Antonio Santos del Valle 

Community-based tourism and some new management models

Antonio Santos del Valle 

Community-based tourism and some new management models

Community-based tourism is a form of tourism that focuses on actively involving local communities in the development and operation of tourism activities in their areas. 

Unlike conventional tourism, where economic benefits are often concentrated in large companies or corporations, community-based tourism seeks to share the benefits more equitably with local populations. But what do we mean when we say 'equitable'?

Among other things, I believe that the main objective of community-based tourism is to give the knowledge and tools to communities so that they can be the main directors and managers of their development, and that it also allows them to improve their quality of life through participation in the tourism development of their territory, that is, to direct tourism as an engine of social, cultural and economic development. As a profit-generating tourism industry.

The origin of community-based tourism can be traced back to different movements and approaches that have emerged in the field of tourism over time. Although there is no specific date or place to mark its beginning, it is possible to identify some stages and currents that have contributed to its development:

Alternative Tourism: In the 1960s and 1970s, alternative tourism movements emerged that sought to move away from mass and commercial tourism. These movements promoted a greater connection with nature, local culture and the participation of communities in the tourist experience.

In general, community-based tourism emerged as a response to the limitations and challenges of conventional tourism, with the aim of giving the helm of tourism management of the territory to local communities, to preserve their cultural and natural heritage, and to share the economic benefits of tourism more fairly and equitably among the members of the community itself.

As awareness of sustainability and responsibility in tourism has grown, community-based tourism has established itself as a valuable and respectful option for tourism development in many parts of the world.

Today, based on proposals developed mainly over the last 30 years, some of the fundamental principles of community-based tourism include:

As we can see, tourism activities in community-based tourism can include homestays or small local businesses, tours guided by community members, handicrafts and local products, among other experiences that allow visitors to connect with everyday life and local culture.

Community-based tourism has proven to be a sustainable and responsible way of developing tourism, as it promotes the conservation of the environment and cultural heritage, while improving the living conditions of local communities. It also offers tourists a more authentic and meaningful experience by interacting with local people and cultures in a more genuine and respectful way.

Likewise, community-based tourism experts agree on the benefits of this type of tourism, highlighting:

Local communities must increasingly adopt technology and media such as social networks to promote and manage their tourism initiatives. 

This situation will increase the visibility and reach of their proposals, reaching more tourists interested in community-based tourism .

As we know, tourism is a constantly changing sector, and trends can evolve in response to factors such as changes in market demand, economic situations, environmental and social challenges, and above all the cultural identity of tourism destinations. In this sense, community-based tourism and cultural identity are closely related and complement each other. 

Community-based tourism is based on the contribution of local communities in the development and management of tourism activities in their territories, activities whose great value is based on the cultural identity of a community, as this shapes the tourism experience and provides it with authenticity and meaning.

Primarily, community-based tourism and cultural identity are intertwined:

Finally, we must be aware that community-based tourism should offer experiences but also facilitate the acquisition (purchase) of products by tourists, and that in some cases, without trivialising the products, community-based tourism can also be a way to promote cultural exchange.

Without trivialising products, shopping tourism and community-based tourism are closely related, as the purchase of products can be an important source of wealth.

In this sense, shopping tourism can have a positive economic impact on local communities, as tourists spend money on goods and services, although it must be premised on the premise that shopping should be done in a responsible and sustainable manner, avoiding the exploitation of local producers and artisans and encouraging an equitable distribution of economic benefits among the community.

In certain contexts, community-based tourism and shopping tourism should complement each other, as tourists can appreciate and learn about local culture and, at the same time, have the opportunity to purchase local products and handicrafts, thus contributing to the economic development of the community.

Similarly, responsible shopping tourism helps to preserve local crafts and cultural traditions, encouraging local artisans and producers to continue to maintain their traditional practices.

Shopping tourism and community-based tourism should coexist, develop and mutually benefit from each other if implemented responsibly and in harmony with the values and objectives of community-based tourism. And this is a task for political and technical managers and, above all, community leaders.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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