Environment & Poverty Times
Tourism and travel are both a blessing and a burden for communities worldwide. They raise major challenges, but offer countless opportunities for social, cultural and economic devel- opment. When properly managed, environmental stress can be minimized and action can be taken to adjust behaviour and attitudes to suit a living planet.
Can tourism help save the environment? By John DaSilva
Community-based tourism is achieving greater prominence in south-east Asia, including Thailand. Once the domain of backpackers and the more adventurous traveller, community-based tourism is moving upscale and taking a greater share of the tourism market as travellers become more concerned about the environment and more interested in exploring local cultures. Despite this success, promoting community- based tourism effectively and sustainably, while ensuring it meets key environmental protection goals, faces many challenges.
Although community-based tourism can mean different things to different people, for our purposes we defi ne it as a model of sustainable tourism in which tourism activities (such as community tours and home stays) are developed and operated by local residents who invite guests into their homes and communities to learn and expe- rience true local culture and local wisdom. Integral to this model is the allocation of resources to the community members to increase their standard of living and assist in the protection of their natural environment and cultural heritage.
The Kenan Institute Asia (K.I.Asia) started working with local communities in Thai- land’s Phang-nga province just after the 26 December 2004 tsunami devastated the area. With funding from multiple donor sources, K.I.Asia designed a programme with two key goals: protect the environ- ment by empowering local communities to become custodians of their environment and natural resources, and ensure that revenues generated by tourist visits reach these com- munities as an incentive to protect these resources. Donors supporting this effort include the United States Agency for Inter- national Development (USAID), the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UN- WTO), the European Commission (through Thailand’s Bank for Agriculture and Agricul- ture Cooperatives), Merck Pharmaceutical, the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and the Bush-Clinton Fund. Although the
programme has been successful, it has taken a number of years and several hard lessons to achieve this success.
Case Study of Ta Din Daeng village community tour The case of the Ta Din Daeng village com- munity tour illustrates the challenges faced in supporting and promoting such activities.
To guide community-based tourism develop- ment to a more sustainable level, the project team worked with UNWTO, Thailand’s Min- istry of Tourism and Sports and local orga- nizations to complete two Tourism Manage- ment Plans for Ta Din Daeng village and the neighbouring national park using a partici- patory approach. These plans analyse land and sea biodiversity assets, social, cultural and economic factors, tourism potential and relevant laws and regulations. Using this analysis, local stakeholders worked together to create tourism destination action plans. Specifi c activities and development projects, such as a diving training centre and an eco- tourism activity centre, have been designed. The environmental and social impacts of the activities have been identifi ed and mitigation plans are now being adopted. To manage and monitor the implementation of these plans and provide guidance on how tourism can be developed, Destination Management Or- ganizations, consisting of relevant tourism stakeholders (including representatives from the national park system, tourism operators and local offi cials), are being created.
The community tour takes place in and around the fi shing village of Ta Din Daeng. The village has approximately 120 families and 390 resi- dents, over 90% of whom are Muslim. During the tour, community members give tourists a comprehensive look at traditional village life through the eyes of the villagers. Along the journey, visitors are introduced to a variety of community activities, such as shellfish aquaculture in fl oating pens, and they learn about hydroponic growing activities and eat a traditional lunch with the villagers. Visitors also participate in the creation of batik products and actively help preserve a mangrove forest by planting new mangroves.
Community guide shows off her mussels on the Ta Din Daeng community based tour. Nipon Riabriang/ Kenan Institute Asia.
Though the tour is now ready for full opera- tion, it took nearly two years of continued effort to reach this point. Bringing together local communities, government and busi- ness owners (especially hotel and tour op- erators) was the fi rst challenge faced by the project team. Phang-nga has been fortunate in that its local government is very inter- ested in promoting sustainable tourism and avoiding models of development that have destroyed (or are destroying) other tourist resorts in Thailand, such as Pattaya and Koh Samui. This local government support has made it easier to stop harmful development and enabled local communities to better work together to promote environmental protection and sustainable use of natural resources. The project team reinforced co- operation in developing community-based
Tourism – Green Passport: holidays for a living planet
The Green Passport introduces to tourists simple ways to make every holiday a more sustainable activity. It’s about tourism that respects the environment and culture and supports the economic and social development of local communities. For every stage of a holiday – from the choice of destination, through how to plan the trip, getting there and moving around, relating to the host community and its surroundings ecosystems, and up to the choice of souvenirs, the trip home and subsequent moves – the Green Passport sheds light on how holiday decisions can make a difference. Through informed choices such as travelling light, tourists can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to combating climate change.
The Green Passport is an international campaign but, when implemented at a local level, its communication material is adapted to the peculiarities of the given destination. Its website has been developed in English, French, Portuguese, Greek, and soon in Spanish, German, and Chinese. Its hardcopy version was launched in English and Spanish in June 2009 at the World Environment Day celebrations in Mexico. The Portuguese ver-
sion of the guide, as well as radio and TV spots, was launched in Brazil in July. Specifi c Green Passport travel guides for Costa Rica and Ecuador are expected to be launched by the end of 2009.
The internet-based Green Passport campaign has already been established as a reference point for responsible travellers. Its message has been spread and mul- tiplied by the mass media in all countries where the campaign has been launched through different communication channels, such as TV and radio interviews, around 90 news articles, travel blogs and podcasts. Recognizing the communications value of the Green Passport, the European Commission decided to promote it to European stakeholders and to consider scope for translating the Green Passport
into as many languages as possible. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
tourism through formal memorandums of understanding (MOU) between com- munities and tour operators, in which local communities will keep 70% of the tour fees. This commitment with the private sector has created a true partnership that is enabling resources from tourists to be transferred to communities through community-based tours, home stays and the sale of local crafts and agricultural products to tourists, hotels and restaurants. This resource transfer gives local communities a vested interest in protecting their natural environment. A critical aspect is that government backing of the MOUs was provided to ensure that community rights are protected and a fair amount of the income from tour activities remains with the community.
Another key challenge was the development of community-based tourist sites that tour- ists would actually enjoy visiting. Initially, there was a discouraging disparity between the perceptions of local communities and the true needs and interests of tourists as shown in early test tours. Making matters more diffi cult, community members began losing their initial enthusiasm because tour- ism money was slow to arrive in the village and the level of sustained effort required to attract tourists was proving higher than expected. However, by remaining diligent, conducting market surveys and adjusting the tours by improving home stay conditions, offering more local products and activities for tourists (such as batik painting), improv- ing the food, and providing better English signage, community revenues began to pick up. In Ta Din Daeng, since the tour began operation, it has raised village incomes by approximately 9% per year – though as the tour only operates during the six-month tourist high season, rises in income levels are clustered around these months. Projec- tions for next year are for a rise in income of a further 20% when tour operations begin in earnest with tour operator support.
The net results of these activities have been signifi cant and encouraging. Local commu- nities have established community-based tourism committees that not only focus
on facilitating tours, but also on protecting the natural environment of tour destina- tions. Communities have made signifi cant contributions to protecting and replanting mangrove forests damaged by the tsunami. Community forests, ignored or exploited for short-term economic gain in the past, are now being protected and used to at- tract tourists, as well as to cultivate forest delicacies such as mushrooms. Community members now work closely with the Kao Lum Pee – Hat Tai Muang National Park to protect coral reefs from damage caused by fi shermen and uneducated divers. They also conduct a yearly reef-cleaning dive in which divers from the community, including diving instructors from local dive shops and diving tour operators, participate in the clean-up.
In Ta Din Daeng, the village community has been actively planting trees to help sustain the forest environment, with an additional 48 acres of forest planted since the project began. The Ta Din Daeng tour also includes a visit to Thai Muang beach, part of the national park which runs through the village, to study and promote the protection of the endangered Leatherback Turtle which lays its eggs there. Previously, poaching of turtle eggs was a prob- lem on the beach as the park rangers do not have the resources to monitor the area. Now, the community has a vested interest in help- ing the national park rangers to monitor and protect not only the turtle eggs but also the incredibly ecologically diverse swamp forest located behind the beach, where a nature walk has been created as part of the tour.
Although community-based tourism is suffering along with all tourism from the global downturn in travel, it is clear that communities in Phang-nga are committed to this effort for the long term and have shown renewed enthusiasm in protecting and nurturing their natural environment.
About the author: John DaSilva is the Project Development Manager for Kenan Institute Asia, a Thailand based NGO operating in the Greater Mekong subregion providing sustainable develop- ment services in tourism, business and economic development, public health and education.
Guests create batik designs with some help from local villagers on the community based tour through the Muslim village of Tah Dindaeng. Nipon Riabriang/Kenan Institute Asia.
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16
| Page 17
| Page 18
| Page 19
| Page 20
| Page 21
| Page 22
| Page 23
| Page 24
| Page 25
| Page 26
| Page 27
| Page 28
| Page 29
| Page 30
| Page 31
| Page 32
| Page 33
| Page 34
| Page 35
| Page 36