Tourism is an industry as well as an economic activity that is extremely important to the economy of many an ASEAN country. Tourism generates income, economic growth and national revenue, but it also can cause impacts on natural and cultural resources, eco-systems and local communities. Thus, ASEAN’s member states are given serious attention to the question how tourism incomes could benefit the locals as well as how to reduce or prevent the negative impact of tourism and sweeping commercialization of cultural heritages.
The issue of how to better engage tourists in exchanging experiences, values, and way of life of the country that host them, rather than just making holiday and leaving little to the community is also under consideration. Hence, to improve the benefits of tourism at local level, whilst at the same time mitigating negative impacts thereof, ASEAN countries apply Community Based Tourism, or CBT, as a tourism development tool.
CBT is a new form of tourism that emerged over the last 2 decades. It emphasizes a community-centered approach in its operation and essentially deems capacity development of people in the communities the heart of tourism management. This type of tourism not only responds to the needs of tourists, but also empowers the locals to apply their knowledge in managing tourism within their own communities. Its goals are to protect and restore the natural resources in balance with local and cultural identity as well as to serve the economy of the communities, since caring for the resources is a collective responsibility of the community, not anyone in particular.
There are many admirable examples within ASEAN that show how CBT is of advantage to local communities. For one, Mae Hongson province in Thailand has a long tradition of community-based tourism of over 15 years that is recognized internationally. Communities in the province provide activities for tourists to gain local knowledge of resource management, simple and self-subsistence ways of life, and the surrounding biodiversity. Those tourists will stay over in the communities in order to experience first-hand insight into the local lifestyle, whilst getting accustomed to it. Each community will present their day-today activities to the visitors including, for instance, shifting cultivation, weaving clothes, herbal medicine, and traditional fishing.
Another good example of CBT is the Nam Ha Project, aimed at poverty alleviation, in Laos’ northwestern province of Luang Namtha. The project empowers poor villagers, who receive contracts to retain stewardship over trekking trails in their area, and thus the biggest chunk of trekkers’ fees. The Provincial Tourism Departments (PTD) sign on to oversee the operation, and tour operators agree to use the trained villagers and lead PTD guides. Following the model, PTD and tour companies engage five to six villages to provide guides, home stays, meals, handicrafts and food, as well as to organize village-visit activities. The project won a United Nations Development (UNDP) Award for poverty alleviation.
A third good example of CBT is the Lac village in Mai Chau district, Hoa Binh province in Viet Nam. The district, about 135 km from Hanoi, is a beautiful rural area, populated mostly by ethnic White Thai minorities. Lac village was officially licensed to operate homestay business in 1995.
It is popular with tourists because of the local culture with well preserved, traditional stilt houses thanks to the fact that a significant share of the profits earned from tourism goes to building traditional style houses with thatched roof. The village offers homestay services to experience the daily life of the White Thai people, e.g. by eating Thai dishes and learning several weaving techniques; in addition the village is surrounded by a peaceful landscape with rice fields, tea plantations and caves that invite to participation in trekking tours.
These are just a few examples of CBT. Underneath we have listed other well-known CBT destinations, per ASEAN country.
List of ASEAN Community Based Tourism destinations, per country
- Baitul Wajihah
- Kampong Sungai Matan
- Melilas Longhouse
- Chiphat Community-Based Ecotourism in Koh Kong Province
- Preah Rumkel Community-Based Ecotourism, Stung Treng Province
- Chambok Community-Based Ecotourism, Kom Pong Speu Province
- Pentingsari Village
- Laweyan Village
- Kampung Naga
- Ban Hadkhai Village, Thapabath, Bolikhamxay Province
- Ban Kietngong, Champasack Province
- Nalan Village, Loung Namtha Province
- Homestay Kampung Kuala Medang, Luala Lipis, Pahang
- Homestay Walai Tokou, Kundasang, Sabah
- Homestay Kampung Santubong, Kuching, Sarawak
- Kyaing Tong, Eastern Shan State
- Putao, Kachin State
- Kalaw, Southern Shan State
- Abatan River Community Life Tour, Bohol
- Donsol Whaleshark Interaction Tour (Donsol, Sorgoson)
- Tibolo Cultural Village Tour (Tagabawa – Bagobo Tribes), Digos City, Davao del Sur
- Little India (a key tourism cultural precinct, showcasing a unique cultural identity developing organically in this community, with many characteristics similar to CBT)
- Mae Kampong Village, Chiang Mai Province
- Kiriwon Village, Nakorn Si Thammarat Province
- Leeled Village, Surat Thani Province
- Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, Ha Giang Province
- Sa Pa, Lao Cai Province
- Co Phat Village, Con Cuong District, Nghe An Province
“Although Community Based Tourism still remains a niche in ASEAN’s touristic landscape, representing a small share of the tourism market only, it certainly possesses more value in making tourism a practical business tool for developing communities, economically, culturally and environmentally”