This is an excerpt from one of my latest papers on sustainable tourism.
Suggested citation: Mtapuri, O., Camilleri, M.A. & Dłużewska, A. (2021). Advancing community-based tourism approaches for the sustainable development of destinations. Sustainable Development,
Whilst mass tourism service providers, such as foreign owned properties including international hotel chains are associated with economic leakages (Garrigós et al., 2015), locally-owned, smaller businesses, are usually aligned to economic linkages.
Destinations can use community-based tourism (CBT) approaches to increase linkages by attracting high yield, affluent tourists to locally-owned companies (Butler, 2020; Prasiasa, et al., 2020). From a community-based perspective, the limitation of tourism figures can improve the destinations’ sustainability, whilst limiting the impacts on the natural environment (Saarinen, 2006:1129). Tourism businesses can contribute to reduce their impact on the environment by limiting the number of tourists. They can improve the quality of their services to appeal to high-end segments.
To be successful, the proponents of CBT ought to ensure that they retain specific principles and characteristics. Thus, CBT practitioners could differentiate themselves from other business models by offering authentic, local experiences to their guests. CBT can establish itself as a niche tourism product that appeals to lucrative market segments. Therefore, service providers are expected to deliver on their promises. They have to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations without lowering their standards of service.
CBT operators rely on their community’s local resources including environment/natural resources, heritage, culture as well as on knowledgeable human resources. Their employees should possess customer service skills, and ought to be trained about their local tourism products. Local businesses may usually engage native employees to improve their consumers’ experiences with their CBT product.
However, there may be instances where CBT operators may not find local employees in the labor market. In this case, they have to train their imported employees about local cultures and traditions in order to continue delivering authentic CBT experiences. The following figure presents a model for sustainable CBT that relies on the destinations’ effective management of their carrying capacities.
An ongoing evaluation of the destinations’ infrastructures as well as on their human and natural resources, particularly during their high season, is required to ensure that they do not exceed their specific carrying capacities. While each specific context will have its own specific performance indicators, this contribution suggests that destination marketers ought to consider the following issues:
• The participation of local businesses and individual in CBT.
• Local procurement of products (for accommodation establishments, hotels, restaurants, and to other tourism businesses).
It is in the interest of CBT operators to think locally and act globally (Hofstede, 1998). They should consider sourcing their requirements from their local communities, where possible. Hence, tourism planners could utilize local resources to reduce leakages from their economy.
Governments can encourage tourism businesses to support local enterprises, for example, by purchasing local products, and by supporting the local communities. They may also incentivize businesses through financial instruments to pursue laudable activities. They can also provide support to tourism businesses, including small hotels and B&Bs to upgrade their services to attract lucrative tourists in their communities. At the same time, they have to maintain their destinations’ infrastructure and should offer suitable amenities to visitors.
These strategies are meant to foster an environment that promotes sustainable CBT approaches that are intended to increase economic linkages, whilst improving societal and the environmental outcomes in local communities. The following figure clarifies how tourism businesses can optimize the utilization of local resources through sustainable CBT strategies in order to improve their destination’s carrying capacity whilst reducing leakages from their economy.
The effectiveness of this proposed model for sustainable community-based tourism relies on a regular evaluation of the marketing environment. Tourism practitioners are expected to examine and re-examine their CBT strategies to ensure that they are still creating value to their business, to the local community and to the environment at large.
Sustainable CBT approaches can support the local economic development of destinations, however leakages can jeopardize the destinations’ competitiveness and growth prospects. While the degree and types of leakages may vary, according to specific characteristics of certain countries, it can be argued that the proper utilization of local resources can improve the national economies and the quality of life of different communities, including those from emerging economies.
The type of tourism planning and development that is adopted by certain destinations is another factor that can have an effect on their economic leakages or linkages. Based on the above, this contribution puts forward a theoretical model that is intended to address the limitations of the carrying capacities of various destinations. In sum, it suggests that sustainable CBT approaches that rely on the optimal utilization of local resources (including human and natural) may result in economic growth as well as in positive outcomes to local communities and their natural environments. This model is aimed at rebalancing leakages with linkages in the economy, whilst responding to challenges relating to the supply chains of different tourism businesses.
Indeed, there is scope for destinations to maximize the use of resources at their disposal (both human and natural). In a similar vein, companies should avail themselves of local resources, competences and capabilities. It is also in their interest to engage in strategic CSR and sustainable tourism practices to support local stakeholders and to safeguard their natural environment.
A sustainable CBT model would require tourism businesses to forge relationships with different stakeholders including with the government and its policymakers, suppliers, creditors, employees and customers, among others. The advancement of CBT would also necessitate that destination marketers and hospitality businesses work together, in tandem to improve their tourism product. Local stakeholders are expected to safeguard their natural environment, culture and traditions for the benefit of their communities, and for their valued tourists and visitors who would probably appreciate authentic destinations that offer unique experiences to them.
The full paper and the reference list is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/355446004_Advancing_community-based_tourism_approaches_for_the_sustainable_development_of_destinations