Community tourism may possibly be the pinnacle of sustainable tourism. It is a form of travel that specifically gives back to the communities in which we travel to or that fund social, economic or environmental projects. Examples of community tourism include: hotels that employ and train disadvantaged local people; safaris owned and operated by indigenous communities; and tour companies that use your travel dollars to fund community projects like building schools or hospitals.
But growing in popularity is the idea of visitors staying at small villages with the locals themselves. In places such as the village of Mae Klang Luang in Thailand, travellers can stay at local homes, learn about the villagers’ traditional ways of life, learn about medicinal use of native plants, and visit organic farms and more. Best of all, the money you spend will go directly back into the community. This means villagers are properly paid, their culture respected, and you as the traveller will receive a much more rewarding experience.
Sustainable travel seeks to respect and support local cultures, economies and environments. And community tourism does all that. It benefits both the visitor and the hosts as it promotes a positive interaction between the two. It teaches visitors to tread lightly on people’s homes and cultures. And it brings awareness of the impacts visitors can have on the places we travel to. Community tourism essentially seeks to minimize the negative impacts of travel, while maximizing the benefits to locals and the visitors alike.
Polly Pattullo, author of The Ethical Travel Guide, goes into much greater detail of the benefits of community tourism as well as the example of the Mae Klang Luang village at her website: TourismConcern.org.uk/community-based-tourism.