What is “community based tourism” and how does it purport to safeguard pristine places?
—Erin O”Neill, Tukwila, WA
Community based tourism refers to situations in which local people—usually those that are poor or economically marginalized in very rural parts of the world—open up their homes and communities to visitors seeking sustainably achieved cultural, educational or recreational travel experiences.
Under a community-based tourism arrangement, unique benefits accrue to both the traveler and the hosts: Travelers usually accustomed to chain hotels and beachfront resorts discover local habitats and wildlife and learn about traditional cultures and the economic realities of life in developing countries. And the host communities are able to generate lucrative revenues that can replace income previously earned from destructive resource extraction operations or other unsustainable forms of economic support.
Locals earn income as land managers, entrepreneurs or food and service providers—and at least part of the tourist income is set aside for projects which provide benefits to the community as a whole. And just as important, says ResponsibleTravel.com, which promotes community based tourism in a partnership with Conservation International, the communities become “aware of the commercial and social value placed on their natural and cultural heritage through tourism,” thus fostering a commitment to resource conservation.