The regions where CEN works offer tremendous natural beauty. The communities are rich with local knowledge and a strong appreciation of natural and cultural heritage. Tourism offers economic opportunity, generating a continuous flow of investment and visitors and contributing to overall regional development. Practiced carefully, responsible tourism can also help the communities preserve their culture and environment.
With community-based tourism, residents from the local community have a significant involvement in developing and executing tourism plans. They develop ecotourism based on the needs of their communities and in accordance with their cultural beliefs and consideration of natural resources. An equitable portion of generated income stays within the community. Local management tends to be more positive because residents have a vested interest in the well-being of their community, and they are therefore more accountable to environmental protection. The smaller scale of community-based tourism operations can also be marketed to a different kind of tourist than large-scale packages. Hence, the development of facilities and infrastructure does not need to conform to corporate Western tourism standards and can be much simpler and less expensive to produce.
Though community-based ecotourism can generate new revenue for the community, it is not a cure-all. All projects must be a part of a wider, integrated development approach in order to responsibly create ecotourism opportunities that produce sustainable income for the community. Read more about community-based tourism
Our primary objectives for supporting communities’ tourism initiatives are to help them become more self-reliant and to build sustainable livelihoods while maintaining their unique culture and preserving the environment. We are also working to ensure that the tourist activities the communities decide to pursue are financially, socially and environmentally sustainable.
Establish Community Goals — In collaboration with our local partners, we mobilize communities and mentor them to define their goals, explore whether and how tourism can help them meet these objectives, and to develop a plan for achieving these goals.
For example, the community of Xixuaú already has a well-developed ecotourism business and largely supports itself on visits by international film crews and tourists who use the community as a base camp to explore the pristine surroundings. Another community, Suruacá, on the other hand, is more cautious toward promoting open tourism but is interested in using tourism as a way to facilitate stronger relationships with visitors. We encourage this community-wide dialog by helping residents hold meetings and workshops on the subject, as well as by helping communities with tourism experience, like Xixuaú, share their learning with those considering tourism, like Suruacá. We supported just this kind of cross-community dialog by sponsoring a visit by a Xixuaú resident to Suruacá.
Build Community Capacity to Manage — We build community capacity to manage all aspects of their community-based ecotourism projects. We do this by:
- Strengthening critical basic skills and mindsets, such as critical thinking and problem solving, through our PRATICAR learning approach that utilizes a cycle of activities, mentoring, and discussion to reinforce self-reliance
- Building the capacity of residents to plan, develop, market and manage resources and facilities, as well as providing the goods and services needed to support local tourism, through project-based learning, workshops and individualized coaching
- Expanding and strengthening community institutions though mentoring of community leaders and community-building exercises
Build Sustainable Livelihoods — We mentor residents to establish locally based, family-run tourism-related businesses. CEN’s efforts aim to involve communities in all aspects of the development of tourism programs with the goal of building self-reliant tourism ventures. We help the communities and residents develop economic activities such as handicraft production and guided tours, which complement community goals and build sustainable livelihoods. We also facilitate training that helps community entrepreneurs improve the quality of their products, manage their businesses better and market their products effectively.
Attract Tourists — We organize tours so that visitors can responsibly experience the regions that CEN works with in the Brazilian Amazon. Tours consist of a manageable number of visitors so that travelers and residents can learn from each other without overwhelming the residents' way of life or degrading natural resources. CEN also works closely with the communities to market their tourism products with local and national tourism and government agencies and others to increase the number of visitors to the communities.
Our Eixo Forte / Juá Community Tourism Project is our first project in our community-based tourism program. This project brings community-based tourism to 16 impoverished communities in the Brazilian Amazon, offering many opportunities to improve their livelihoods, without abandoning their culture and traditional way of life. Although each community’s needs and aspirations are unique, we believe that many of the lessons we learn from this project will be applicable in other parts of the world, and we plan to replicate this work in other communities.