"Travel leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller" ~ Ibn Battuta
The best things about travelling is the opportunity to experience new culture and learn more about our amazing planet. Even more, it provides us an opportunity to create lifetime memories that become one's life's narrative.
However, here at Xtreme Paddlers, we believe tourism can benefit not only travellers but the local communities as well. Since its inception, Xtreme Paddlers has incorporated elements of Community Based Tourism in our travel products - we believe the best way to learn about a country is through its people.
Community Based Tourism is actually probably one of the oldest ways of conducting tourism (although it seems to be a new term, this approach has been practiced for the longest time). Before we learn about Community Based Tourism (or in short, CBT), let us 1st understand the meaning of Community.
Community in this sense means a group of people living in the same place and having something in common , be it culture, socioeconomic activity, or simply the land and its ecosystems. In Malaysia, most cases, they are farmers, fishermen, artisans and indigenous people.
One of the key aspects of Community Based Tourism is that it is something which is led and supported by the community itself. It can take many different forms such as home stay programmes where visitors stay with local families or visit villages and communities. At Xtreme Paddlers, we work together with local tourism associations of different communities in Sabah Malaysia to incorporate their CBT products in our travel packages.
Benefits of Community Based Tourism (CBT)
1. Cross cultural Understanding
Travel brings people together. It allows people to understand other cultures and beliefs; and today more than ever, it is important for people of different background, faith and culture to come together and learn from each other. We believe this kind of learning can heal divides and create a stronger and united world. Community Based Tourism promotes cross cultural understanding. It allows people from different backgrounds to meet in a respectful environment and engage with one another.
2. Environmentally Sustainable
In today's world, tourism is a multi billion dollar industry however so many places worldwide are struggling with negative impacts of mass tourism. We believe ecotourism and community based tourism can go hand-in-hand. At its best, community based tourism is sustainable and it provides environmentally friendly activities and attractions.
Hence why, we believe in supporting environmentally sustainable projects is imperative - which certainly applies to Community Based Tourism. In retrospect, the environmental footprint of community-based tourism is usually smaller than traditional mass tourism approach. For example, we take visitors to the community members' homes to learn traditional cooking and handicraft making or to the paddy fields to learn how to plant and harvest rice.
Also with the economic opportunity that comes with CBT especially ecotourism CBT products, it encourages the local community in preserving the nature heritage and steer them away from less environmentally ways of earning income like logging. As a result, supporting Community Based Tourism projects can ensure the environment and its attractions, remain for generations to come.
3. Empowering The Community
Community Based Tourism provides opportunities for the local people to earn income as well as introduce their culture to visitors visiting the country. As CBT projects are actively developed and led by the local community, it gives a sense of autonomy where they decide what is right for their community and projects. This can be very empowering as not only it generates income for them but also generates pride and confidence.
With CBT, the bulk of sales or spending (by tourists) stays within the community. In particular, community based tourism can provide income and opportunities for all people including women and disadvantaged groups such as those with disabilities.
It gives everybody the opportunity to secure their economic future and create opportunities for themselves.
In addition, CBT gives local people the opportunity to share their culture with the world as well as learn about other culture and experiences. This can be a great source of pride and confidence for the locals and ensure that culture and language is strengthened. It is particularly helpful in encouraging young people to express their culture and can ensure that the local culture and language is not lost and instead handed down to future generations .
4. Authentic Experiences
For many people, travelling is an opportunity to broaden their horizons and enrich their life by visiting a new place and deeply understanding it. And what better way to understand a place and its local culture than their eyes, ears, tastebuds and hearts.
Undoubtedly, Community Based Tourism allows visitors to meet their travelling purpose. It gives visitors the opportunity to meet local people and learn from them - something which may not be possible with a conventional packaged tour. CBT packages allows you to experience a country with your heart, not just your mind.
From visiting traditional artisans and markets to sharing dinners in village homes and trekking the off beaten path with a local guide. Through Community Based Tourism, there are many incredible opportunities for visitors to have authentic , genuine experiences and come to learn more about different cultures. There's also a very good chance that you will come away not only with new experiences, and knowledge but also new friends.