For years now, I've been a big believer of Community Tourism and its power to transform neighborhoods and lives in urban communities. Thanks to different projects I've been able to participate in these initiatives, and I've seen the impact of tourism in the lives of people in communities that deal with social and economical issues.
Back in 2011, during my first time living in Brazil's biggest favela, I watched and learned how Zezinho turned his vision of Community Tourism into Favela Adventures. Not only did I learn how to set up a local business and how to manage it, this was about so much more. The big question was: “How do you set up a local business that benifits the community in as many ways as possible?”
Training and work for Local Guides
In an environment where most of the available jobs are minimum wage jobs in stores and restaurants, a job as a local tour guide is a fantastic opportunity. The moment the business needs more than one guide, start thinking about training and working with locals.
The great thing here was that Zezinho was also involved in projects that were teaching young people English. In case they were interested in learning and training to become a tour guide they could join Zezinho right after finishing their language course.
This training- and jobopportunity has given a lot of people within the community the chance to learn and work within a very interesting market. It's great to see some tour guides moves on from this to their own projects.
It is really important that a Community Tourism project is directly linked to one or more social projects. The social projects can receive a part of the tourism income, and can also receive donations from visitors who were impressed by the value that the projects add to the community.
Examples of tourism backed social projects in Rocinha are a DJ-school, a language school and an animal shelter. Donations can also come in from an initiative such as Pack for A Purpose. This organization motivates travelers to carry supplies as donations to places where they travel.
By almost acting as a hub and playing an active role in different community development projects and initiatives, a Community Tourism project can gain much more credibility, from both partners & visitors and residents.
The tours don't have the goal of making visitors spend as much as possible. However, when explaining guests about how the local economy functions, especially as part of the broader economy, guests understand the importance of their Real inside a favela.
During the tour there are a few opportunities for guests to make a purchase if interested, but they are never obligated. Also, the stops all add something real to the tour besides the fact that it's a chance to support the local economy.
Part of the favela tour is a visit to:
A local restaurant
View points with souvenir shops
A young artisan and his sister
Community Tourism projects have a responsibility toward their community and the residents. It's important for the owners of such a business to look at how to create a snowball effect, especially when a project/business starts doing well. This will also end up in more support, both from the outside and inside.
“How do you get the money from there up here”? This was a question from one of my guests during a tour in Rocinha while we were enjoying the view of places such as Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana. It was the best question I've ever gotten during a tour, and I've been trying to answer it for myself ever since. It has become one of the pillars of my community development work, and should be for others as well.
Of course running favela tours is a business. And in the first place it's a business' job to become sustainable. But favelas and other communities around the world need more than that. They need businesses with the mission and vision to use the power of tourism to help create socioeconomic change.