Capacity Building for Community Based Tourism
For any tourism plan to be implemented successfully, the community has to play an integral part in its development. The role that the community plays in developing tourism cannot be downplayed (Beeton, 2006). Many cases of successful programs have been reported where the local community’s involvement have been reported. This has worked for the benefit of the government since it has a way of realizing revenues. The community also benefits through job creation. For the local community to perform the tasks involved efficiently, it needs to train in various programs. The local people ought to know how they can enhance their skills in order to attract more tourists in their region and other investors. In addition to this, they have to learn how to protect the environment and other resources. However, it cannot work alone. It needs assistance from the non-governmental agencies, organizations and other private investors.
There are three beneficiaries in this approach: the community, the tourists and the tourism industry (government). The tourists benefit from community-based tourism in several ways. The community is well versed with the place and the local culture. It would not make much sense to bring in people from outside as tour guides and operators. Tourists will be more satisfied if they get a chance to have a local experience. The locals know all the places that would be of interest to the tourist. There are different types of tourists. They come for different purposes such as leisure and relaxation, adventure, sports and learning. Some of the tourists are professionals who come to offer their expertise in different capacities. For instance, volunteer doctors and other health professionals. The latter category can benefit much from community-based tourism. The local people are more aware of the problems facing them.
The community also benefits in several ways. First, they feel important because they are included in the decision making process. Their voice is heard when they assist the planners in formulating plans. This sense of self-worth is important because it encourages them to see the successful completion of the plans. Secondly, they get a chance to exercise their creative ability. They make products that they know will appeal to the tourists. This requires them to think outside the ordinary since they have to create competitive products. This leads to the third benefit, which is income generation. They are able to get income from the sale of the products and from the jobs created by the industry. This improves their living standards (Goodwin & Santilli, 2009).
They also get a chance to learn and to improve their quality of life. Through capacity building, organizations look for ways to educate the people. Therefore, the people get knowledge and skills. The community also benefits from the infrastructure. For a place to attract tourists, it has to have good infrastructure. This includes roads, hotels, shops and hospitals among others. The government has to invest in resources. It has to invest in facilities such as a good sewage system. In addition to this, it also has to provide electricity and water. This helps in developing a place and opening a place that may have been closed to the outside world. By interacting with the tourists, the community gets a chance to learn new methods of doing this.
The government benefits from the foreign exchange that the tourists bring. More tourists mean that the government will get foreign currencies and this will assist while performing international transactions. Another benefit is that it will find a way to attract investors. When many investors are in a country, they provide the government with more income in terms of taxes. Investors also help in job creation. When people have jobs, they have more disposable income and they consume more. This is important because it improves a country’s economy.
Various challenges exist in community-based tourism. The community may not be receptive of the idea in the first place. The resources may not be enough and this could cause conflict among them (Telfer & Sharpley, 2008). They may oppose any attempt by the government or any other body to put up tourism industries in their local areas. This means that the people should first be educated and informed concerning such issues. The community’s opposition may be due to several reasons. The people may see this as an interruption in their normal lives. They will therefore have a negative attitude and perception. They might be afraid of the influence that tourism will have on their culture. Some communities have been absorbed by other cultures through mingling with them and they have ended up losing their identity. Most of the stakeholders in this industry usually consider the economic value that tourism will have on the community. They forget that there are other benefits that the community stands to reap such as the development of social amenities and infrastructure. This economic mentality has contributed to failure of various projects. The planners and other developers have abandoned projects because they did not consider them as economically feasible.
Role of organizations
Non-governmental organizations are usually involved in capacity building. They come up with various initiatives that assist the local community to make progress. They are also involved in policymaking. They come up with policies that will push the community forward towards achieving the set plans. The community needs training, funds and resources. The organizations provide training in various capacities. The organizations can train drivers, chefs, tour guides, housekeepers, hotel managers and receptionists among others. They can offer financial help in form of funds, grants, donations, gifts or sponsorships. They can assist the local people to start income generating projects that are relevant to the tourism industry (Bushell & Eagles, 2007).
They can also offer technical assistance. This comes in handy when the available people do not have the required skills to undertake various projects. They can facilitate in building and renovating infrastructure and other facilities. They can oversee the progress of various projects and follow their development. The organizations need to ensure that the funds are utilized in an effective manner and no wastage occurs. When the projects are completed, they can help in implementation. This is an important phase. It determines whether the project will be a success. In case there are any amendments to be done, they need to go back to the drawing board.
Another way that organizations can help in capacity building is looking for investors and other organizations. They can collaborate with other organizations and assist the community. There are cases where organizations act in resolving conflict. For instance, the local community may disagree with the planners and developers. In this case, the organizations take a neutral stand and depending on the feasibility of the projects, they talk to the warring parties and come up with a workable solution. Communities may also disagree amongst themselves. They may have differing opinion concerning resource allocation. The organization’s role in this case is to come up with a strategy that will satisfy both groups.
Another area that organizations can lend a hand is the area of marketing. After initiating the projects, the people will need tourists to visit them so that the projects can generate some money. The only way that potential tourists can learn about a place is through marketing. Without marketing, all the effort that the people will have put-in will be wasted. Many local communities engage themselves in other income generating activities such as beadwork, making pottery and ceramics, paintings, glasswork and woodwork among other activities. The organizations can help the communities market these products especially in international markets. This way, the community ceases to rely on one activity to generate income and the organization will have done its part in capacity building.
Recommendation for regional and destination planners
- The community planners should make sure that they involve the community in every stage. They should not ignore or assume the communities fears. They should educate the community regarding the proposed.
- They should make every effort to conserve the environment and the community’s heritage. This will give them credibility in the eyes of the community and the people will be assured that they are interested in their welfare (Moscardo, 2008).
- Their plans have to be in line with government policies (Fennell, 2008).
- Incase the project fails (this could be due to lack of enough resources to see it through or foreseen natural disaster), they should not abandon it halfway. They should look for other ways through which they can assist the community.
- The planners have a role to play in developing training programs for the locals. Since they have a vision of what they want to achieve, they ought to provide the locals with the necessary training that will ensure the projects are successful.
- A follow-up program is necessary to ensure that the project is profitable. Most community-based tourism initiatives fail because the planners leave the community to continue running the projects alone. The people may not have the necessary skills to come up with fresh ideas that will keep the program going.
Beeton, S. (2006). Community development through tourism. Australia: Landlinks Press.
Bushell, R., & Eagles, F. P. (2007). Tourism and protected areas: benefits beyond boundaries : the Vth IUCN World Parks Congress. Wallingford, UK: CABI.
Fennell, A. D. (2008). Ecotourism. London, UK: Routledge.
Goodwin, H., & Santilli, R. (2009). Community-based tourism: A success? International Center for Responsible Tourism, 11, 4 – 37
Moscardo, G. (2008). Building community capacity for tourism development. Wallingford, UK: CABI.
Tefler, J. D., & Sharpley, R. (2008). Tourism and Development in the Developing World. London, UK: Routledge