The concept of Community Tourism is, how controversial it may be, a fantastic opportunity for a neighborhood to better certain aspects of life without depending on slow traditional and political solutions. Due to the understandable controversie around the subject it is important that these projects are rated on a few key points.
Wether a tourism project is an initiative from a company outside the community or not, the focus of these projects should be on creating a better community first, and business second. Before choosing the tour and place you want to see, do some research and go for quality.
Because this means that you as a visitor are not contributing to what is known as 'poorism', but are actually supporting a community of people who are changing lives for the better thanks to tourism.
Local Tour Guide(s)
A community tourism initiative should always use local tour guides, or have the desire (and mission) of working with local guides as mush as possible. People who are either from the community, or who live there. These tour guides have a deeper understanding of what life is like within the community, thanks to their experiences.
Involving young people in the project and training them to be future tourguides is a very good way of providing jobopportunities, and may also help in gaining support from within the community for the tourism project.
Involved in social projects
For the tourism project to benifit as many people as possible within the community, it should partner up with at least one social partner. A social partner is an important social project in the neighborhood, such as an after school program for young kids. The Community Tourism project could decide to donate a part of its income to a local social partner, or it could 'promote' it to its visitors, possibly by taking the visitors to see the project along the route.
One fantastic initiative which has helped out thousands of kids around the world is Pack for A Purpose. This initiative is an online platfrom where travellers can find great social projects close to their destination to support with all kinds of fysical donations, such as school supplies.
Respectful towards the community
A Community Tourism project needs to put the neighborhood first. The project has no long-term existance without sincere support from the community and it residents. Respecting the community can mean that a project:
- Has a maximum of visitors that can participate each week/month
- Meets with the neighborhood association regularly to discuss various topics
- Makes rules on taking pictures of residents, and especially children!
It is important that visits to the community are not done in very large groups (and often), because this can disrupt daily life for the residents.
By constantly communicating with a neighborhood association, the project can stay on top of things that residents might not agree with and jump on other issues that are existing.
Unfortunately ‘Poorism’ projects do exist in different communities around the world, where companies are profiting from low quality, destructive tours. Tourism can be such an amazing way for neighborhoods and communties world wide facing social and economical injustice to build a beautiful and sustainable future. But for this to happen touroperators, project leaders and even visitors need to take responsibility.
About the writer:
Hi, I'm Freddy Gomes. I'm a 38- year old adventurer and activist who has been involved in Community Tourism initiatives in both Brazil and The Cape Verde Islands (through the Sonvela Arte project). I love writing articles for the Sonvela foundation website, and for the travelblog MindeloCaboVerde.com.