June 14, 2024
Tourism

Community Tourism: Benefits, importance of enhancing tourism development from the grassroots

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  • April 26, 2024
  • 5 min read
Community Tourism: Benefits, importance of enhancing tourism development from the grassroots

By Wale Ojo-Lanre

TOURISM has become a significant contributor to the economy of many countries, providing employment opportunities and generating revenue. While traditional tourism often focuses on popular destinations and attractions, community tourism presents a unique approach that empowers local communities and enhances tourism development from the grassroots. This article will discuss the concept of community tourism, its benefits and importance in fostering sustainable and inclusive tourism. It is an article I decided to make public after watching the Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Lola Ade-John recently while unveiling her ministry’s policy for the nation.

I must commend and acknowledge Mrs. Ade-John for her strides at the ministry in the last few months. Her activities have depicted her as a diligent and patriotic public officer who is out to serve the nation earnestly and responsibly. She understands the uniqueness of Nigeria’s geographical tourism contraptions – which is grassroots-based and hence coming out with the gospel according to Community Tourism. Thus let us understand this gospel of hers by asking what Community Tourism is.

Community tourism, also known as community-based tourism or local tourism, involves the active participation of local communities in the planning, development, and management of tourism activities. It aims to promote local culture, heritage, and resources while ensuring that the benefits of tourism reach the grassroots level. This is one of the reasons why developers of Tourism Master Plans always emphasize the involvement of members of rural communities. This is to underscore the benefits of Community Tourism, as it enhances empowerment and shores up poverty alleviation programmes. Community tourism enables local communities to participate in decision-making processes, giving them a sense of ownership and empowerment. Involving community members in tourism activities creates employment opportunities and helps alleviate poverty in these areas. Members of the communities would be aware of the importance of what they have and thus develop affectionate behavioural patterns that will encourage tourists to flock to their areas.

With the understanding of what tourism is and its advantages, members of the communities will naturally strive to preserve their culture and heritage which they have seen as economic products, as community tourism emphasizes the preservation and promotion of local culture and heritage. Engaging tourists in local traditions, festivals, and handicrafts helps preserve these elements and pass them on to future generations.

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Director-General of Ekiti State Bureau of Tourism Development (ESBTD), Bar. Wale Lanre-Ojo (left) and Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Lola Ade-John

Also, this will test the environmental consciousness of members of the communities. Community tourism often takes a sustainable approach, ensuring that natural resources are conserved. Locals become more aware of the importance of protecting their environment, and initiatives such as eco-tourism and responsible tourism practices are prioritized.

Community-based tourism also helps stimulate economic growth in local areas. Small-scale enterprises such as homestays, local restaurants, and artisanal shops benefit from increased tourism activities that generate income for the community.

Community-based tourism helps to lubricate cultural exchange and authentic experiences: Travelers are increasingly seeking authentic experiences, and community tourism provides opportunities for cultural exchange between visitors and locals. Tourists gain a deeper understanding of the local way of life, traditions, and customs, while community members interact with visitors from different cultures.

Therefore, one cannot ignore the importance of Community Tourism, as it promotes inclusivity by involving diverse members of society, including marginalized groups in tourism activities. It fosters social cohesion, bringing together people from different backgrounds and promoting mutual understanding.

It also offsets over-tourism which traditional tourism encourages by concentrating on popular destinations, leading to issues of over-tourism. By encouraging visitors to explore lesser-known communities, community tourism helps distribute tourism activities more evenly, reducing the negative impacts of overcrowding in heavily visited areas.

Community-based tourism aligns with the principles of sustainable development by emphasizing the preservation of natural and cultural resources. It promotes long-term planning, ensuring that tourism development is environmentally friendly, economically viable and socially beneficial.

Through community tourism, new and unique tourism products and services can be developed. This enriches the overall tourism industry by offering travellers a wider range of experiences while also encouraging creativity and innovation within local communities.

Conclusively, community tourism plays a crucial role in enhancing tourism development from the grassroots. By empowering local communities, preserving culture and heritage, and promoting sustainable tourism practices, it ensures a more inclusive, authentic, and responsible tourism industry. Governments, tourism stakeholders, and travellers themselves should recognize the importance of community tourism in creating a balanced and sustainable tourism environment that benefits both locals and visitors alike.

One needs to salute the tourism sagacity of Mrs Ade-John for being proactive and diligent at her duty post by domesticating tourism policy. The idea of Community Tourism will not only enhance the appreciation of tourism as a potent economic force, but also stoke the embers of tourism development at the grassroots.
Kudos, Lola Ade-John!

* Ojo-Lanre, a Barrister-at-Law and Director-General of Ekiti State Bureau of Tourism Development (ESBTD), wrote in from Ado-Ekiti

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