The Community Tourism Project in Western Uganda is established by Uganda Vision Resource Centre to empower Local Communities in sustainable development through small-scale tourism and local enterprises, also known as community tourism. Our community tourism involves local people in planning, decision-making and implementation of tourism development activities. This form of tourism assures that the benefits stay as much as possible in the local community.
A community by definition implies individuals with some kind of collective responsibility, and the ability to make decisions by representative bodies.
Community Based Tourism is a form of sustainable tourism that allows visitors to connect closely with the communities they visit. This emerging form of travel gives tourists authentic experiences, while allowing revenue generated by tourism to remain in the often rural, poor, or economically marginalized community.
The communities run these tourism enterprises that provide services such as village tours, nature walks, performances, and meals on their own initiatives. Community ecotourism is a particular facet of community based tourism, where at least some of the experiences are natural resourced-based. Community ecotourism benefits both environmental conservation and local communities, the former generating financing for the management of the natural resource area.
Community tourism not only encourages cross-cultural understanding between host and visitor but also embraces the bottom line of environmental protection, cultural conservation, social responsibility, economic health, and the enhancement of livelihoods. Because communities are the owners of these tourism enterprises, they have the incentive to establish standards for international tourists and invest in a quality tourism product. As such, Community Tourism is promoted as a means of development where the social, economic, and environmental needs of local communities are met through the offering of a tourism product.
Community based tourism is tourism in which local residents (often rural, poor and economically marginalized) invite tourists to visit their communities with the provision of overnight accommodation, feeding and laundry services.
The residents earn income as land managers, entrepreneurs, service and produce providers, and employees. At least part of the tourist income is set aside for projects which provide benefits to the community as a whole.
Community based tourism enables the tourist to discover local habitats and wildlife, and celebrates and respects traditional cultures, rituals and wisdom. The community will be aware of the commercial and social value placed on their natural and cultural heritage through tourism, and this will foster community based conservation of these resources.
The tourist accommodation and facilities are of sufficient standard for Western visitors, albeit those expecting simple rural accommodation. The community has continuous access to a phone (which might be required for any assistance) and daily access to email (which is required by operators to confirm bookings).
In this community tourism project Uganda Vision Resource Centre partners with the community and other local partners to provide clients, marketing, tourist accommodation or other expertise. Subject to agreement to the ideals of supporting community development and conservation, and to planning the tourism development in partnership with the community, Uganda Vision Resource Centre may or may not own part of the tourism enterprise. The community tourism at Uganda Vision Resource Centre has two goals to achieve;
1. Tourism that benefits local people
Community tourism which community-based is a form of tourism aims to include and benefit local communities, particularly indigenous peoples and villagers in the rural communities. For instance, community people might host tourists in their village, managing the scheme communally and sharing the profits. In this community tourism project, the ‘community’ works with Vision 2040 Resource Centre, ensuring that all community tourism projects give local people a fair share of the benefits/profits and a say in deciding how incoming tourism is managed.
2. Tourism that benefits tourists
These tours open up a world of adventure and opportunity. Our tourists take the opportunity to visit the National Parks, trek through the mountains; experience the magic of the Uganda’s hot springs, enjoy happy moments with local art and music while learning a great deal of Ugandan tradition and cultures. Our good community-based tours take you beyond mainstream tourism. You’ll meet people from different cultures and learn far more about them and their culture than on conventional tours. You’ll feel better knowing that your visit is genuinely helping your hosts. And if you want to simply lie on a beach…. well, there are tours here that feature some of the best beaches on the planet.
- Is run with the involvement and consent of local communities. (Local people participate in planning and managing the tour.)
- Gives a fair share of profits back to the local community. (Ideally this includes community projects (health, schools, women groups, child care centres, refugee settlements etc).)
- Involves communities rather than individuals. (Working with individuals can disrupt social structures.)
- Is environmentally sustainable. (Local people are involved if conservation projects.)
- Respects traditional culture and social structures.
- Has a mechanism to help communities cope with the impact of western tourists.
- Keeps groups small to minimize cultural / environmental impact.
- Briefs tourists before the trip on appropriate behaviour.
- Doesn’t make local people perform inappropriate ceremonies, etc.
- Leave communities alone if they don’t want tourism. (People have the right to say ‘no’ to tourism.)
Uganda Vision Resource Centre uses Community-based Tourism development strategy to mobilize communities into action to participate in broadening the scope of offerings in the industry. The goal is socio-economic empowerment and a value-added experience for local and foreign visitors. This process opens new niches for destination Uganda, most notably for the nature, culture, and adventure traveler. Uganda Vision Resource Centre encourages local entrepreneurs to reap the benefits of the tourism industry.
This concept gives visitors an opportunity of a ‘home away from home’ with Ugandan families – participating in, and learning about the Ugandan way of life while experiencing warm Ugandan hospitality. This fosters greater interactivity, build cross cultural bonds, respect and understanding, and gives authenticity to Ugandan lifestyles, while creating a source of income for the host community.
Tourism-based development at Uganda Vision Resource Centre is being formalized as a developmental tool for building not only the tourism industry, but the entire country, by opening up communities as attractions with definable modus operanda with achievable goals. The process is guided by industry standards of health, safety and regard for the environment. What this achieves is a policy objective of creating a culture of inclusion in the industry, whereby communities participate and share in the wealth of the industry, dispelling a long held perception of tourism as an exploiter of wealth where only the rich can benefit.
Community-based tourism development empowers people to be more aware of the value of their community assets – their culture, heritage, cuisine and lifestyle. It mobilizes them to convert these into income generating projects while offering a more diverse and worthwhile experience to visitors. Every citizen is a potential business partner to be trained in small business management, environmental awareness, product development and marketing. This type of ‘people-centered’ tourism promotes a sense of ‘ownership’ which augurs well for the industry’s sustainability.
- Brings recognition and attention to the community
- Adds value to a community’s economy
- Diversifies economic activity in a community
- Provides an alternative to unsustainable forms of income such as poaching or logging, thus helping safeguard the livelihoods and well being of both locals and indigenous peoples
- Natural resource-based conservation, where the main product is wildlife or natural-resource related
- Cultural conservation
- Tourism income is more likely to remain in the community
- Encourages community pride and protection of community resources
- Involves and encourages the participation of women
- Receives an authentic experience and learns first-hand about the community from a local guide
- Has an opportunity to create a deeper connection to the community
- Knows exactly where the money will go and can feel good about it
- In the case of ecotourism, achieves a win-win benefits for supporting natural heritage conservation
- Gets a unique look at a particular destination
Receives personal tour, individualized service, and attention
Please note that Uganda Vision Resource Centre is an umbrella brand that markets community based tourism destinations and enterprises in Western Uganda. When we speak of community-based tourism, the most popular image tends to be a rural village far from the beaten path, and for good reason. Most are. Examples include Kigezi and communities in the Rwenzori region.
Rural community tourism in the Rwenzori region, for example, is a showcase of conservation of large tracts of virgin rainforest, reforestation work and organic agriculture. Travelers can support this work through their visits. While it’s a romantic notion to limit one’s notion of community tourism to rural settlements, the concept of ‘community’ can easily be linked to urban populations.
Successful community tourism is mutually beneficial — for the communities and for the travelers. The big question is where to go? Successful community-based tourism succeeds when it achieves mutual benefits for locals and visitors.