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Community-based Tourism and Sustainable Development

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Guest Intern Post by Makena Haydon

Globalization has shrunk the world in many regards with ease of international communication and travel (for some people at least). Global travel has increased with it making tourism inevitable, especially in countries with an abundance of natural phenomenons, rich culture, and low prices. In particular, Guatemala has become a destination for many traveling through Central America and people wanting to explore the world, considering the short distance between Guatemala and the United States. The tourism and travel industry provides tremendous opportunities for employment and economic growth, however excessive tourism can have negative impacts, especially in developing countries. It can alter the priorities of local governments, such as allocating funds to support tourism initiatives instead of focusing on local populations and community issues. Prices go up heightened with the influx of foreign currency, making it more difficult for locals to buy average goods, such as food, drinks, medical supplies, and home necessities. Furthermore, mass tourism can exhaust natural resources and leave disadvantaged communities worse off than before. Despite the negative impacts of mass tourism, it can also be used as a powerful tool of sustainable development when done right.

Community-based tourism occurs when communities manage and administer their own tourism projects, meaning the benefits go directly to the members and not to external businesses or tour operators. It allows travelers to receive a more educational experience while creating closer relationships with the local people and culture. Tourists leave with a greater understanding of certain dynamics within the community as well as contributing to the local economy and local entrepreneurs.

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With every technological stride, the tourism industry becomes more accessible and can serve as a powerful tool towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which were created in September 2015 to eradicate global poverty over the next 15 years. In order to achieve these goals, governments, civil society organizations, multinational corporations, nonprofit organizations, and local communities will need to collaborate and utilize innovative approaches towards sustainable economic development. The eradication of poverty will need community-based approaches towards economic growth in order to be fully sustainable and realized. Goal 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, aims to achieve full, productive, and decent employment for all women and men by 2030. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the total contribution of Travel & Tourism to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry amounted to 489,000 jobs in Guatemala (7.9% of total employment). Tourism represents one of the largest incomes in comparison to Guatemala's major export crop, coffee. De la Gente's community tourism program bridges coffee production and tourism. In addition to being involved in a more inclusive and equitable coffee industry, De la Gente facilitates coffee tours and other workshops that contribute to the farmers’ income. By combining community tourism and coffee export, farmers who work with De la Gente are able to earn greater incomes and strive to leave lasting impacts on those who experience their tours.

I highly recommend the De la Gente artisan and coffee tours while visiting Antigua if you want to meet locals and get an idea of how the local coffee co-op farmer lives and operates and how an artisan makes a living in Guatemala.
— Trip Advisor

Community-based tourism that employs business models where local communities see the majority of returns will be a key tool in achieving Goal 8 of the SDGs. De la Gente tours and workshops provide an important source of supplemental income for partner farmers and artisans. Community providers earn above average and fair wages (often double or triple the average daily rate) which they can invest in their families and communities. The coffee commercialization side of De la Gente's work also contributes to Goal 8 of the SDGs. Under DLG's trade model, small scale farmers have greater access to the global market and stable and transparent pricing. Generally, farmers earn up to 30% more than they would selling their product in the local markets. These extra profits go towards investing in education, healthcare, and technologies to improve farming yields.

Marta, one of the farmers from San Miguel Escobar cooperative describes community tourism as a complement to coffee sales, for it is an additional source of income that can be used to further her children’s education. Marta enjoys meeting the people who are buying her coffee, and says it motivates her to produce higher quality goods. 

In the wake of globalization, community tourism serves as a tool to create mutually beneficial relationships for local communities and visitors. Through De la Gente's community lead tours and workshops, tourists are able to bridge the gap between coffee farmers, share cultures, and learn about the intricacies behind the global coffee industry. Community tourism is geared to be educational and create global citizens that realize their daily choices have global impacts, such as sourcing coffee from social enterprises that ensure farmers gain greater profits. Community tourism can supplement incomes and serve as an outlet to opportunities to communities that would otherwise not have. The UN Sustainable Development Goals require initiatives that work from the bottom up and community based tourism and social enterprises have the power to create the relationships necessary for sustainable and integrated development.

If you are interested in DLG's coffee tours or artisan workshops, please check out our website and contact us at tours@dlgcoffee.org