Tourism has the potential to generate both positive and negative effects on an area and its inhabitants. Negative impacts of tourism – particularly to the social and cultural integrity of a community – usually occur when the values and behaviors of the local community are threatened. This threat can include changes to the family structure, community relationships, collective traditional lifestyles, and moral values.
Closely related is how tourism can affect a host community’s use of natural resources. Those resources can include water, clean air, agricultural lands, and recreational areas, as well as important ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal areas.
Moreover, tourism can be positive, thereby fostering local pride, revitalizing traditions, decreasing urban flight, improving human welfare, and strengthening institutional development and governance. Related to its very reliance on natural attractions as a resource, tourism can also help foster stewardship among local communities for conservation.
IN DEPTH: Learn more about CI's partnerships with local communities.
CI’s tourism development programs emphasize understanding community approaches toward tourism, as well as the underlying conservation, capacity, social, political, and economic issues. In Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, and elsewhere, CI has worked alongside communities to improve local benefits from, build awareness of, and create incentives for biodiversity conservation.
Examples of CI’s commitment to communities include San Andrés and Bio-Itzá in Guatemala. Those communities are located in the globally important Maya Biosphere Reserve, where CI helped to establish Spanish-language schools that combine learning with ecotourism. Visitors stay with host families, and teachers are from the local communities. The added revenue from the language schools reduces the reliance of participating families on natural resource extraction.
In Bolivia, CI’s support and training of a local community led to the successful transfer of ownership and management of the Chalalán Ecolodge. Today, 74 families receive direct economic benefits from the ecolodge, while conserving the biodiversity of Madidi National Park.
LEARN MORE: Developing ecotourism at Conservation International.