What is community-based tourism?
Community-based tourism (CBT) is a way of sustainable tourism that allows travellers to closely connect to local communities. Tourism where travellers are invited into local homes. Experiencing the actual local culture, the diversity, local rituals and beliefs.
The aim of CBT is directly benefiting local communities financially, while travellers experience local way of life. Communities that participate in community-based tourism are strong, resilient and ready to show travellers their culture.
Be aware that CBT is a very sensitive segment. That’s why, it’s essential that it’s developed and operated right to ensure actual benefits for the local communities. It’s a growing niche market, as more and more travellers are looking for authentic experiences that create benefits locally.
This article gives you the basic tools to develop community-based tourism experiences yourself and to create a win-win-win situation.
In this article
What are the benefits of community-based tourism?
The unique feature of community-based tourism is the fact that tourism experiences are hosted and managed by local communities. Among others, the key benefits of CBT are that it:
- Sustains local culture for future generations
- Facilitates local employment
- Directly benefits locals financially
- Creates and empowers resilient and strong communities
- Adds value to your business with unique experiences
- Supports the movement of good tourism
Examples of community-based tourism
While every destination and local cultures are different, the key concept of community-based tourism is fairly similar. That’s to say, that the activities can also be applied and developed in almost all destinations. Also, it’s important to stay away from staged activities and to include interaction.
“Always remember: what’s ordinary for the local community is a unique experience for the traveller!”
Examples of CBT experiences are:
- Cooking and tasting local food
- Visiting a local market
- Walk through the village
- Working on the field
- Experiencing the coffee process
- Fishing or sailing with locals
- Biking tour around the village
- Handcrafting or painting
- Storytelling by elders
- Homestay or farmstay
7 tips to develop community-based tourism
When developing community-based tourism according to the above-mentioned steps, there are more key aspects to remember and to pay close attention to. As said before, CBT is a sensitive form of tourism. Above all, it’s important that both the local community as the traveller enjoys the experience.
1. Connect with the local community
The local community is the key element of your experience. Connect with them, build trust, and think about tourism together. What is unique about their culture and what are they willing to share? To what extent do they want to change their lives? Make sure to collaborate and to give them responsibility and a voice in the entire experience.
2. Train locals in tourism
Interacting with travellers from different cultures can be a challenge for local communities. It’s important to learn communities how to communicate with travellers. How and which information to share and to make them feel welcome. Always use guides from the community itself as they will know all the ins and outs of the community. It will also ensure the profits stay in the community.
3. Create independency
Community-based tourism is not developed for the sake of tour operators. Local communities want to improve their livelihood and build their own future. Construct cooperative ownership. The success rate of the tourism experience depends on the communities’ sense of ownership. Let them take care of their own tourism product and enjoy the benefits.
4. Include interactive elements
In the experience economy trend, travellers request experiences to be entertaining, educational, imaginative and attractive. They are looking for experiences where they can participate instead of only watching and visiting. Engage them in the local culture, have them do, try and taste things and give them a truly unique experience.
5. Think about the language
Travellers are looking for experiences with interaction. Therefore, language is an important aspect for community-based tourism. How are your travellers going to communicate with the host? The best solution will be to have an English-speaking guide who is able to communicate with both the host as travellers in an enthusiastic manner.
6. Decide on the duration
Most travellers will step out of their own comfort zone when doing a community-based tourism experience. Therefore, it’s important that your experiences are not too long and uncomfortable for the traveller. When you start with CBT, focus on (half) day experiences first. This way, travellers can ease into it and they are also easier to develop.
7. Ensure safety
As travellers are entering an unknown area, they will trust upon the guide to keep them safe. It’s important that the guide is trained in emergency situations and also knows how to explain safety issues to the travellers. Thereby, hygiene and sanitation of the local community is also very important. Especially for experiences with food and in times of COVDID-19.
Community-based tourism in practice
Tour operators come in all sizes and all have a different impact on tourism destinations. Among these tour operators, there are some inspiring businesses that completely focus on benefitting local communities. Their aim is to use tourism as a tool to create a better life and future for communities and to protect the environment at the same time.
Be inspired by the following community-based projects that aim to benefit local communities by offering travellers a unique experience.
When done right, community-based tourism is the ultimate way of good tourism. It’s in the perfect position to create better lives for local communities, to share their stories, and to offer travellers unique experiences. Keep the above 7 tips in mind when developing CBT experiences to ensure success stories. Never forget the purpose, focus on creating win-win-win situations and commit yourself to good tourism for communities and travellers.