Community tourism tips

VII- How to set up a sustainable community tourist project/ business

Everyone who wants to set up a sustainable tourist project together with a local community has to be very well prepared. First try to get to know the community. Spend time with them. Learn how they live, what they want, what they need, and what they’re capable of. Ideally, you learn the language of the community, but with indigenous communities, this might be difficult, especially at the start of your project. If you don’t speak the language (yet) make sure to hire a trustful translator. Then it’s time to find out what type of project is both sustainable for the community and attractive for tourists. For this, it is important to know the capabilities of the community and actual trends in tourism. You have to check the market, what is popular and why? What will be special about your project? How can tourist reach your project and will it be safe for them to visit? Why would tourists want to come and how will you be able to make your project profitable?

You’ve answered the questions above? Then it’s time to tell and explain the community about your ideas. It is important that they understand the possible impact of your project and the arrival of tourism within their community. Together you will then have to discuss what the community needs, what they want and how your project can contribute to their needs and wishes. Be aware that you never make any promises that you can’t keep. It is also important that you discuss the possible negative side effects from your project. At this point it is essential that most members of the community understand and actively support your plans. Do they want to work with you, or merely let you do your thing? If they don’t show active interest at this point, you should consider abandoning your ideas. If they do show active interest, you need to find the right partners within the community. This might be the most important and most challenging part. Your local partner(s) need to be trustful and have a leading position within the community, or else nothing will happen.

English speaking guide on Uros IslandsNow it’s time to make long term plans and collect enough money. It’s likely going to take time for your project to become independently sustainable. It is good to start as soon as possible building up working relationships with people who can help to sell your product. While working on your project it becomes more sustainable if you really work together and educate each other. Teach the members of the community how to work with you, but stay open for their opinion and their skills. A useful skill to teach a local community includes foreign languages like English, German, French, and Chinese. Keep in mind that it isn’t only about teaching a new language, it is equally important to teach the community more about those different cultures. This way they get a better understanding of the expectations of their clients. Other important skills to teach include managing, guiding, cooking (for foreigners), and administrative work. When some members of the community can learn these skills you can limit the number of people you have to contract from outside.

Patience is going to be a very, very useful skill for you to have. You will have to be prepared that at first many things will not go as previously planned. Therefore you will have to keep an eye on everything and will have to be able to explain the same things many times. Maintain personal contact and stay close to your project and the people involved.

As soon as your social project becomes the projected tourist attraction it is time to look for and invite your clients. The biggest challenge is to become known. No matter how great you attraction is, without the right publicity it is likely going to fail in attracting enough attention. It’s best to hire professional assistance. Explain them all the goals of your attraction and make sure that you sell your attraction with honest information. Explain your clients properly about the goals of your attraction, their contribution and their responsibilities.

If your new tourist attraction is finally up and running, make sure to keep your promises, as well towards the community as towards your clients. You will also need to continue to monitor and store the information about your progress. Keep in mind that many projects fail because they underestimated the challenges that tourism brings. Some arguments from development studies state that: No matter if you’re an NGO, volunteer organization, or travel agency when starting a community tourism project, the aim should be that after a few years the community can become independent. I disagree with this statement, as I strongly believe that long term coorperation with mutual benefits ultimately provides the best results. Another example of an community tourism project you can find in the Bay of Plenty.