species, while allowing for locals to reap the benefits of the marine tourism industry.

3. Encouraging Sustainable Wildlife Interactions & Conservation

Local guides have the power to increase global knowledge about their local species by teaching visitors about their ecosystems and wildlife. Community-led tours to see wildlife in their natural environments is a much better alternative to seeing these species in captivity or interacting with them in an unsustainable way. Locals understand the value and delicate balance between wildlife and their ecosystem and are therefore are more likely to a provide a sustainable experience for guests without upsetting this balance.

Profits from this form of community-based tourism can likewise be used for the conservation of species and jobs in conservation, which gives back in a way that keeps these types of tourism experiences ongoing.

Choosing a Community-Based Tourism Experience

Now that you understand the potential benefits of community-based tourism, you can keep these types of experiences in mind for your next trip. There are plenty of community-based tourism experiences out there for every type of traveler whether you are visiting a remote mountain region, a touristy coastal area or anything in between.

Think about the type of experience that you are looking for and your economic, environmental and experience-based values and once you choose a CBT experience, learn more about the communities that you will visit before you arrive.

No matter what type of community-based tourism activity you choose, you can rest assured that you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime.

Sea Going Green is a sustainable tourism consultancy working with tourism operators, coastal hotels and destinations to support the growth of their environmental and social sustainability.

Interested in adding community-based tourism experiences into your tourism package? Let’s discuss.

 When consumers engage with community-based tourism, they support locals in
a way that is economically, socially and environmentally regenerative.

This week’s blog will break down three specific benefits of community-based
tourism: female empowerment, marine conservation and sustainable wildlife
experiences.Read MoreSustainable LivingBlog – Sea Going Green


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