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Community-Based Tourism: a success?

Today I have just completed a piece of work undertaken with Rosa Santilli which addressed the question Community-Based Tourism: a success? It has been depressing. We asked some 750 experts – funders, conservationists and development workers ? to nominate successful CBT projects. 134 replied nominating 116 CBT initiatives, we got responses from 28 ? just four of these are economically sustainable CBT initiatives.

Our results demonstrate that amongst informed respondents there is a very broad range of criteria which identify an initiative as CBT. The two most significant criteria used in the academic definition are community ownership/management and community benefit. Only a quarter of respondents mentioned social capital and empowerment, community ownership/management first; although it was the most frequently first mentioned criteria. Only 1 respondent mentioned collective benefits first. There is a major gap between the academic definition of the concept and the way it is used and abused by practitioners.

It is evident from the surveys that there is no agreement about the meaning of CBT and that whenever the words are used the meaning needs to be made clear. In the surveys undertaken for this research the concept of CBT has been used to describe projects and initiatives which have some of these characteristics
?    benefits going to individuals or households in the community
?    collective benefits ? creation of assets which are used by the community as a whole, 
     roads, schools, clinics etc
?    community benefits where there is a distribution of benefit to all households in the
?    conservation initiatives with community and collective benefits
?    joint ventures with community and/or collective benefits, including an anticipated transfer
     of management.
?    community owned and managed enterprises
?    private sector enterprises with community benefits
?    product networks developed for marketing tourism in a local area.
?    community enterprise within a broader co-operative
Survey data was received from 28 managers of projects identified by the experts as CBT projects. Of these only 15 projects can be categorised as CBT initiatives in the traditional meaning of the word, being community owned/managed and with some element of collective benefits.  Most of the CBT case studies provide accommodation and activities, although two provide only activities  

The data on community (collective) benefits demonstrates that these range between 5% and 100% of earnings; the quantity is a function of scale and success and very significant community (collective) earnings are generated by non-CBT projects, , for example the Baltit Fort 60%, Manda Wilderness Lodge 30% and Yachana Lodge 60%. It is not the case that only CBT initiatives provide community benefits. The community benefits may be distributed in cash or more commonly as investments in community assets.

Only 5, one third of the initiatives, distribute a cash dividend to households. All but one of the initiatives has resulted in an improvement in community assets ranging from road improvements to classical music lessons.

Other evidence suggests that average bed occupancy achieved by CBT initiatives is around 5% and that this unsustainable. The research has demonstrated that there are a number of initiatives which are not CBT which have demonstrated very considerable employment, local economic development and collective community benefits, for example Manda Wilderness (Mozambique), Aga Khan Development Network in Pakistan (Baltit and Shigar Forts) and Chumbe Island (Tanzania).

1.    Initiatives need to be judged on their outcomes in creating local economic development and reducing poverty.
2.    Funders should expect managers to report on the outcomes of the initiatives and in particular on employment, local economic linkages, community economic benefits and economic sustainability. Where the initiative is claimed to be a CBT initiative detailed reports of the community’s engagement in the management should be required.
3.    Funders should assure themselves that the initiative will find an adequate market to ensure economic sustainability before committing resources; it is clear from the figures on average occupancy that this is the major issue. Initiatives are being funded which do not find a market adequate to ensure their sustainability. Strong market linkages are essential. Joint ventures are one of the ways of ensuring this. Private sector investments can also deliver significant employment and broader conservation and community benefits.
4.    Donor dependency is common in CBT ? nine of the 15 CBT projects identified in this research were still dependent upon, or seeking, donor funding. Some argue that five years is not long enough to secure sustainability and that it can take longer for  a CBT project to prove itself. It seems likely that the initiative was ill-conceived from the outset.
5.    There would be considerable value in a funder reviewing its CBT ?investments? using a comparative approach to determine the degree of success and, with a more complete set of returns, to assess the preconditions for success.
6.    There are only two differences between CBT projects and conventional investments
?    Community level, collective, benefits; increasing numbers of private sector investments have these benefits, they need to be measured and reported too. Data collected for this research suggests that private sector initiatives perform at least as well as, and in some instances better than, CBT initiatives. They should be assessed on the outcomes and donor funding considered against the outcomes.
There is a clear case for CBT being different from a private sector initiative in the empowerment of the community. The Bum Hill Community Campsite clearly demonstrates the way in which a CBT initiative can build social capital and empower a community ? although this initiative is still not economically sustainable. The claims made for community empowerment by CBT initiatives cannot be taken at face value, the gains can be important and significant for communities but they need to be demonstrated and subject to critical review.

If you know of examples of successful CBT initiatives where success is demonstrable by data please let me have them ? I am still looking for successes.

Full report available

2009 Goodwin H & Santilli R Community-Based Tourism: a

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