How cultural tourism can build community development

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How cultural tourism can build community development

Community development is highly important to any successful country, but can be difficult to achieve. However, the boom of cultural tourism has helped to build community development and impact the economies of developing countries.


What is cultural tourism?

Cultural tourism is a form of tourism which allows visitors  to become immersed in the culture of the people which live there, such as religious and traditional rituals, daily routines and unique experiences.

According to studies by the World Tourism Organisation, cultural tourism makes up almost 37% of global tourism and is growing each year. It helps local communities to embrace their own heritage and showcase it to visitors, boosting economic growth. Tours that are specifically geared towards cultural experiences encourages local communities to celebrate and promote what distinguishes their culture from others. Because cultural tourism is a niche market, those who undertake these journeys tend to spend more money than other tourists, which is highly beneficial for rural areas and developing areas. The plight of some areas can also be brought to attention by cultural tourism, and this can result in a positive change such as community development.


Local artisans are supported

The various different African art styles mean that there are artists who are in need of buyers in order to continue their craft. Cultural tourism allows tourists to spend time with these artists and artisans to see how their products are made.

By being able to spend time getting to know these artisans, cultural tourists are more likely to buy a product to keep as a memory. These purchases raise awareness about the artisans and also provide them with a market, allowing them to use their craft as an income generator. Their work will grow in popularity and this will increase the exposure of traditional art across the world.


The community is involved

For some developing communities, the reliance on tourism becomes detrimental to their independent development, which is why involving the community is an integral part of cultural tourism.

Community participation is vital because it allows the tourism planners to have a wealth of invaluable information and a better understanding of intrinsic values and community needs. By including the community and having meetings about the developer’s plans, the community will be able to offer advice and information on cultural and heritage sites to include in the tours of the area. It also allows the community members to have a hands-on role in the designing of the tours, giving them empowerment and independence.


Tourist attractions remain culturally relevant

If a community relies too heavily on tourism or on money-hungry developers, the attractions that are developed can often be culturally insensitive. The local jurisdictions often do have the best interests of their people at heart but allow for excessive physical development without first protecting their people and environment.

Without a framework of protecting the ecology and culture of an area, the developments may cause the environment and the cultural sites to become damaged or overly modernised. This can cause eradication of culture rather than the encouragement of it. Cultural tourism allows ancient cultures to be celebrated and heritage landmarks to be protected for posterity as the tourists are not there for modern amenities but to immerse themselves in the culture.


Rural areas could see an economic boost

Some cultural tours take tourists to local rural areas in order to experience what life is like for people who live there. The non-tourism based industries in the area, such as petrol stations and grocery stores, will experience an increase of customers during the tourist season, allowing for improvements to benefit the community out of season.

Increased tourism to these rural areas could see an injection of tourist dollars to struggling communities, allowing them to develop a more sustainable means of income. Cultural tourism is a potential year-round source of income for these communities and will also allow tourists to broaden their horizons and experience a different way of living.


Employment opportunities for locals increase

Cultural tourism, while different to other types of tourism, still calls for hotels, shopping centres and restaurants for tourists to eat at. This means that employees are needed, and is an opportunity for local people to find employment.

The creation of unique businesses, such as art galleries geared towards tourists or cafes serving local foods, allows locals to share both their knowledge and talents with cultural tourists, while also earning money for their efforts. These may not seem like glamourous positions but because some countries have such high unemployment rates, starting out small in a job is a boon for anyone who is employed in the cultural tourism industry.


The verdict

Cultural tourism has seen an increase in popularity over the years, and can be considered a positive step in the direction of building communities. It is important that the community is involved in the tourism package planning process, so the experience is not discriminatory or incorrect for the tourists. While the tourism industry helps to create jobs for the locals, relying solely on this as a means of income can prove detrimental, which is why the community should work on developing businesses that operate out of season in order to sustain the income.

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