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Successful community-based tourism approaches for rural destinations

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a better understanding of the long-term viability of community-based tourism (CBT) as a development tool in rural tourism, and how the best practice from the Asia Pacific region can be used to strategize the nine-stage plan to develop and sustain it in the long term. Design/methodology/approach – This paper is formulated using a case study approach based on the lessons learned and the best practices in ten member economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum, namely, Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Vietnam. Findings – Based on the analyses of the ten case studies, the paper recommends nine steps for developing and sustaining CBT. These nine steps are divided into two sections – developing CBT and sustaining CBT. The first four steps relate to starting and developing CBT initiatives, which are useful for projects and sites that are embarking on CBT. The subsequent five steps are meant to address the sustainability of CBT projects, which are more appropriate for mature CBT projects that are gradually moving up the value chain. The nine steps are presented in detail and supported by the models developed from the case studies. For each step, a list of actions is recommended to guide the development of CBT. Research limitations/implications – This paper is limited by the ten case studies selected by the researcher. The conditions for these selected case studies may not be identical in other locations, and thus, the proposed nine-step framework can be used only as a guide. Each step outlined may vary from one nation to another. Originality/value – The main output of this paper is designed to provide guidance for tourism/rural planners, non-government organizations (NGOs), industry players and CBT organizations in deciding whether tourism could work for a particular community and if it is feasible to be sustained over the long term.
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Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes
Successful community-based tourism approaches for rural destinations: The Asia
Pacific experience
Vikneswaran Nair Amran Hamzah
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Vikneswaran Nair Amran Hamzah , (2015),"Successful community-based tourism approaches for
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Successful community-based
tourism approaches for rural
destinations
The Asia Pacic experience
Vikneswaran Nair
School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, Taylor’s University,
Subang Jaya, Malaysia, and
Amran Hamzah
Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia,
Skudai, Malaysia
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a better understanding of the long-term viability of
community-based tourism (CBT) as a development tool in rural tourism, and how the best practice from
the Asia Pacic region can be used to strategize the nine-stage plan to develop and sustain it in the long
term.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper is formulated using a case study approach based on
the lessons learned and the best practices in ten member economies of the Asia Pacic Economic
Cooperation (APEC) Forum, namely, Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Korea,
Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Findings Based on the analyses of the ten case studies, the paper recommends nine steps for
developing and sustaining CBT. These nine steps are divided into two sections – developing CBT and
sustaining CBT. The rst four steps relate to starting and developing CBT initiatives, which are useful
for projects and sites that are embarking on CBT. The subsequent ve steps are meant to address the
sustainability of CBT projects, which are more appropriate for mature CBT projects that are gradually
moving up the value chain. The nine steps are presented in detail and supported by the models
developed from the case studies. For each step, a list of actions is recommended to guide the
development of CBT.
Research limitations/implications – This paper is limited by the ten case studies selected by the
researcher. The conditions for these selected case studies may not be identical in other locations, and
thus, the proposed nine-step framework can be used only as a guide. Each step outlined may vary from
one nation to another.
Originality/value – The main output of this paper is designed to provide guidance for tourism/rural
planners, non-government organizations (NGOs), industry players and CBT organizations in deciding
whether tourism could work for a particular community and if it is feasible to be sustained over the long
term.
Keywords Sustainable, Rural tourism, Sustainable development, Case study,
Community-based tourism, APEC
Paper type Research paper
This publication was made possible via partial funding from the APEC Secretariat (2009) and the
Ministry of Education’s Long Term Research Grant Scheme (2011-2016), Reference Number:
JPT.S(BPKI)2000/09/01/015Jld.4(67).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/1755-4217.htm
Community-
based tourism
approaches
429
Worldwide Hospitality and
Tourism Themes
Vol. 7 No. 5, 2015
pp. 429-439
© Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1755-4217
DOI 10.1108/WHATT-06-2015-0023
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1. Introduction
Community-based tourism (CBT) is given emphasis in the Asia Pacic Economic
Cooperation (APEC) Forum’s Tourism Charter that was endorsed at the rst Tourism
Ministerial Meeting held in Korea in 2000 (APEC, 2014). Explicitly, the Charter
recognizes the role of tourism in improving the economic, social, environmental and
cultural well-being of member economies of the APEC Forum. Implicitly, the Charter
highlights the importance of CBT through the following statements:
an important generator of business opportunity for small- and medium-sized
enterprises (SMEs);
an effective vehicle for dispersing economic benets within and among
economies, particularly at the provincial level; and
a catalyst for partnership between the public and private sectors.
CBT has been applied in developed member economies, such as Canada, New Zealand
and Australia, as well as in developing economies like Vietnam, Indonesia, China and
Malaysia (Ashley and Garland, 1994;Bramwell and Sharman, 1999;Canadian
Universities Consortium, 2000). In the literature, numerous CBT projects have been
referred to in the Asia Pacic region, but these are mainly one-off projects mostly
initiated and operated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (Ashley and
Garland, 1994). The APEC Forum itself commissioned a review of CBT projects in 1999
with the aim at identifying factors that inuenced member economies to implement CBT
(Chebuskorn, 2003;Hatton, 1999). Nonetheless, there has been no attempt to assess the
long-term economic viability of CBT in this region.
Furthermore, and in light of the growing importance of tourism as a tool for economic
regeneration, it is imperative that the principles and mechanisms for developing CBT
are mainstreamed (Bramwell and Sharman, 1999). In this context, the paper will assist
countries in incorporating the CBT model as a part of their formal development process
(mainstreaming). By doing so, CBT will no longer be an alternative development model
but a formal development tool (Chebuskorn, 2003).
Thus, this paper is formulated based on the main ndings and lessons learned from
a study on CBT that was funded by the APEC Forum’s Tourism Working Group in
2010. The study on capacity building of CBT as a vehicle for poverty reduction and
dispersing economic benets at the local level was carried out between November 2008
and April 2009 by the then Ministry of Tourism of Malaysia (now called Ministry of
Tourism and Culture), in collaboration with the Tourism Planning Research Group
(TPRG), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. The aim of this study was to improve the
understanding of the members of the APEC Forum on the concepts, best practices and
long-term viability of CBT, based on the experience of successful CBT models in the
region.
As CBT initiatives mature, the adoption of a holistic business model is essential in
weaning the project from government or donor reliance, as well as to scale up the project
(Mitchell and Reid, 2001;Reed, 1997). This is crucial in ensuring the long-term economic
sustainability of CBT projects. As such, the main aim of this paper is to recommend a
process for developing and sustaining CBT initiatives.
The paper recommends a exible approach to the development of CBT. The ndings
can be used by government ofcers, planners, industry players and community leaders
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as a guide to ensuring that CBT is developed in a sustainable manner. The
recommendations are practical and are based on the best practices derived from the case
studies. In addition, the recommended actions offer several options to suit the
socio-economic condition of the member country or site. Hence, the recommendations
are meant to be useful for communities who are on the verge of embarking on CBT
projects as well as for those with existing projects who are experiencing either rapid
growth, consolidation or an impending decline.
2. CBT in perspective
CBT can be considered as a community development tool that strengthens the ability of
rural communities to manage tourism resources while ensuring the local community’s
participation (Jamal and Getz, 1995;Responsible Travel, 2009). CBT can help the local
community in generating income, diversifying the local economy, preserving culture,
conserving the environment and providing educational opportunities. As CBT may
provide the local community with alternative sources of income, it becomes a poverty
reduction tool too (APEC, 2014). CBT requires a long-term approach and should aim to
maximize the benets for the local community and limit the negative impacts of tourism
on the community and their environmental resources.
CBT needs to be approached in a systematic manner. This requires a study of the
suitability of the community to be involved in tourism to ensure that community
members are given the opportunity to participate in related projects and are involved in
monitoring and controlling the negative impacts (Kiss, 2004). Some general
characteristics of CBT that have been highlighted by the United Nations Economic
Program (UNEP) and United Nations World Tourism Organizations (UNWTO) are as
follows (World Tourism Organization, 2008):
involving appreciation not only of nature, but also of indigenous cultures
prevailing in natural areas, as a part of the visitor experience;
containing education and interpretation as a part of the tourist offer;
generally, but not exclusively, organized for small groups by small, specialized
and locally owned businesses;
minimizing negative impacts on the natural and socio-cultural environment;
supporting the protection of natural and cultural areas by generating economic
benets from it;
providing alternative income and employment for local communities; and
increasing local and visitor awareness of conservation efforts.
As highlighted earlier, the case studies show that CBT projects go through a product life
cycle (Jones, 2005). Initially, CBT projects are small in scale, low density and operated by
the community with assistance from well-meaning outsiders, such as NGOs. In this
stage, the communities are content with the availability of jobs brought about by the
CBT projects. However, as the CBT project matures, the challenges for the community
also increase. Inevitably, tour operators begin to show interest and extend their
corporation to form partnerships with the local community. Without the necessary skills
and expertise to cope with the increasing number of tourist arrivals and changing
tourist demand, local communities have a tendency to become over reliant on tour
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operators (SNV, 2000;Taylor, 1999). At the same time, CBT projects will have to move
up the value chain, and their long-term viability will depend on how well the key
stakeholders cope with new expectations (The Mountain Institute, 2000).
3. Methodology
Case studies in ten member economies were selected for this study, namely, Australia
(Thala Beach Nature Reserve 2014), Canada (St Jacobs, 2014), China (XinTuo
Ecotourism, 2014), Chinese Taipei (Lin, 2009), Indonesia (Udjo, 2012), Korea (Sook,
2009), Malaysia (KOPEL, 2014), New Zealand (Whale Watch Kaikoura, 2014), the
Philippines (Province of Guimaras, 2009) and Vietnam (CBT Vietnam, 2014;Footprint
Travel Guides, 2014;Footprint Vietnam Travel, 2014).
Data for the study were collected from the eld using a range of research instruments,
including face-to-face interviews with key stakeholders, such as the CBT organizations,
government ofcials, tour operators, NGOs and the local communities. In addition,
content analysis was carried out on the web sites of each of the CBT projects included in
the study. The case studies were selected via a screening process to reect the
socio-economic conditions of the chosen member countries of the APEC Forum. In
addition, the selected case studies represented CBT projects that were initiated by
government agencies, NGOs, the tourism industry and the community itself (Table I).
The success factors of CBT projects in these cases were then synthesized and
modeled to represent the best practices from the region. Although one size does not t
all, the analyses showed that there was a commonality in the development process and
life cycle of CBT projects. Subsequently, these common threads were translated into the
recommended steps for developing CBT initiatives.
4. Analysis of ndings
Based on the analyses of the ten case studies (Thala Beach Nature Reserve, 2014;
St Jacobs, 2014;XinTuo Ecotourism, 2014;Udjo, 2012;KOPEL, 2014;Province of
Guimaras, 2009;CBT Vietnam, 2014;Footprint Travel Guides, 2014;Footprint Vietnam
Travel, 2014) and interviews with ten local CBT champions (Zhang et al., 2009;Akbar,
2009;Angeles Gabinete, 2009;Son, 2009;Jenny Shantz, 2009;Sook, 2009;Hamid, 2009;
Lin, 2009;Gill, 2009;Gibson, 2009), this paper recommends nine steps (divided into two
sections) for developing and sustaining CBT, as shown in Figure 1.
Table I.
Case studies
according to project
initiator
CBT led by Community-based tourism
Government Guisi Community Heritage-Based Tourism, Guimaras, The Philippines
Seongup Folk Village, Jeju Island, Korea
NGO Ta Phin Village, Sapa, Vietnam
Lashihai Homestay, Lijiang, China
Misowalai Homestay, Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia
Industry Saung Angklung Udjo, Bandung, Indonesia
St Jacobs County, Toronto, Canada
Shui-Li Snake Kiln Ceramic Park, Nantou, Chinese Taipei
Community Whale Watch, Kaikoura, New Zealand
Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime Walk, Mossman, Australia
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The rst four steps relate to starting and developing CBT initiatives, which are useful
for sites that are embarking on CBT projects. The subsequent ve steps address the
sustainability of CBT projects, which are more appropriate for mature CBT projects that
are gradually moving up the value chain. The nine steps are presented in detail and
supported by the models developed from the case studies. For each step, a list of actions
is recommended to guide the development of CBT. The nine steps are as follows:
4.1 Step 1: assess community needs and readiness for tourism
Why should the community be involved in tourism? This is the key question that needs
to be asked and answered before a community is ready to embrace tourism. Some of the
actions to support this step that came out of the case studies included:
(1) Asking the right questions.
(2) Determining the role of tourism.
(3) Carrying out a situational analysis.
4.2 Step 2: educate and prepare the community for tourism
Once a community decides to embrace tourism, educating and preparing the community
are crucial as seen in Kaikura, New Zealand (Whale Watch Kaikoura, 2014;Gill, 2009);
Ta Phin (CBT Vietnam, 2014;Footprint Travel Guides, 2014;Footprint Vietnam Travel,
2014;Son, 2009); Guisi (Province of Guimaras, 2009;Angeles Gabinete, 2009); and
Misowalai (in capacity building) (KOPEL, 2014;Hamid, 2009). Some of the actions to
support this step included:
(1) Conduct preliminary workshops.
(2) Study trip and “community to community” training.
(3) Formulation of training manual.
Figure 1.
Nine steps to develop
and sustain CBT
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4.3 Step 3: identify and establish leadership team/local champion
The success of CBT projects is dependent on leadership and organization. Central to the
continuous support from the community is the presence of a strong leader who
commands respect. This is evident from the cases in Kaikoura (Gill, 2009;Whale Watch
Kaikoura, 2014) and Misowalai (KOPEL, 2014;Hamid, 2009).
4.4 Step 4: prepare and develop community organization
At this juncture, the leader or local champion should attempt to establish a community
organization that is capable of planning, operating and promoting CBT projects. CBT
projects go through a life cycle that may include a decline phase, should the leadership
and organization fail to reinvent the existing product once it evolves and matures as
seen in Kaikoura (Gill, 2009;Whale Watch Kaikoura, 2014) and Saung Angklung Udjo
(Udjo, 2012;Akbar, 2009). The evolving stages in the life cycle of CBT projects require
different organizational structures which include: Stage 1 – community organization in
initial phase of CBT (drawing solely from the talent within the local community); and
Stage 2 – community organization as the CBT project matures (seeking professional
help).
4.5 Step 5: develop partnerships
As the CBT project evolves into a complex business enterprise, expanding the target
market segments is imperative. Central to its efforts in enhancing competitiveness is the
establishment of partnerships with key stakeholders, namely, NGOs (Canadian
Universities Consortium, 2000;CBT Vietnam, 2014;Footprint Travel Guides, 2014;
Footprint Vietnam Travel, 2014;Son, 2009;Jenny Shantz, 2009), universities (Son, 2009),
government agencies (Province of Guimaras, 2009;Angeles Gabinete, 2009) and the
tourism industry.
4.6 Step 6: adopt an integrated approach
Because tourism is a volatile business, it should not be regarded as the panacea to the
economic immaturity of rural communities. Nonetheless, tourism as a development
catalyst has proven to be effective, especially if it is well integrated into the overall
development strategy and approach. There are two forms of integration, namely:
(1) integration with conservation, sustainable development and responsible
tourism projects as seen in Misowalai (Hamid, 2009), Ta-Phin (Son, 2009) and
Lashihai Homestay (XinTuo Ecotourism, 2014); and
(2) integration with other economic sector as seen in Misowalai (Hamid, 2009),
Saung Angklung Udjo (Akbar, 2009), St Jacobs Country and Canada (Jenny
Shantz, 2009;St Jacobs, 2014).
4.7 Step 7: plan and design quality products
Having formulated a general framework for the development of tourism with the other
economic sectors, the next step is to plan the potential tourism products in a
comprehensive manner. This may require the formulation of a CBT action plan, in
which the community decides on the various actions that are required to create a distinct
tourism experience. Among others, the action plan should cover the following aspects:
product development;
destination/leisure management;
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interpretation and communication; and
service quality.
4.8 Step 8: identify market demand and develop marketing strategy
In many CBT projects, especially those initiated by government agencies, too much
emphasis is given to promotion at the expense of effective marketing. The marketing
strategy for CBT should be formulated based on the following six actions:
(1) Matching the product with the potential market segment.
(2) Understanding the channels of distribution (e.g. Lijiang (XinTuo Ecotourism,
2014)orHaNoi(Footprint Vietnam Travel, 2014;Footprint Travel Guides,
2014)).
(3) Embracing ICT as a promotion tool.
(4) Piggybacking on tour operators and ground handlers.
(5) CBT organization to set up in-house travel agency.
(6) Leveraging on awards certication to shape the branding (e.g. Kaikoura (Gill,
2009)).
4.9 Step 9: implement and monitor performance
To implement and monitor the performance of CBT projects, the following two actions
are vital:
(1) Construction of tourist facilities – getting the community involved in the
implementation (e.g. Misowalai Homestay (Hamid, 2009)).
(2) Regular monitoring of performance.
Table II outlines some monitoring indicators for CBT.
In addition, the following eight steps can be adopted in developing a monitoring plan
for CBT organizations:
(1) develop monitoring objectives;
(2) determine boundaries of the area to be monitored;
(3) identify community attributes;
(4) identify potential impacts;
(5) prioritize impacts;
(6) identify potential indicators;
(7) collect data; and
(8) evaluate the data.
5. Conclusion
CBT is becoming increasingly popular as a pro-poor growth development tool. Beyond
the usual rhetoric, a host of CBT networks now exists in the Asia Pacic region, such as
the Cambodia Community-Based Ecotourism Network (CCBEN) and the Thailand
Community-Based Tourism Institute (CBT-i). These networks function as self-help and
information/experience exchange bodies that usually get support from international
donor agencies. Despite this, many provincial and local government agencies have a
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limited understanding of the process that a community has to go through to embrace
tourism as a tool for economic, social and psychological empowerment.
This study showed that once the necessary steps have been taken to start a CBT
project, a different approach is needed to sustain the project. The step-by-step guide in
this paper has been presented in a simple and user-friendly manner. More importantly,
the steps were based on the best practices and success stories from all over the Asia
Pacic region. It should be remembered that the nine steps are not cast in stone.
Managers may want to skip a few steps or alter their sequence to suit their situations.
Table II.
Monitoring
indicators for CBT
Dimensions Indicators
Effects of tourism on
community
% of locals who believe that tourism has increased their:
Pride in local community
Sense of ownership
Self-esteem
Social cohesion
Condence level
Communication skills
Relationship with outsiders
General knowledge
Specialized skills
% of locals who believe that tourism has positively changed their
lifestyle/surrounding
Local community
participation
% of goods and services supplied by local community
Employment of local community in tourism operations (numbers/income
level)
Product quality
achieving equitable
distribution of
tourism
funds/benets
across the
community
% of tourists who are satised with the environmental/cultural
experiences
The amount of funding acquired by the community for:
General
Signage
Marketing
Infrastructure
Number and type of development programs given to the local community
(education, training, health, natural resource management, conservation,
etc.)
Professional and
personal
development
% of locals who are happy with their career path in tourism
Frequency of training programs and level of participation
Operation and
support of
community-based
enterprises
Number of participants making use of incentives or programs for SMEs
Number of participants involved in tourism-related businesses (e.g.
accommodation providers, catering, tour guiding, transportation, tour
operation, etc.)
Environmental
management
systems and
environment
initiatives
Training of participants on environmental issues
Application of environmentally friendly technologies and techniques
(% of participants)
Water-saving techniques or devices
Energy
Recycling: glass, paper and plastic
Green purchasing
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What is essential is that the process adopted recognizes the need to prepare the
community before they embrace tourism.
Finally, like any tourism product, CBT projects need careful planning and
management. Projects should not be taken for granted, but require innovation, targeted
marketing and regular monitoring to ensure success. Above all, the most successful
CBT initiative should be viewed as a means to an end, that is, as a catalyst to nurture
thriving rural entrepreneurship in all economic sectors.
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About the authors
Vikneswaran Nair is a Professor at the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, Taylor’s
University, Malaysia. His PhD was in Systems Engineering (Ecotourism Systems), and he has
more than 20 years’ research experience in the eld of sustainable tourism and environmental
management. A seasoned and award-winning researcher and consultant with more than 200
publications to his credit; he was honored as the Outstanding Young Malaysian of the Year
Award in 2006 and 2009. He is currently the Vice President of Malaysian Ecotourism Association.
Vikneswaran Nair is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: vicky.nair@
taylors.edu.my
Amran Hamzah is a Professor and Director of Center for Innovative Planning and
Development (CIPD), Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai,
Johor, Malaysia. Sustainable tourism is at the heart of his research and consultancy work. He is
currently the Deputy President of Malaysian Ecotourism Association.
For instructions on how to order reprints of this article, please visit our website:
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