Community-based tourism in Latin America
Everyone should benefit from tourism – travellers, travel companies and the local population. Turismo Comunitario (English: Community-Based Tourism) is a form of tourism in which travellers spend their holidays in rural regions in order to get in touch with the local population and get to know their lives, culture and traditions in an authentic way. At the same time, new income opportunities are created locally, sustainable development is promoted and nature conservation is improved.
Together for community tourism
TourCert supports this approach and has therefore been involved in the Turismo Comunitario project in Ecuador since 2017. Due to the successful outcome, a follow-up project was initiated to transfer the concept to the neighbouring countries Peru and Colombia. The activities of the projects are coordinated by the two non-profit organisations kate Ecology and Development and VSocial Foundation. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) provides financial support for this commitment. The project revolves around indigenous communities from Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, which TourCert supports as an expert for sustainability in the field of community-based tourism.
The Goal – Joint Development towards economic independence
Community tourism has a long tradition in Ecuador as part of the indigenous movement. Travellers get authentic insights into the everyday life of the local population and can learn more about indigenous cultures first hand, e.g. on guided hikes, while helping out in the fields and at agricultural work, at workshops to learn traditional crafts such as pottery and weaving or while cooking together. For the local communities, this integration into tourism is important both to pass on their culture and to generate additional income to traditional sources of income such as agriculture and livestock farming, and consequently to become more economically independent.
The project partners have agreed on the following guidelines:
- to strengthen the self-government of the municipalities through the development of the tourism business,
- to promote solidarity and the common good by sharing the benefits of tourism and creating jobs with fair working conditions,
- valuing the natural environment and biodiversity and thus preserving and cultivating the natural and cultural heritage as an elementary life strategy,
- promoting social identity through appreciation of local culture and intercultural exchange,
- quality orientation and innovative product development, promotion of service quality, guest satisfaction and business development.
Close to the reality of local communities
For years, there have been efforts to establish Turismo Comunitario in the Andean countries, but development is stagnating and an economically viable model is lacking. This is where the joint project comes in. The project managers and TourCert support the municipalities in the development of an organisational and marketing model with certification specially adapted to community tourism and a corresponding catalogue of criteria as the core of the model. Topic-specific workshops and on-site visits are held regularly to provide technical assistance to the communities.
Step by step
Understanding the initial situation
Together with local consultants, the project managers first carried out an analysis of the status quo and the development of community-based tourism over the last 15 years. Based on the data collected, subsequent activities could then be planned, designed and implemented in line with the target group.
Develop measurable standards
With the support of the local project managers, TourCert developed a generally valid catalogue of criteria as a guideline for the management of community-based tourism. The municipalities discussed and evaluated this on the basis of their practical experience.
Start pilot process
The catalogue of criteria is currently being introduced and reviewed in five pilot communities in Ecuador, five communities in Peru and three pilot communities in Colombia. Finally, certification by TourCert will take place. The first community Yunguilla has already been successfully certified. In addition, the project team supports the communities and their tourism development through theme-specific workshops on product development and marketing.
Learning from experience
After the pilot destinations, the model will be transferred to other communities in the Andean countries. The findings from the pilot processes will be taken into account. The association and the pilot communities will be available to other interested communities for events and assistance.
Extension and Networking
The aim is the long-term exchange between the communities and marketing measures to disseminate the model. TourCert supports the campaign with its own marketing activities and promotes the exchange with other members of the community.
Joint success story
A lot has happened since the start of the project in May 2017:
Catalogue of criteria
For the organisational model of community tourism, a new catalogue of criteria was developed in exchange with local partners and the communities. In particular, it was revised and adapted with regard to regional differences and country-specific features. The catalogue of criteria can thus be used beyond the end of the project and will enable the certification of community tourism initiatives in Latin America in the future.
The improved organizational model with certification system is currently being implemented in several pilot communities in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. The community of Yunguilla in Ecuador was the first indigenous community to be successfully certified with the TourCert seal at the end of 2018. This success is now to be transferred to other communities.
The TourCert system for community-based tourism has successfully passed the first practical test in the pilot communities in Ecuador. For this reason, the commitment was also transferred to other Latin American countries and an Andean network was established.
The cross-border network with partner organisations, associations and local political institutions is having an impact. The Turismo Comunitario projects are highly accepted and of great interest to the local population. There are already enquiries from other interested communities who would like to get involved in the process.
Become part of the initiative!
Community-based tourism is the new type of encounter travel – authentic, unadulterated and a real highlight for your product portfolio. Dialogue and cooperation with German tour operators are also sought to market the offers developed in the communities. Are you interested in a cooperation or further information? Feel free to contact us.