The model for providing tourist services is evolving to focus on sustainable, community based tourism. Although a broad term, it refers to local people providing their services directly to the public thereby enabling an increase in direct income and control over their resources be it accommodation, artesian, gastronomy or guiding in the natural surroundings. Many members of rural communities are employed by agencies during the busy tourist season; this may benefit the individual but does not enhance community capabilities on the whole and reflect on building the future infrastructure for the community as a whole.
The transition to community based tourism is not an easy one. There is no question of need but there is always the “how to component “which can be a major stumbling block. When one looks at the larger picture, it can be seen as simple as setting up a business and having all the tools in place to do so. However when faced with a general lack of experience and infrastructure there comes a time for associating with outside organizations, be they NGO’S, volunteer groups or private businesses.
Commonly seen is the need for the following: a general commitment from community members to support the project(they themselves have to feel they have ownership), a small business plan with goals and objectives, marketing and promotion, product development and training, gender equality, leadership skills development, financial management training, health and safety in addition to accountability and responsibility. This may all sound logical to many but when the local community itself suffers from a lack of education, no presence of professionals or role models and a lack of confidence, there is tremendous handholding to be done while creating systems to allow the community or locals to become autonomous.
A constant threat to small rural communities is the exodus of young people, mothers who become the wage earners in the family thereby compromising them at home, aging adults and agricultural based unskilled labor. It is said that to change people’s circumstances they need to be provided with realistic options. Taking advantage of opportunities does not come easy for them; there is a sense of distrust and fatalism that it will fail. Any project that has potential needs long term commitment and long term goals set by all parties.
If young people want to stay in their communities they need options; Options that don’t take them away, but encourage them to stay and build their community. These can be in the form of leadership courses, project development, local guiding skills, improved agricultural management, and small business development. For women it would be in basic education, reading, writing and math skills; and then a small micro business that they learn to run; be it a café, handicrafts or baked goods. Men would learn or improve their tourism based skills to supplement their agricultural work. Aging people become sharers of oral history and contribute to the frame work. More emphasis is placed on supplemental education for children to develop a questioning mind, rational thinking and creativity as they will be the future leaders. Last but not least there always remains a need for access to micro financing in order to get things started.
Rural migration to urban areas is not new; actually it has become the norm in many parts of the world. Not many make the transition successfully yet it is too hard to return to where they came from. It is seen that one way to curb this is to enable local communities to develop a sense of pride, optimism and trust that they can succeed in small businesses and that a change of conditions will provide the basis for a hopeful and united attitude towards the future.
There are a few present and upcoming examples in the Huaraz and Callejon de Huaylas areas: Vicos “Cuyaquiwayi” (lodging), Humacchuco (lodging), and Huaripampa (weaving), You can get more information from Repons; firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, the small project run by Andean Alliance “YuracYacu”, 8 km from Huaraz on the way to Quebrada Llaca, will start its first initiative of a small community based café In July and August, limited daytime hoursoffering a small assortment of well prepared foods using many local goods and local community staff; contact: email@example.com or 943789330 for more information.
By: Diana Morris.