How CBT benefits local people and the environment.
Social and Political Contributions:
• Human Resource development
The CBT process has facilitated the development of diverse new skills and self-confidence among community members. During the preparation and planning phase, (4-10 months) these skills include critical thinking, discussion, compromise, reaching group consensus, planning and developing CBT activities.
Gradually as tourism gets underway, local people are empowered as hosts and guides. They develop improved communication and presentation skills by showing guests the proud elements of their lives that define who they are.
Training, seminars and study tours strengthen the communities’ efficiency in planning and organization, management and administration. In addition, during and after the CBT development process, ‘Activity Group’ members pass on key traditional skills to the next generation. Finally, local communities are actively involved in the monitoring and evaluation of Community based Tourism.
• Community Strength and Unity
Community Based Tourism is a ‘participatory process.’ This means that everyone has a chance to work together and share their skills and hopes. By assisting each other to plan and manage CBT, community members forge closer, stronger relationships, strengthening the foundations of community trust and unity.
• Community Empowerment:
The process of defining their key values; describing their ways of life to the outside world and refining their communication skills does not only assist local people to interact with tourists. These skills have also empowered local people to negotiate and represent themselves more effectively with other outside groups, including National Parks, Private Businesses, and other powerful actors who have immense influence on their daily lives.
• The Empowerment of Women:
During the last 50 years, Thailand has experienced an increasing shift away from agricultural lifestyles and towards modernization and industrialization.
In the past, men and women usually lived and worked together closely. Nowadays, men often travel to work in the city, leaving their wives at home to care for the family. This change in lifestyle has had many sad consequences, including the break-up of families, an increase in HIV / AIDS and the increasing institutionalization of men as sole providers, and women as passive recipients.
Women play key roles in CBT. They share responsibility for developing, organizing and participating in CBT activities. Women are also usually the hosts of ‘Homestay’ activities, and often the experts in local cookery, arts and crafts.
Social and Cultural Contributions:
• Strengthening Community Pride
Rural people in Thailand, especialy from ‘hill tribe’ comunities, are often looked down upon, and regarded as ‘backward’ or ‘undeveloped.’ Experiencing the daily life of rural communities has increased understanding and respect between urban and rural people. Positive feedback from visitors, including tourists, government workers, students and academics has strengthened community pride and fostered a proud sense of shared cultural identity and group-consciousness.
• Passing on traditional skills and knowledge between generations:
Frequently, traditional local knowledge of the environment, local handicrafts, weaving styles, local foods, ceremonies and medicines is held by the older generation. The younger generation, with increasing influences from outside the community, have often been disinterested to learn these ancient skills.
CBT activities are often based on these traditional aspects of daily life, providing a new opportunity and incentive for the younger generation to take interest in and appreciate their rich heritage.
• Increased Hygiene and Safety Awareness
Guests to our communities arrive prepared in advance to sacrifice some of the ‘comforts of home!’
We give advice on food preparation, cleanliness of toilet and bathing areas, and presentation of sleeping areas. Since CBT-N began working in these communities, and families began receiving regular guests, we have been pleased to notice improvements in village hygiene both inside and outside village homes. This will undoubtedly have positive effects on community health.
Here are some concrete examples of how CBT has supported the environment:
1) Natural Resource Mapping has recorded fauna and flora in community ecosystems, including identifying periods when these areas should not be disturbed.
Natural Resource Use Mapping is also undertaken to discover the relationship between the community, their environment and natural resources.
These surveys are usually undertaken by community youth. Information is researched from village elders and shared at grassroots level. This process clearly illustrates the reliance of the community on the environment, and enforces the critical importance of protecting the local ecosystem, and managing natural resources sustainably.
2) Funding: Due to new income generated from CBT, Community members also have a new economic incentive to protect their environment, in order for the forest and ocean to remain attractive destinations for future visitors.
3) Experiencing: Urban visitors experience of rural life creates greater understanding of the relationship between human beings and the natural world and encourages our guests to consider their own levels of natural resource use, when they return home!
This results in a smaller ‘ecological footprint’ around the world.
Community Based Tourism is a gradual, learning process. While there are clearly financial rewards offered by CBT, all partners agree that participating in this process is the real opportunity and motivating force behind investing time and energy in CBT.
The tourist industry is notoriously insecure, and particularly sensitive to local and international events like 9/11, SARS or Bird Flu. Within a matter of days tourists can disappear from previously buoyant economies, leaving devastation and joblessness behind.
Consequently, CBT-N are concerned that our partner communities do not become over reliant upon tourism. Luckily, our partners have remained committed to their primary occupations and are overwhelmingly agreed that small groups of tourists, from time to time, makes for a more interesting and sustainable experience.
Nevertheless, CBT provides a useful source of supplementary income, and has supported communities financially, in roles such as guides, homestay hosts or handicraft producers; and indirectly through Community Based
Tourism Community Development Funds.