Community-Based Tourism and the Sustainable Development of Rural Territories

Community-Based Tourism and the Sustainable Development of Rural Territories

Nadine Heleno (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Filipa Brandão (GOVCOPP, University of Aveiro, Portugal) and Zélia Breda (GOVCOPP, University of Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5691-7.ch011
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Nowadays, trends in the tourism sector are changing, and tourists are increasingly looking for an authentic experience. They wish to escape from mass tourism and urban spaces, as well as their awareness for sustainability is increasing. In response to this trend, community-based tourism in rural settings has the potential to meet the demand requirements, while ensuring benefits to the territory and community of rural destinations. The present chapter aims to present the dynamics of community-based tourism and how it can promote regional development in rural, low-density regions, in accordance to the Sustainable Development Goals, and with high participation of residents in the several areas of the tourism industry.
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Nowadays, new trends in tourism demand are emerging. Tourists are increasingly looking for authentic experiences and wishing to escape from mass tourism, as well as their awareness for sustainability is increasing. In response to this trend, community-based tourism (CBT) has the potential to meet demand requirements while ensuring benefits to destinations and their communities. CBT contributes to both tourism and global sustainability, being an alternative form of tourism to develop a destination in a sustainable way. However, for this, it is crucial that all stakeholders are aware of the opportunities and responsibilities that arise from it, and take actions that maximise the positive impacts and minimise the negative ones.

This chapter aims to discuss the development of tourism destinations under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially rural areas, involving the community in the process and allowing it to be favoured, at various levels, through tourism. The importance of the application of community-based tourism in these areas is justified by the fact they are facing new challenges that have caused a rural decline. The crisis in the agricultural sector, triggered by industrialisation and urbanisation, led to negative impacts, such as unemployment and depopulation, which have caused the abandonment of land and changes in the landscape, as well as have increased the risk of fires and other forms of devastation (Moric, 2013). As a result, and in most rural areas, there is weak development and decline at the economic, social and environmental level (Lane, 1994). Iorio and Corsale (2010) argue that tourism is an effective means for socio-economic development, but also for the regeneration of rural areas, especially those affected by the decline in agriculture, because there is a growing demand for non-resort based tourism and rural destinations (Lane, 1994).

Since rural areas are characterised by economic, socio-cultural and ecological fragility, and have great tourism potential, the development of tourism in these areas must necessarily follow the principles of sustainability. If there is sustainable supply management in response to growing demand, there are many benefits that rural areas can achieve. The economy will be diversified and will allow the development of local businesses, which will reduce poverty levels and enable economic stability; there will be an increase in the appreciation of the natural and cultural heritage on which efforts will be concentrated to preserve and conserve; as well as positive social impacts, such as population settlement and its participation in the sector, which will allow fighting against inequality and empowering rural communities.

Community-based tourism can contribute to the sustainable development of rural areas since, intrinsically linked to the SDGs, local development is achieved where CBT is applied under the best practices. This growing contribution on the part of this form of tourism is achieved due to the growing demand for authentic and unique experiences that allow escaping from routine and mass tourism destinations that do not offer experiences that visitors increasingly value.

The community must be involved in the planning, development and supply of tourism products, and must be the main beneficiary of the development of a CBT project. This is because profits are obtained by welcoming tourists to the communities in which part of the revenues must be applied in order to develop the community and offer maintenance and protection of the heritage. The main focus are the community, which is made up of members who share the same culture and are interconnected at the economic and social level, being geographically circumscribed, and the endogenous resources that must be protected as they are the attractions for visitors.

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