Written by: Saisuk, Wilaiporn
In response to the negatives impacts of mass tourism in the 1980s, community- based tourism becomes the new route for development, as tourism growth does not often benefit the local community or the poor. A discussion of “homestay” community-based project in Mae Kampong, northern Thailand, to what extend is CBT project successfully in helping local community benefit from tourism and what are the challenges.
Keywords: Community-based tourism (CBT), homestay, benefit, challenge, Mae Kampong, poverty, tourism.
Mae Kampong village is now well known as a model for community-based tourism (CBT) because of the promotion by the tourism officials. The village located 50 Kilometres from the capital of Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand (one of Thailand’s most visits tourist destinations) received 2.5 million domestic tourists and 1.9 million international tourists in 2011.With a rapid growth within the tourism industry, this causes negatives narrative regarding tourism in Thailand such as mass tourism, environment, and social impacts. Hence, community-based tourism (CBT), environmental activities, none – governmental organisation (NGO) and public officials has become over the past decade an important component of the domestic tourism market (Kontogeorgopoulos et al., 2014).
While there are many argument that community-based tourism for being too small-scale to effectively help reduce poverty, many studies argued that the community-based tourism can have a greater benefits, for example, shifting power to local, environmental and cultural preservation, community involvement, improving social economic within the community and lastly increased strength for sustainable improvement (Dolezal, 2015).
Around the globe, community-based tourism will contain different meanings, depending on the country’s cultural, social, political and economic background. “Homestay” is an authentic community-based tourism project, signified to accommodation in the local family home. Providing tourists with opportunities to experience first hand and learn Thai traditional simple ways of life, by close interaction exchanging, joining with the local family everyday activities (Harada, 2016).
Of course a journey to become successful means facing the challenges along the way such as; lacking on marketing side, unfair sharing of benefits between homestay agencies and local, not meeting hospitality service standards, misunderstandings between tourist and local family of each other’s needs and motivations, lacking of facilities, and the government regulation and planning were not properly in place, and lastly the language barrier remain a common challenge in homestay CBT when local and tourists interact with each other. Interactions were sometimes taking a form of sign language rather than communication among themselves (Dolezal, 2015).
Initially, in Mae Kampong village there were only five locals joining the homestay in 2000. Though, each year the number of local homestay operators took a steady growth to now having 24 all homestays altogether. The number of tourists received was not the best as the community only gets around 100 visitors each year.
Nevertheless, in the year 2006, the village number of visitors increases to 3000 to 4000 visitors each year. Then, in 2012 the villages received an excellent number of tourists of 4657, though it is un-cleared whether it was because of a new trend or just a successful year. As Around 80% of tourists stayed overnight with a homestay local, but the remaining 20% of tourists just visit the community on either a one-day package tour (Kontogeorgopoulos et al., 2014)
Due to the success of homestay CBT, this has reached not just around the community but beyond, led Mae Kampong village received Thailand Tourism Award for community-based tourism in 2007 by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and a Gold award for cultural tourism in 2010 by a Pacific Asia Association (PATA) .
When assessing the successful of CBT project, this will depend largely on the country perceptions of the CBT and expectations. If the success of CBT project means gaining and improving economic, reduce poverty (benefit the local community), or removed the local from the vulnerability of agricultural, then without any doubt, Mae Kampong village can be seen as very effective. As local people are received 520 baht per each tourist for one-night accommodation including two meals a day, 350 baht directly contribute to the local household revenue and 170 baht goes to the community cooperative (Harada, 2016). Studies also show the contribution of tourism increase the community revenue with a remarkable growth of the household income. Around 80,000 baht was generating in the year 2000 and total revenue of the community in 2012 was around 2.6 million baht (Kontogeorgopoulos et al., 2014).
Overall the case of Mae Kampong village shows that tourism can alleviate poverty, by providing a greater benefit to the local community, creating varieties of income resources as well as opens the gap of employment opportunities, improved local individual and families quality of life and enabled them to contribute and work together as one community (Harada, 2016).
Dolezal, C. (2015). The tourism encounter in community-based tourism in Northern Thailand: Empty meeting ground or space for change? ASEAS – Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 8(2), 165-186.
Harada, K. (2016) The Village in Transition: Development and Cultural, Economic, and Social Changes in Mae Kampong Village, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Proceedings of International Conference on Science, Technology, Humanities and Business Management, 29 -30 .
Kontogeorgopoulos, N., Churyen, A. and Duangsaeng, V. (2014) Success Factors in Community-Based Tourism in Thailand: The Role of Luck, External Support, and Local Leadership. Tourism Planning & Development, 11:1, 106-124.
I have chosen to comment on this paper due to similarities with my own research regarding if slum tourism can be considered pro-poor. Although both community based and pro-poor tourism are similar in terms of aiming to alleviate poverty, this paper was interesting due to the way in which it takes on a different perspective. Where the author here has chosen to discuss homestay as a form of poverty alleviation, which due to the close interaction and cooperation with the hosts and guests has said to have been successful, slum tourism has been concluded as unable to alleviate poverty due to the increasing commercialisation. Therefore, I found it interesting to compare the practices of each, and why homestay may be more sustainable than slum tours.
The author must be commended on the logical structure and how they begin with explaining why CBT is important for poverty alleviation in both Mae Kampong and in a global perspective which provides context for the discussion. Whilst the focus is on the positive impacts, the author briefly acknowledges potential issues including language barriers, unfair benefit distribution and misunderstandings between hosts and guests.
However, whilst these issues are mentioned, the paper mainly focussed on the economic benefits. Therefore, as it has been widely discussed how in less economically developed countries, due to the lack of power, all impacts need to be fully addressed and managed to ensure benefits are reaped (WTO, 2002). For example, in the case of slum tourism, it was initially considered pro-poor due to the employment opportunities and ability for the locals to sell their goods (Chok et al, 2007), however, negative impacts later became apparent due to the potential for leakage through external management and commercialisation. Therefore, these consequences may also be reflected in homestay due to the lack of skills and connections to other tourism enterprises which leads to lack of control (Scheyvens, 2007). It is only when the organisers of homestay tourism engage with the locals that leakage can be reduced. Other potential impacts to consider before continuing to promote homestay include the culture clash, the burdening on infrastructure, and the extent to which the poorest benefit due to the risk of staged authenticity which may become apparent in Mae Kampong due to recognition from the author of the receipt of tourism awards (WTO, 2002). Therefore, whilst homestay is more likely to generate greater benefits than slum tours due to the points mentioned by the author, they may wish to do further research into the ethical practices and how they can be maintained to reduce the risk of homestay becoming commercialised.
Overall, this paper was an interesting read and drew upon some enlightening concepts, which enabled me to consider another perspective of tourism as poverty alleviation to determine which forms have proved more successful, and how in the future, other forms may be used to alleviate poverty.
Chok, S. Macbeth, J. and Warren, C. (2007) Tourism as a Tool for Poverty Alleviation: A Critical Analysis of Pro-Poor Tourism and Implications for Sustainability. In: Michael C Hall (ed.) Pro-poor tourism: Who benefits? Perspectives on tourism and poverty reduction. Clevedon: Channel View, 34-56.
Scheyvens, R. (2007) Exploring the tourism-poverty nexus. Current Issues in Tourism 10 (2) 231–54.
World Tourism Organisation (WTO) (2002) Tourism and poverty alleviation. Madrid: World Tourism Organisation.
Alleviating poverty has been the most urgent and meaningful agenda of tourism and thus has received renewed interest over the years. With a focus on benefitting local neighborhood, community-based tourism (CBT) is increasingly adopted as a form of minimalizing harm to the environment and diversifying livelihood options for the poor (Scheyvens, 2007). Well-intended as CBT may be, its practice often proves unsuccessful. Community members may lack business skills and connections to mainstream tourism enterprises. In cases where CBT strives to bring economic benefits, its operation remains small-scaled and unsustainable. In the long run, mass tourism still seems more manageable, profitable and less invasive (Scheyvens, 2007), according to Burn’s critique to CBT “Exhortations to ‘Leave only footprints’…carry an ironic and unintended truth because footprints with no dollars attached do little to develop the industry” (2004, 25).
In my opinion, CBT should be regarded under a skeptical view as it can be counter-productive to its original ideals. Where there are potentials for CBT, it is essential that the government provide the community with appropriate legislations and support for technical and entrepreneurial know-how. In addition, community should be informed of their vulnerability when taking tourism business locally. Issues such as possible host-guest conflicts upon interactions, cultural differences, legal rights and regulations… should be brought to the community’s awareness.
The discussion paper has presented the concept of CBT with sufficient definitions and context-wise. By scrutinizing the success of CBT through a case study in Mae Kampong village, the author has elaborated both benefits and challenges of CBT, evaluating it with convincing statistics. Nonetheless, several questions can be raised to further debate the evaluation of CBT in Mae Kampong village or in other destinations, such as:
(1) Has the evaluation included any economic leakage?
(2) Does the homestay scheme show room for future growth? What is the number of revisits generated by the scheme?
(3) How do the locals regard the success of the scheme? Have there been any unintended effect on the neighborhood?
(4) Has the government provided enough support? and finally
(5) Who in the community specifically, is benefiting from CBT and who is being left out?
All in all, it is always important to note that there is no single strategy of implementing successful CBT regarding the complexity of tourism in different destinations. Even within the community itself, there should be no assumption in homogeneity and shared interests as “communities are split into various factions based on the complex interplay of class, gender, ethnic factors” (Scheyvens, 2007, 241).
Burns, P. M. (2004) Tourism planning: A third way? Annals of Tourism Research 31 (1),
Scheyvens, R. (2007) Exploring the tourism-poverty nexus. Current Issues in Tourism, 10(2-3), 231-254.