Governments and the private sector need to learn from the negative impacts of tourism and ensure access rights for local communities, the Pacific-Asia Travel Association (PATA) annual summit in Korea heard on Friday.
Wylbur Chisiya Simuusa, Zambian ambassador to the Republic of Korea, told the summit in Gangneung: “We should not allow the interests of one group to drown every other. Rules should not just favour the strong side.”
Simuusa said: “Our tourism [in Zambia] is nature based, mostly in rural areas, and we have seen negative effects.”
He gave an example, telling the summit: “On the Zambesi River, most big hotels are on the river front. That is also where you have villages. The big hotels are private. The villagers are driven back from the river. They don’t have access for their animals to drink. There are running battles.
“At one of the largest man-made lakes in the world the same thing has happened. People have been driven back from the lake [by hotels] and it has created a lot of tension.”
However, when similar tension arose over a protected forest area in Lusaka, Simuusa said: “There was a decision to turn the forest into a national park and employ [people from] the local community to protect the trees and game and provide transport for tourists.
“The cutting of trees stopped because the community was part of it.”
He said: “There are lessons to be learned both for government and private sector.”
Chris Bottrill, Pata vice-chairman and dean of global and community studies at the School of Tourism Management at Capilano University in Canada, advocated community tourism. He said: “Tourism has become somewhat homogenous. You can get a Starbucks in Beijing.
“Community tourism, in ideal circumstances, is something developed by the community for the community. It often involves partnerships, but in essence it is by and for a community.”
Francesco Frangialli, former secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), told the summit: “At the government level, you may have an idea that tourism is important. But it is at a destination level, at a community level that you can measure tourism’s impact.”
He said: “A big problem is that in a large part of the world governments are withdrawn from tourism – they are not paying attention to tourism.”
Pai-Somsak Boonkam, chief executive of Local Alike – a community-based tourism platform in Thailand – said: “We use tourism as a development tool. Every decision has to come from the local people.”
He insisted: “They have their own definition of sustainability. Some just want their kids to be able to be able come home. Some want their lives to be sustainable. Some want to get rid of a problem such as drug trafficking in their community.”
Part of his role, he told the summit, was to ensure “people understand that tourism is a big business [and] they understand the carrying capacity [of their community]”.
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