From around 1980 tourism changed its traditional definition and started to integrate new concepts. Policymakers, businessmen, communities and other social actors began to discuss the real role of tourism and its effects on the host communities and on the environment.
In the last three decades, the conception of tourism has included new dimensions about social, economic and environmental issues. Now the tourist industry is looking for non-mass activities involving the host communities and subsequent poverty alleviation.To describe this situation, the academic field has developed some approach related to the participation of communities in tourism which is called Community- based tourism (CBT).
CBT is seen as a participatory gender-balanced approach to planning and management which seeks to motivate villagers to conserve their natural and cultural heritage by generating awareness about the environment, and teaching people how to reduce the negative impacts of tourism while improving the tourism service standards that thereby justify greater and more widely available revenues 1.
In non-academic sectors, CBT is defined as a tool against poverty. Indigenous people of the world share a common experience of marginalization and discrimination. The non-recognition of their lands, of their territories and of their rights to enjoy access to their resources has reduced the possibility for these people to engage in traditional activities. Lack of access to credit, marketing resources and other means threaten their ways of life. In this context, CBT can be a socio-economic activity which can give them a sustainable living and help them preserve their land and culture 2.
CBT cannot be associated with any particular touristic product, despite its close relation with ecotourism. The connection of this activity with local development should be managed with caution because not all projects under this label bring positive results to the community. In some cases CBT projects are created by international or external organizations that could respond to a different logic of development, characterized by a gap between what the community needs and what the organizations offer. For that reason CBT projects should be a local proposal in which communities build their own objectives. It is then possible to say that CBT is a bottom-up process because it requires the participation of communities.
1. Brewer W (2000) Community-based Tourism for Conservation and Women’s Development. From Tourism and Development in Mountain regions.
2. OIT-ILO. (2001). Turismo Sostenible Estado, comunidad y empresa frente al mercado – El caso Ecuador, Lima, 140, p. p. 23-33