Tourism in Southeast Asia reported a year-on-year growth of 5.5 percent and reached a new record level of more than 33 million in the second quarter of 2019.*
Not all boats are lifted by a rising tide however, with local communities frequently being left behind any GDP hike. Siem Reap, for example, remains one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia despite generating over a third of the country’s revenue.**
The idea of community-based tourism aim to mitigate this. Done properly, community-based tourism helps local communities reap the benefits from tourism revenue, protect the environment and preserve their culture. It also creates an alternative for many travel organisations to work in solidarity with the communities and the environments they exist in.
What is community-based tourism?
Community-based tourism (CBT) is a tourism approach where residents in a local community are engaged in tourism planning and development of their area.
Residents benefit from income as land managers, entrepreneurs, service and product providers, and employees operating within the tourism ecosystem, while visitors gain an authentic perspective of the communities, from the local traditions to cultural activities, and enjoy the opportunity to experience unspoilt nature and ecosystems.
In short, CBT is tourism that benefits both the traveller and the local communities.
One successful case study In Southeast Asia is Nam Ha Ecotourism, a CBT project in Laos’ northwestern province of Luang Namtha, which won a United Nations Development (UNDP) Award for poverty alleviation. The project first began when Lao PDR opened its borders in the late 1980s, which was followed by rapid tourism growth due to the area’s abundance in history, culture and natural resources. Concerned that tourism can bring as many social problems as economic benefits, the Lao National Tourism Administration. Implemented the Nam Ha Project o stimulate local economic growth, minimize negative impacts on the environment and contribute to natural and cultural heritage protection.
The project provides training and human capacity building programmes to tourism providers and local communities, and ensures that local communities involved in the development and management of tourism activities. Currently, Nam Ha Project is recognized as one of the leading sustainable tourism destinations by its gains in the fight against poverty and in the sustainable use of biodiversity.*
In Thailand, CBT has been implemented in many destinations across the country to help local communities preserve tradition, culture and natural resources. In fact, the development of CBT has become one of the priorities for the country and its national tourism strategy. It responsibly promotes the unique culture and heritage of the country while also providing positive economic benefits for local communities. One may even be surprised to learn of the existence of CBT projects nearby the hustle and bustle of Pattaya City, which has built a rather contradictory reputation its beach lifestyle, seafood restaurants and expat nightlife.
Located in Chonburi province, the Takien Tia Community, or ‘Moo Baan Takientia’, offers visitors a rare glimpse into the traditional way of living of the area’s local community that has been passed on across generations. Led by Wandee Prakobtham, President of Takientia CBT Club, the community has successfully established itself as CBT destination, already receiving coverage by several media outlets.
Check out the highlights of the Takien Tia community and listen to Ms Wandee’s perspective on the community (Thai language only):
Ms. Wandee will be joining other CBT experts at the panel session on ‘Case Study of CBT in Thailand’ at the PATA Destination Marketing Forum (PDMF) 2019 to discuss the collaborative approach to CBT in Thailand, from sustainable product development and management to successful marketing.
Under the theme ‘Redefining a Destination: Reviving the Past to Reimagine the Future’, PDMF 2019 aims to redefine how destinations can position their experiences to match with changing consumer expectations. Looking to Pattaya’s aspirations for reimaging their destination, the Forum will explore new market potentials, and articulate the unique experiences that destinations can offer visitors.
Delegates will also learn first-hand from technical tours to CBT projects, such as the Takien Tia Community, the Siri Charoenwat forest plantation project, a natural resource management projects initiated by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and the Chak Ngaew Community, a once-most-prosperous community within the destination.