Local communities and villages in the Asia-Pacific region are becoming more active parts of the tourism value chain, a step forward for the global sustainability movement, observed industry stakeholders at last week’s PATA Annual Summit in Gangneung, South Korea.
Shifts towards community-based tourism are especially significant in light of concerns about overtourism, which often erodes the natural and cultural qualities of these places, said Wylbur Chisiya Simuusa, Zambian ambassador to the Republic of Korea. Simuusa raised the example of Victoria Falls in Livingstone, which was a rural area until international hotels began to open along the riverfront, driving local communities away from their traditional source of water.
“The government’s biggest task is to see how policies can be changed for sustainable development as well as ownership of these (lands) by the locals. We opened a national park in the capital Lusaka that satisfies both local and tourism interests: we employed the local community as game wardens to take care of the animals and provide transport for tours. As a result, the locals took ownership of the land, and stopped cutting trees for charcoal,” said Simuusa.
The involvement of native residents can even extend to including them in the design process of the tourism product, which is done by private companies such as LocalAlike in Thailand and TourDure in South Korea.
LocalAlike works with 80 villages in Thailand, while TourDure currently has 157 community business projects under development.
Pai-Somsak Boonkam, CEO & founder, LocalAlike, said: “We must plan with the community, not for the community. They can build rules for travellers in order to maintain the community’s authenticity, because travellers should contribute good, not harm.
“We worked with a community for six years before the village became self-sustaining. They came up with rules such as no making loud noises after 10pm, and private hotels must set aside a certain percentage of income for the community.”
Meanwhile, TourDure works with the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, Korea Tourism Organisation and local county representatives to plan, execute and support tour activities that promote local offerings.
Examples include the Yangpyeong Water Safety Training Centre, which introduced canoeing as a new activity in Yangpyeong, and Gangwon’s Hongcheon Yongoreum Beer Village Co-op, which commercialised and revitalised the village’s wheat industry through handmade beer, guesthouses and local tours.