One of the best things about travel is getting to know and understand another culture, and to learn more about our amazing planet. However, we believe that tourism should not only benefit visitors, but also local communities. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a priority for travel operators – but it certainly is for Pro Niti Travel. Since our inception, we’ve incorporated elements of community-based tourism into our offerings.
You may have heard of responsible travel, but community-based tourism is a much newer concept. We are proud to be at the forefront and to incorporate elements of this approach into our tours.
Today, let’s take a closer look at what community-based tourism is, and how it can benefit both local people and visitors.
What is community-based tourism?
Community-based tourism involves giving visitors to a country the chance to meet local people and experience authentic cultural exchange. It’s about supporting locally led projects that have a direct benefit for the local community, as well as travellers.
Community-based tourism can take many forms. Some of the most common types include homestay programs where you stay with local families, or visiting villages and communities. At Pro Niti Travel, we incorporate elements of community-based tourism into many of our tours – for example, by visiting local artisans who create traditional handicrafts.
One of the most important aspects of community-based tourism is that it is something which is supported and led by the local community itself.
While the phrase ‘community-based tourism’ may be new, in fact, it has been around for centuries. In many ways, it is returning to a more traditional way of thinking about tourism, as opposed to inventing something new. Many years ago small businesses were more common than large hotel chains, for example – so CBT is certainly a time tested idea, even if the name is a little different!
Benefits of community-based tourism
There are many benefits to community-based tourism, for both the local community and visitors.
Ecotourism and community-based tourism can go hand-in-hand. At its best, community-based tourism is sustainable, providing environmentally-friendly experiences and attractions. This is particularly important as nowadays so many places worldwide are struggling with the negative impacts of mass tourism.
This is why we think supporting environmentally sustainable projects is so important – and this can certainly apply to CBT. For example, the economic opportunity that comes with CBT can encourage local people away from other, less environmentally friendly ways to make money such as logging or poaching.
In addition, the environmental footprint of community-based tourism is usually smaller than traditional mass-tourism approaches. For example, visiting small artisans who hand make traditional crafts locally uses far fewer resources than it takes to mass-produce goods and transport them overseas.
Therefore, community-based tourism is good for the planet. As a result, supporting environmentally-friendly CBT projects can ensure that the environment, as well as other attractions, remain for generations to come.
Community-based tourism provides opportunities for local people to bring in income and also to introduce their culture to visitors. Plus, as the local community is actively involved in running and leading the project, they can have autonomy and make decisions that are right for their community. This can be very empowering, helping to generate pride and confidence as well as economic activity.
With CBT, the bulk of the money spent by tourists stays in the local community. Rather than tourist dollars going to large, often multinational companies, they instead go directly to the local people. This money can hugely benefit small communities, helping send kids to school and create financial security for everyday people.
In particular, community-based tourism can provide income and opportunities for all people, including women and other disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities. It gives everybody the opportunity to secure their economic future and create opportunities for themselves.
CBT can allow local communities to diversify their income, meaning that there is more economic opportunity and that people are less at risk financially. It can help to promote a level of financial independence that helps protect people from exploitative situations.
In addition, community-based tourism gives local people a chance to share their culture with the world, as well as learn more about other peoples’ cultures and experiences. This can be a source of great pride for people, and also ensure that culture and language is strengthened. It is particularly helpful for young people to be involved in expressing their culture, as this can ensure that it is not lost and is instead handed down to future generations.
Today more than ever, we believe that it is important for people of different backgrounds, faiths and nationalities to come together and learn about one another. We believe that this kind of learning can heal divides and create a stronger and more united world.
Community-based tourism undoubtedly helps to promote cross-cultural understanding. It allows people from very different backgrounds to come together in a respectful environment, and engage with one another. We think it is incredible to see people who may never normally have met, spend time together and learn. This helps to broaden everyone’s horizons and bring greater interfaith and intercultural understanding. These are certainly lessons that will remain long after visitors have departed from Myanmar or other countries with CBT projects.
For many people, travel is not just about travelling in an air-conditioned bus, ticking off landmarks from a list before moving on to the next one. Instead, many people want to really get to know a place and come to deeply understand it. In this way, tourism can deeply enrich your life and broaden your horizons.
Undoubtedly, community-based tourism allows you to do this. It gives visitors the opportunity to meet local people and learn from them – something which may not be possible with a traditional packaged tour. CBT allows you to experience a country with your heart, not just with your mind.
From visiting traditional artisans to sharing dinner with local people, there are many incredible opportunities for visitors to have authentic, genuine experiences and come to learn more about different cultures. There’s also a very good chance that you will come away with not only new memories and knowledge but also new friends.
Video Created by 4 Worn Passports – Travellers ( Guests of Pro Niti Travel)
What to look for in community-based tourism projects
While there are many benefits to CBT, unfortunately not all projects are equal. Sadly, some projects do not truly engage with local communities and can cause detriment.
When looking for a CBT travel provider, you should look for projects that are genuinely managed by the local community themselves. It is important that CBT projects have local people making decisions and genuinely supporting the project. This allows the benefits of the project to flow to the local people and ensures that people are not exploited or treated badly.
You should also be prepared to pay people fairly for the experience so as to ensure that there is a real benefit. As you will know exactly where the money is going, you can feel confident that your money is being put to good use. Of course, everyone wants to get good value for their money when they travel (and CBT can be affordable), however, you also need to ensure that the people involved are being fairly compensated for their time and energy.
Another thing to consider is the environmental impact of tourism. Although CBT can be an excellent way to minimise your environmental impact, that is not to say that is always the case. It’s important to still check to ensure that the organisation is acting in an environmentally-friendly way.
Finally, it is always important to treat people with respect while visiting CBT projects. Even though communities have begun tourism projects, there are still certain cultural boundaries which should be respected. For example, you may want to research how to dress appropriately and any cultural no-nos to be aware of. This will ensure that both you and the local community feel comfortable, and allow you to have the best possible time.
Pro Niti Travel’s commitment to community-based tourism
From our very beginning, a commitment to sustainable and ethical travel has been at the very core of Pro Niti Travel. We believe in the three pillars approach to sustainable development, where you balance social wellbeing, environmental protection and economic growth. We are absolutely committed to doing as much good as we can through the travel industry.
As a result, we have incorporated elements of CBT into our tours. Our small group adventures and customized tours each provide the opportunity for visitors to meet and learn from local communities. We have a deep respect for our partners in these communities, and ensure that all tourist activities are not detrimental in any way.
From trekking to visit small, off the beaten path villages in Shan state – staying at local houses or monasteries – to visiting artisans as part of an introduction to local culture, there are many amazing CBT opportunities with Pro Niti Travel.
We’d love you to check out our tours, or contact us if you have any questions.