Embrace the Heart of Travel: What is Community-Based Tourism and Why we All Need it

Preah Dak village, Cambodia – Picture by Catherine Germier-Hamel

Traveling is more than just ticking off destinations from your bucket list. It’s about experiencing the world, creating memories, and leaving a positive impact wherever you go. This is where community-based tourism (CBT) comes into play, offering travelers a unique opportunity to connect with local communities, cultures, and traditions. In this article, we explore what community-based tourism is and why it should be an essential part of your travel journey.

What is Community-Based Tourism (CBT)?

Community-Based Tourism, or CBT, is a sustainable travel approach that revolves around local communities as the driving force behind all tourism activities. Unlike traditional mass tourism, which often involves impersonal hotels and chain restaurants, CBT encourages travelers to engage with local residents, immerse themselves in local ways of life, and contribute to community development initiatives. It’s a more meaningful, authentic, and sustainable way to explore the world while empowering local communities to shape visitors’ experiences.

Community-Based Tourism aligns closely with the principles of sustainable tourism. In particular, it seeks to minimize the negative impacts of tourism by channeling a significant portion of the revenue directly into local communities. This reduces the “leakage” of income that often occurs in traditional mass tourism, where a substantial portion of the money spent by tourists leaves the destination and goes to international corporations. In CBT, the economic benefits stay within the community, supporting local development and preservation efforts.

Preah Dak village, Cambodia – Picture by Catherine Germier-Hamel

Why CBT is worth experiencing

  1. Authentic Cultural Immersion:
    CBT offers a unique opportunity to engage with local people on a personal level. It’s not about being a passive observer; you become an active participant in their daily lives. Whether you’re learning traditional crafts, sharing meals, or joining local festivals, CBT provides authentic cultural immersion that guidebooks can’t replicate. You’ll gain insights into local cultures that go beyond the surface.
  2. Meaningful Connections and Warm Hospitality:
    Travel isn’t just about visiting new places; it’s about connecting with people. One of the most heartwarming aspects of CBT is the warmth and hospitality you’ll encounter. You’re not just another tourist; you’re welcomed as a guest and often treated like family. These personal connections foster understanding and empathy across cultures, leaving you with cherished memories.
  3. More Positive Impact:
    Participating in CBT means actively contributing to the well-being of host communities. Your presence generates income, supports local businesses, and funds community projects such as schools, healthcare facilities, and infrastructure development. You can feel good knowing that your travel dollars are making a real difference.
  4. Preserving Heritage:
    Many CBT initiatives focus on preserving cultural heritage and traditions. By taking part in these experiences, you become a guardian of these age-old practices, stories, and crafts, ensuring they’re passed down to future generations. Additionally, CBT often contributes to the conservation of natural environments and ecosystems, protecting them for future travelers to enjoy.
  5. Environmental Sustainability:
    CBT emphasizes eco-friendly practices, such as responsible wildlife viewing and low-impact trekking. This commitment to sustainability helps protect natural habitats and minimizes the environmental footprint of tourism. You can explore with a clear conscience, knowing your travels aren’t harming the planet.
  6. Support for Local Economies:
    Choosing CBT destinations means your spending directly benefits local communities. Whether it’s on accommodations, activities, or unique handcrafted souvenirs, your money goes directly into the hands of local residents, uplifting their livelihoods and communities. Say goodbye to mass-produced trinkets; CBT communities offer meaningful mementos of your journey.
  7. Empowerment and Social Development:
    Participating in CBT can be a transformative experience, both for you and the communities you visit. Stepping out of your comfort zone, learning new skills, and gaining a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives enhance your personal growth and overall well-being. Many CBT initiatives include educational components and skill-sharing opportunities, empowering local residents through your visit.
  8. Unique and Off-the-Beaten-Path Experiences:
    CBT destinations are often hidden away from overcrowded tourist hotspots. This means you’ll have the chance to explore hidden gems, discover remote villages, and savor authentic local cuisine. These unique experiences create lasting memories that set your travels apart.
  9. Customized Experiences:
    CBT initiatives are known for their flexibility. Whether you want to learn traditional farming, embark on a wildlife safari, or simply relax by a serene village lake, CBT can cater to your interests. Your travel experiences are tailored to your preferences.
  10. Building Global Citizenship:
    CBT fosters a sense of global citizenship. You’ll return home with a broader perspective on the world, a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity, and a commitment to responsible travel. It’s an opportunity to expand your horizons and make a positive impact on a global scale.

CBT in Thailand – Picture by Catherine Germier-Hamel

How to Enjoy CBT?

  1. Research: Look for destinations and organizations that promote community-based tourism. Explore their websites and read reviews from previous travelers. You can definitely start by searching CBT experiences on our platform Herost.
  2.  Connect: Reach out to local CBT operators or community leaders. Establish a connection before your trip to understand what experiences are available and how you can contribute.
  3. Respect Local Customs: While participating in CBT, always respect local customs, traditions, and etiquette. Be a responsible and culturally sensitive traveler.
  4. Spread the Word: Share your CBT experiences with friends and on social media. Encourage others to explore this enriching form of travel.

In a world where travel is often associated with overcrowded tourist traps, Community-Based Tourism offers a positive alternative. It’s a chance to experience the world with open arms, leaving a better impact on both the places you visit and your own well-being. So, next time you plan a trip, consider venturing off the beaten path and embracing the heart of travel through CBT. Your journey will be all the more rewarding for it.

Read more: Why Community-Based Ecotourism in Cambodia is What You Need Now

Herost - Community-based tourosm
CBT in Laos – Picture by Catherine Germier-Hamel