Community-based Tourism

Community-based tourism (CBT) has proved a popular and resilient idea, a “good thing,” this despite its lack of success in delivering community benefits. Tourism is 10% of global GDP, a major sector of consumption, there must surely be potential to create decent livelihoods and “shared value” for local communities from it. A local community which engages with tourism is effectively exporting, making sales beyond its immediate boundaries, often internationally, and the consumer comes to the producer bearing their own travel costs. Tourism brings additional economic demand often to remote and marginal areas.

CBT is best defined as “tourism owned and /or managed by communities and intended to deliver wider community benefits.” Developing a business in a community on a sufficient scale to benefit the whole community is challenging and very few initiatives are successful, the failure rate is high. The work of the Pro-Poor Tourism Partnership identified the ways in which tourism could be used locally to benefit the economically poor and there were a few successful initiatives, but there are very few examples where the benefits can be quantified.

community-based tourism

Baleni Salt Makers, Baleni Cultural Camp – Photo by The Good Holiday

Transfrontier Parks Destinations and the TFPD Foundation have brought together a group of business-oriented social entrepreneurs with commercial finance, marketing, safari activities and hospitality management expertise to work with communities to realise household and community value through tourism, recognising that sustainability requires viability and that conservation requires decent livelihoods for those who live with the wildlife. All of TFPD’s lodges are community-owned and offer rich natural and cultural heritage experiences, they are destinations.  They each offer experiences which enable travellers to engage with the communities and their environments with respect, creating livelihoods for community members, revenue streams for the community as a whole, and great experiences for the travellers and holidaymakers.

TFPD has successfully used tourism to create sustainable livelihoods for community members and to develop viable commercial businesses, owned by local communities, businesses which are sufficiently commercially viable to make a significant contribution to community funds and which create opportunities through employment and local enterprise. Each lodge provides a focus for genuine sustainable local economic development.

community-based tourism

!Xaus Lodge, owned by the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities – Photo by Celeste McKenzie

TFPD managed !Xaus Lodge won the Gold Award in the African Responsible Tourism Awards and a Silver Award in the World Responsible Tourism Awards: their citation read “!Xaus Lodge is a community-owned, commercially managed lodge in the South African part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The judges were particularly impressed by both the scale of the contribution and the transparent quantification of the economic and social benefits flowing to the economically poor and marginalized communities of the Khomani San and Mier from their lodge.”

TFPD and its Foundation together demonstrate that business-oriented social entrepreneurs can, by partnering with communities, make a reality of the aspirations of CBT – where so many fail.

Professor Harold Goodwin
Emeritus Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University