Tuesday, February 3, 2015


By Godfrey Habumuremyi

The ability of tourism to empower people and provide them with opportunities to uplift local communities out of poverty is a focal point of tourism initiatives in various communities which needs to be highly considered to benefit and improve on well-being of people.

Reflecting on highlights from tourism stakeholders, an in-depth end aim in boosting tourism and diversifying tourism products in any country is to enhance the livelihood transformation among the communities.

Considering some of stakeholder’s talk on Tourism and Community Development, “it reveals the potential that tourism has to promote new socio-economic opportunities and better livelihoods for communities around the world. 

While highlighting the critical role that community engagement has in advancing sustainable development, each time we travel, use local transport at a destination or buy products from a local market we are contributing to a long value chain that creates jobs, provides livelihoods, empowers local communities, and ultimately brings in new opportunities for a better future. 

Tourism is a people-based economic activity built on social interaction, and as such can only prosper if it engages the local population by contributing to social values such as participation, education and enhanced local governance. 

Empowering individuals and communities around the world at all levels through tourism can be a fundamental step towards these goals”. Message by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, on World Tourism Day 2014

Among the parameters to credit the development of any country or region is based on the well-being of communities who are the end targets and consumers of all services in any country. 

Taking a case on tourism, community based tourism initiatives are among the developmental blocks to enhance well-being of people with respect that the tourism proceedings or revenue will support community development in different arenas. 

Communities can source directly or indirectly from tourism products by either owning a community tourism project or forge linkages with other stakeholders respectively in the industry. 

Community based tourism can be enhanced by international visitors through strong marketing mechanisms to elevate community tourism products and also local market sourcing.

Gaps emanating from operations of various stakeholders in tourism industry especially the community-wildlife conflicts in most of conservancy areas, revenue sharing or support to communities among others, need to be bridged by harnessing all efforts from local communities, private sector and government. 

This will ensure a participatory intervention aimed at promoting mutual benefits to all stakeholders and enhance sustainable development. 

Such approaches to benefiting the local community will not only ensure a transition where community members are focal point to realize livelihood transformation but also appreciate and participate in implementation and sustaining various government initiatives to empower the citizens. 

The big challenge has been where tourism products and benefits do not reach the end benefiaciaries (communities) and yet all efforts are to ensure a transformed society or community with improved welfare of people. 

This trend has to change where government and other private Organizations need to promote and facilitate community projects for them to remain relevant in community development.

Focusing on Community Tourism Based Organizations and taking a case of Kenya Community Based Tourism Network (KECOBAT) and Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA) which have created partnership to implement a sustainable community development using parameters of tourism enterprises among others to empower communities undertaking various tourism products, all possibilities to enhance livelihoods of communities are being employed and there is still need to strengthen and establish more collaborative operations across various levels from grass root communities to regional stakeholders. 

Considering the evolution of county governments in Kenya, its an opportunity for KECOBAT to stimulate partnerships and map out tourism products in specific counties which with harnessed efforts can be developed and marketed to improve on livelihood of communities. 

Its for the benefit of the communities that they are represented at different levels and also the joy of the umbrella body to fulfill its mandate of representing and register tremendous community transformation.

Community development will be achieved through an integrated approach of involving various actors and place community driven approach at forefront in different activities including; needs assessment and mapping of tourism products, decision making and implementation, monitoring and evaluation of community projects across all levels. 

Relevant stakeholders including government and private organizations need to support community enterprises for the real transformation which is sustainable be achieved.

Conclusively, KECOBAT still continues to look forward and work towards empowering communities to mobilize their own capacities, learn from each other, effectively manage their resources and thereby make informed decisions to control activities that affect their lives and their environment. This will ensure community ownership and participate in promoting various tourism products which will be a means to poverty eradication among communities in Kenya.

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