In the following blog entry you will read something about Community-based tourism and its impacts. I hope to inform you properly about it and in case you dis-/agree with me or have some questions open, please contact me and I am open for providing more information. Enjoy reading my blog.
What is Community based tourism?
Community based tourism or further referred to as CBT is a form of tourism which takes place apart from mass tourism in local communities. Further it takes the environmental-, social- and cultural aspects into account. CBT can be in rural as well as in urban areas and the development status does not play a role. Important is that the community is in charge of all operations and that CBT provides only a supplement income and is not ones main income. Next to providing a supplement income, the exchange of cultures and generating benefit for the whole community are from major importance. Tourists can either participate only in activities or stay overnight.
Positive impacts from CBT
As aforementioned stated one important aspect is to generate a benefit for the whole community. CBT is a tool which a high potential to ensure a recession in poverty. This is due to the fact that with CBT, labour is created and locals which are not involved in CBT have often the opportunity to sell their home made products to the tourists, thus, there is an additional income for the direct involved participators and the community members which are only indirect involved in CBT. 
CBT encourages the community members to develop a deeper understanding of the importance of the conservation and protection of natural assets. Both locals and tourists gain a higher awareness of the importance of the nature and work together to conserve and restore already damaged natural sites. With the help of the income generated by CBT the community members are able to fund activities to conserve, restore and protect their natural assets. Furthermore, the community is able to invest their income into the development of more environmental friendly technology.
Especially Thailand has a waste problem and from my own observations in some communities, the locals them-self throw waste into the nature. CBT makes the locals aware of their waste problem, as on the one hand it makes not a good impression to tourists when the community is littered and the locals learn more about the causes of waste to the environment.
One benefit of CBT is that different kind of people come together. Domestic tourists as well as International tourists participate in CBT and thus, the community members need to learn how to communicate with foreign tourists. In Thailand the people are rather shy and one benefit of CBT is that the locals build self-confidence and improve their communication and speaking skills. There is not only an improvement in the skills of the individual community members, the whole community improves it skills, such as organization, planning and overall management skills.
Another advantage is that the community gets strengthen as a group itself. The community has to rely on each other’s skills and knowledge and the members have to work together in order to offer a community-based tourism experience to the tourists to a satisfactory level of all parties. Working closely together and discovering each other’s strengths, strengthens in the best case the bond between the community members and a foundation of trust, teamwork and collaboration can be laid for future generations. The stronger bond and self-confidence results in a greater decision-making power and the community dares to stand up for their own needs and rights in the public- and the private sector. The community builds up empowerment.
In CBT every single community member can play an important role, it does not matter whether one is young or old, female or male, disabled or not disabled for instance. Every community member has his/her own strong points and skills, which can be useful for CBT and in developing further the community. Thus, the sense of belonging and importance can be increased via CBT. Community members from a Mae Klong CBT villages reported that they did not know what to do anymore, they felt useless and when CBT got introduced they felt that they adding value to the community again.
During the last community stay we asked the members why they participate in CBT and one of the most stated answers were that they wanted to make friends. Outside and inside of their community. As aforementioned, CBT is a tool to bring all different kinds of people together and throughout the process of working together, discovering your own and others strengths and weaknesses as well as skills and developing further can create friendships and it is easy to network through CBT.
Often there is an increase in the living standards of the community members. This is one the one hand because some get support from the government when they offer CBT but on the other hand the communities are able to invest in their well-being from the income of CBT. Improved sanitation facilities could be for instance one example to improve the well-being of the community.
Certain cultural activities often lose their value for the locals, as it is normal for them or they think there are not special. When the community realizes that for the tourists it is something special and tourists value the cultural assets of the community, the community builds a sense of pride. They become aware again of their own cultural values and they become proud to share them with the tourists. In the community I have been, came the process of coconut sugar making back through the tourists. The community was always proud of their local wisdom of how to make palm sugar but over the years they did not value it anymore and stopped making it. When they thought of introducing community-based tourism, they reintroduced this local wisdom again and their former pride is back due to the feedback they receive from the tourists.
The exchange of cultures plays a major role in CBT and both, the communities and the tourists benefit from the exchange of their cultures. Not only have the communities developed a sense of pride of their own culture, but the tourists as well.
Negative impacts from CBT
The idea of CBT involves that the income is equally shared within the community, however, this is not always the case therefore, and an unequal income distribution takes place. Especially in larger communities it is a well-known phenomenon as not the whole community is equally attractive for tourists. Community members which live in the less attractive areas are often not involved in CBT. To generate a benefit for the whole community the income is often put in community projects to improve for example the infrastructure. If those community projects are only carried out in the tourism areas the members which live in the other parts of the community do not benefit from it.
Another negative impact can occur when the community members develop different ideas of how CBT should be carried out and how the operational processes have to be, as well, as how the different roles should be divided.
With an increase in tourism there is an increase in infrastructure development which is one the one hand a positive aspect, but on the other hand it causes negative influences on the nature, especially in the construction phase. Another problem of an increasing amount of tourists is the amount of waste generated. Some communities face a waste problem since they welcome tourists, as not all tourists are sensitive towards the issue of waste management and drop their waste everywhere. Another problem is that more waste gets generated and the community needs to be capable to take care of larger amounts of waste. 
Furthermore, in case tourist activities are not controlled, tourists might cause damage to the nature and the wild animals living in the community due to inappropriate behaviour.
If a community introduces CBT, the tourists arrive via they own vehicle or public transport. Thus, there is more traffic taken place in the community and more CO2 emissions are released.
In my point of view the greatest negative impact is that the host community might change towards the tourists and give up or lose over the time they own values, norms and daily activities, as they start living for the tourism and try to make it convenient for the tourists and to generate as much income as possible. Some research found out, that some community members start focusing a lot on their material status and value their own benefits over the benefits of the whole community.
While the exchange of culture is a positive aspect as described before, it can lead to a loss of cultural identity as well. As soon as people become aware of others values, norms and cultural activities, they might prefer those over they own ones. Therefore, it would be then a rather negative aspect. But not only the possible event of preferring another culture over the own culture can cause a loss of cultural identity. Another danger lays in the hospitality of the community. As already roughly mentioned before, the community might give up their own activities to fulfil all wished and demands from the tourists. If the community only lives to make the stay as convenient as possible for the tourists they will not be able any more to live their own life and culture and they might forget it over the time. One example for that is for instance the way of dressing. Normally, it is not respectful to dress in shorts which do not reach the knees and shirts which do not cover the shoulders. If tourists do not know about that or do not care and the locals are too afraid to say something and are faced over a long period with this issue, the younger generation might want to wear the same clothes or it simply does not matter anymore for the community and they lose this part of their culture.
How to shrink the possibility of negative impacts?
One way of ensuring that the rather negative impacts are not likely to happen is to set clear agreements and regulations. The focus should lie on long-term planning and the possible negative impacts should be taken into account to become aware of them and being able to react in time if one is about to happen.
To conclude, CBT has some great positive factors, which might turn into negative influences. One example for that phenome is the exchange of cultures. It is positive, as the locals and tourists exchange their cultural values etc. but on the other hand it can cause a loss of cultural identity. It is important to create a long-term planning and to take the possible negative impacts into account to minimize the risk of turning CBT into something negative at a certain community. Then it will be a success story!
I hope you enjoyed my blog entry, feel welcome to have a look at my previous ones on environmental issues.
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