Human takes so much from nature by various extraction and cultivation activities. While on the other hand, we give back so little for protecting nature. We forget that if nature is damaged then our existence will also be threated. Ecotourism development is an alternative way of tourism to change towards more positive interactions between human and nature, in order to balance conservation and human needs. Ecotourism would be promoted as one of the sustainable options of natural conservation; by encouraging visitors to minimize the negative impact of their visit, encouraging local government and local community to manage their consumption of natural resources in sustainable manner. We believe that only if this harmonious relation is achieved, then natural conservation can function effectively to improve welfare of local community.
Community development is essentially a process to improve the capacity of local communities to act and to stimulate the change of mind set. Local communities who previously exploited natural resources at their surrounding areas, would change into using the natural resources more responsibly and conserving them for sustainability. Local communities who previously ignored or underestimated their rich cultural resources, would regain their proudness and responsibly share them with other society in the world. Local communities who previously neglected their potentials, would be able to take action and use their resources sustainably for their welfare. Community Based Tourism (CBT) emerges as a community development strategy, which uses tourism as a tool to strengthen local communities to manage tourism resources.
Tourism as Development Process
Tourism as a development process means that tourism is a process of value-added creation. Natural and cultural resources is comparative advantages, which means that we use them to differentiate us with others; i.e. more beautiful, larger, more unique, etc. Developing these resources as tourism attractions means they are utilized to provide benefits for their region and people; thus, these resources can become attribute for their region and people to compete with other regions.
At least, there are 3(three) kinds of added values which we can obtain from tourism development. First, economic added values. This often become the primary added value sought after in tourism, such as alternative income for local communities, job creation, increasing economic growth at destination from the growth of tourism industry, and many others. Another one is environmental added values, which include rehabilitation and conservation of habitat and biodiversity, increasing environmental quality of built-up environment, decreasing anthropogenic environmental problems, and many others. Lastly is social added values, such as preservation of local culture, the return of young generation to their traditional home-villages, and creation of friendships between visitors and host communities.
Key Intervention to Ecotourism Development at Community Level
One of our key strategies in community development is increasing the opportunities for local communities to engage and take benefit from tourism development. However, it is important for them to understand that it highly depends on themselves to make this happen. Our intervention to increase the opportunities are by combining five different interventions:
Linking Tourism with Local Economic Development
Ecotourism development or community-based tourism development should be strongly rooted into community existing life in order to sustain the future. Such strong linkage will create resilience of the communities and the destinations for any threats coming. One of our key strategies is by linking tourism development with the production of community local products in order to accelerate local economic development.
Community products are usually related to their economic sector and their culture. For fisherman communities, fish harvest and post-harvest fish processing will be their primary economic sector; and similarly for agriculture communities. Many of craft products were traditionally made for daily domestic use or ceremonial and sometimes are sold at local market. Locals rarely made them in large quantities and many of them even already lost their skills to make such crafts, thus, only very limited items of these crafts are offered as souvenirs Local communities often cannot turn craftsmanship into high value commercial products.
Our approach is to increase added value and to strengthen supply chain of community based products by empowering local communities. The value of community products will be creatively improved: from raw materials to semi-finished or finished products, which can be used or consumed by consumer (tourists) and tourism business (hotel, restaurant, and tour operators). The improved quality will allow local community products to compete with other products. In addition, this linkage will increase the competitiveness of tourism at village or destination level; as economically they will cut down cost, socially engage local community, and environmentally reduce foot print.We also believe that it is not only the products which can be offered to tourism, but the making process of some of these products are extremely unique, thus can become tourist attraction. These processes can be packaged and developed in tour product development, which will be combined by other attractions and services at the village, such as homestay and meals, form new and high quality community based ecotourism products. We put a strong emphasis on the existing capital at local level, especially human resources, local knowledge, and raw materials. Considerable number of efforts were put to find all creative ways to make the best use of raw materials, strengthen and revitalize local knowledge whenever necessary, and as much as possible improve capacity of local communities.