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Published on : Thursday, July 6, 2017
Central America is a hotspot for various types of tourists, and is increasingly affecting the economies of dozens of small communities. As the tourism industry continues to grow, the economic opportunities are increasingly concentrated into the hands of wealthy groups and individuals who invest in tourist hotspots. According to a report by UNESCO regarding community tourism efforts in Asia, communities in India involved in community eco-tourism projects saw a 25% increase in their income. Additionally, a WTO study reports that tourism accounts for 5% of the world´s GDP.
Community-based tourism can help lessen poverty through two general strategies: increasing income and helping communities exercise more control over their territory.
When planning a vacation or a backpacking trip through Central America, for example, the resources available to most travelers will only lead them to regions, destinations, and lodging and food choices where the imbalanced “nature of tourism investment” is already well-established to the disadvantage of local communities.
Unless a traveler has some sort of direct contact with small, rural communities that are removed from the tourism circuit, what other opportunities might exist for the traveler to go beyond the well-worn tourist path to explore the unexplored and economically empower rural communities through their travels?
Tourism, instead of being an impulse generating decent economic opportunities for the young people of a particular area, has become a profitable opportunity for people who are not part of the local communities.
There are hundreds of community tourism cooperatives, collectives, and groups in Central America who are seeking to “rescue” the tourism industry for the good of their communities.
There are natural wonders to be explored and vibrant cultures to be enjoyed. By sticking to the suggestions of the guidebook alone, you are missing out on much adventure and run the risk of encountering a devalued cultural experience.
Travelling off the beaten path might very well offer opportunities to explore authentic culture, find beautiful, hidden natural wonders, and experience a side of reality that you could never find elsewhere.