Analysis - August 18, 2012



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August 2012


Print Sustainable tourism,

Community Based Tourism Gives Sustainability a Local Flair

Recent growth and popularity has made sustainable tourism better known and has lead to the introduction of many addition alternative forms of tourism that focus on the social and environmental pillars of sustainability. One of these forms of alternative tourism is CBT (community based tourism) and is characterized as “being local and managed by the community that consequently receives a significant portion of the benefits” (Trejos & Chiang, 2009). It often also works to promote environmental sustainability, especially in protected areas.

Ideally, CBT should be focused on improving the livelihood of the community through the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental. Recent research by the author into CBT has found that this can be achieved through 6 key elements:

  1. Community participation and training
  2. Private/ commercial partnerships and collaboration
  3. Local management and empowerment
  4. Establishment of environmental and community goals
  5. Assistance from the public and private sectors
  6. Financial considerations for long term sustainability

Community Participation and Training

The success of CBT greatly depends on the community’s ability to work together and agree on a plan of action for their tourism strategy. Community members need to be able to select key leaders and decision- makers so that conflicting viewpoints do not constantly impede the decision- making process. The leaders must also make sure that the community remains actively involved in the project, as CBT in communities that are open and accepting of tourists fare far better than those which show disinterest or resentment towards visitors.

Although cohesiveness and attitude are import for success, having adequate skill and education is also vital for a community. Since many communities that are interested in offering CBT generally have low levels of education, offering courses in hospitality and tourism management, marketing, communication, finance, governance, guiding and English language skills improvement are also vital to the success of a destination.

Private/ Commercial Partnerships and Collaboration

Even if CBT destinations, especially those focusing on rural tourism, seek out educational courses, collaborating with other companies in the tourism industry can still significantly lower a destination’s risk of failure. Partnering with hotels and tour operators can expose a destination to a much wider marketplace through increased exposure and marketing.

Local Management and Empowerment

If the local community has the capacity to successfully manage their own CBT project, this amount of empowered control will create a positive cycle for the area. Community members will be able to further increase their abilities to maintain the wellbeing of the community and increase their local and cultural pride. These skills and pride will then attract more visitors to the area, making the CBT project even more successful.

However, this key must find a balance with the previous key of private/ commercial partnerships and collaboration as too much external ownership will decrease community involvement, but little will limit the market size the community is able to reach.

Establishment of Environmental and Community Goals

Establishing these goals can demonstrate a community’s commitment to sustainability. It is particularly important to establish environmental goals to ensure that the community does not become too focused solely on financial gain. Common environmental goals include conservation projects, waster, water and energy management, organic farming and reforestation.

Since CBT is focused on improving living conditions for the community, social goals are equally important. They often include efforts such as school building, supplying water to residents and training and employing local residents in tourism attractions.

Assistance from the Public and Private Sectors

CBT projects often need assistance funding their ventures, so funding agencies and non- government organisations are often approached to help fund infrastructure improvements, the purchase of equipment and training.

Many countries are also now beginning to introduce national policies for implementing CBT. These policies include technical and financial assistance for CBT development.

Financial Considerations for Long-Term Sustainability

Long-term financial stability is difficult for many CBT projects to achieve due to a general lack of financial knowledge. For this reason, it is suggested that tourism be approach as a means of earning income only in addition to the community’s traditional means of financing itself. Coffee farmers, for example, could achieve this, by introducing coffee tourism, where they would offer visitors tours of their plantations.

Achieving Success

Altogether, achieving success in CBT can be a difficult task, and overcoming barriers such as a lack of capacity, management, marketing and financing can be difficult. However, when balanced leaderships are achieved, a community can enjoy significant benefits in an environmental, social and financial context.



– Ping, W. “Community-Based Ecotourism and Developmen in Northern Thailand”.

– Trejos, B. & Chiang, L.-H. “Local economic linkages to community-based tourism in rural Cost Rica”, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography vol 30, 2009, p 373.

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