As life finally starts to get back to normal in countries with high vaccination rates, many people are eagerly looking forward to their first vacation in more than a year. As we return to travel, we urge you to consider investing in community-based tourism (CBT). This form of sustainable tourism emphasizes the well-being of the communities we visit by traveling in a respectful and ethical manner.
What is community-based tourism?
CBT doesn’t focus specifically on sustainability or local ecology, although those are part of it, rather it’s meant to benefit the community and its environment as a whole. It emphasizes cultural immersion and cooperation to ensure that tourism benefits the core communities of the regions we’re visiting.
What does CBT look like?
CBT often involves supporting local producers and vendors, patronizing local restaurants outside of large hotels and chains, and seeking to educate oneself about local culture and history. For example, in Madi Valley, Nepal, CBT works to support local farmers as they host guests for farm stays to supplement declining agricultural income.
What are the benefits?
CBT primarily works to stimulate the local economy of tourism destinations. It diversifies the local job market and oftentimes provides opportunities for women to achieve financial independence through activities, products, and services offered to tourists. Much like sustainable tourism, CBT also works to protect the local environment. For example, in areas of high deforestation, offering stays in eco-resorts can offer an alternative income stream that prevents the need to resort to deforestation to make a living.
Although some CBT schemes can be taken advantage of by large companies witnessing their success, in most cases it offers an opportunity for the preservation of local culture. When tourists are more informed and immersed in local culture, they are more likely to value it, respect it, and remember it.
Where can I participate in CBT?
Anyone can practice the principles of CBT on vacation by seeking out locally-owned restaurants, shops, and accommodations. You can also prepare by researching local culture before arriving and looking for opportunities to learn from locals about their lifestyle. Check out contemporary environmental and social issues in the region you plan to visit and think about how you can positively contribute to space with your time, presence, and wallet.
If you’re looking for specific destinations, The Chalalan Ecolodge in Bolivia is a joint Indigenous community tourism initiative from the rainforest community of San José de Uchupiamonas and Conservation International (CI). It directly supports rainforest conservation and Indigenous communities. Korzok village in Ladakh, India is another option. It offers homestays for tourists to support younger community members who earn a living as porters, cooks, and tour guides.