Ecological & Community-Based Tourism: Linkages and Leakages

This proposition has two major terms that should be discussed:

1. Experience

The history of the word experience aligns it closely with the concept of experiment. Experience generally refers to expertise or rocedural know-ledge, rather than propositional knowledge: on-the-job training rather than book learning. Practitioners and participants of activities such as tourism tend to stress the importance of experience very much and their lives are unwritten books and modules of tourism management.

2. Community-Based Tourism (CBT)

To understand Community Based Tourism CBT, one should first share the connotation of Community given by developmental sciences dictionaries, juxtaposed with the concept of Community in CBT. The definition, according to sociology and other social sciences: a set of people living together having mutual benefits and common dangers and depending upon each other for survival. While talking about environment-oriented definitions I consider community as a group of people striving for better environments in their respective areas and gaining benefits via a system, modalities and capacity building.

Community Definition Expansion

When you read this simple definition of community, you may laugh, knowing it already. However, I explain it for a very important reason: CBT practices indicate that the “living together” or “sharing accommodation” aspects are not necessary – as often construed in the tourism context.

CBT is an approach that creates a variety of quality tourism pro-ducts and services that are environmentally and ecologically sustainable, economically viable and socially and psychologically acceptable. Such approaches must further promote sustainable development by establishing a durable productive base that allows local inhabitants and tourism service providers to get benefits synergystically, without harming each other interests.

In CBT a partial definition of Community could be “a group of people, not usually related to one another, sharing accommodation and behaving as a single household” may not work because CBT is a huge chain of supplies and services. Mostly this chain spreads from a small village to nearby towns and sometimes beyond the boundaries of a country.


Among the primary threats CBT faces include jealousy and negative competition from areas that are close to the Project who may not be getting financial benefits from it.

Therefore, including adjoining areas and ensuring their direct involvement is very important to the success of a project. Therefore expanding the geographical boundaries to project wider-than-actual areas for any project make a stronger Community. For instance, distribution of food supplies and services among nearby areas always make the CBT more effective and successful.

Successful CBT Value Chain Context

It’s simple: Imagine tourists going to a Community-based Tourism project (Village A). But tourists are using horses to reach Village A from another Village B, on the way. Village B however is 10 miles down the hill from the main town, where Village C is. Tourists use jeeps or vehicles from Village, or Town, C to get to Village B.

This supply chain links Villages A-B-C together by distributing means of livelihood, forming a Community. You can trace the supply chain further by linking it with the tour companies in various parts of the world that sell or market the tours to Village A. And, the Community definition goes beyond country boundaries.

Before giving you the example, I would like to mention that such linked chains of service were necessary in Raikot Sarai, otherwise communities living in adjoining areas might jeopardize project operations.

Actually, to me, CBT is about ‘joining hands with everyone, including non government organizations or donors where relevant too. Often NGOs working for Community-based tourism do not belong to area they are working with. And, often donors do not belong to that area – or even country.

Broader Concept of Community:
Village A where CBT is based+ Service chain including village B and C + NGO + Donor + Tour operators + Government= One Community
While it may vary in each context, each partner in the CBT value chain is necessary.

For instance, NGOs are not only providing training or capacity building but also look out for the interests and rights of the poor ?and often illiterate- community members. NGOs can also deal with international or national tour operators and the government, negotiating or lobbying on behalf of the community. NGOs also market and sell tours through their global networks.

Donors, in turn can support these NGOs.

Tour operators form an interface that tourists are comfortable dealing with. Their marketing efforts ensure lasting and economically viable buying of tours.

Government involvement of course is necessary for certification, licensing and legal protection of the Community – and infrastructure development support.

Fairy Meadows and Raikot Sarai CBT

Raikot Sarai (Sarai being the Persian word for ‘inn’) is a camp resort located atop the heavily forested Fairy Meadows in North Pakistan, at an altitude of 3306m. Established in 1992, this tourist destination is highly popular among mountaineers and trekking enthusiasts for its exhilarating ‘Nanga Parbat Experience’. Looking on from the Sarai lodges one can see the Raikot Glacier yawning beneath the North face of the Killer Mountain. Studded with alpine trees, Fairy Meadows gets its name from the legendary claim that fairies inhabit the meadow. Nestled at the foot of the towering Nanga Parbat (8126m) this location offers a spectacular view of surrounding landscape. One can indulge in a truly unique experience of the Nanga Parbat, watching from the Raikot resort at a distance so close —

Photo for this article by Raja Islam

it leaves you captivated. Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat stands at 26 660 ft (8126m), anchoring the western Himalayan region. This mountain, known as ‘Diamir’ to local inhabitants, but more widely known as the ‘Killer Mountain’, is notorious for devouring more mountaineering expeditions than is recorded at any other ascent in the world. Ranked as the second highest peak in Pakistan and the ninth highest in the world, its arrogance exudes an eerie charm, tempting those who dare?luring those who aspire!

A Success story

Raikot Sarai is a community based tourism resort operated by the local community and suppor-ted by different tour operators including Raikot Sarai Tours Gilgit. This Community produces its own vegetables and poultry and runs a school for children living in adjoining areas. They use solar energy geysers to discourage logging. Solid waste management is also a priority of the community and its community leaders.

The community firmly believes in the “send us tours, not donations” approach and has not yet asked for huge funding. It does partner with NGOs like Ecotourism Society Pakistan (ESP) or the Ministry of Tourism government of Pakistan or the Aga Khan Foundation to promote its tours and help it get business.

I have long-standing contact with this community as a tourist guide, tour practitioner, as Consultant to the Pakistan Ministry of Tourism and as President ESP teach me one point for Community based Tourism. When Raikot Sarai started its operations, it was boom time for Pakistan tourism and fears of deforestation, pollution and over exposure were high. However the Community managed and instead of offering big tours kept working with small tours operation although it earned less but saved its environments.

The Ideal Role of Communities

This, in my opinion is a prime example highlighting that the role of the Community, therefore, is the key success factor in Community Based Tourism.

For instance, in the case study of the Murree Hills, in Punjab, Pakistan the community knows that it is playing havoc with its area, culture and ecosystem but is happy with the immediate financial benefits of the unplanned (over)growth of hotels and the extreme inflow of oft-careless tourists. They are of the view that the short-term economic aspect of Community Based Tourism is enough, it seems.
Sustainable Tourist Checklist
Tourist interested in a sustainable experience should ask their tour operators or themselves questions such as the below, before they book their tours:

  • Do they (tour operators) provide information about endangered species and?illegally traded products?
  • Are they (tour operators) members of networks and coalitions such as Educational Communications’ Project Ecotourism?
  • Do they (tour operators) inform their clients about local customs, dress and behaviour patterns?
  • Do they (tour operators) evaluate the effects of their trips on the local ecosystems and local inhabitants, and are they willing to share the results?
  • Do they (tour operators) transport educational materials to local schools and equipment to mountain clinics?
  • Do the trips strictly observe local regulations?
  • Are the hotels, transport agencies, restaurants and shops to be patronized locally owned? Do they engage in unethical activities, such as keeping captive animals on the premises?
  • Do the newer hotels fit into the local natural settings? Do they reflect cultural motifs in their architectural design? Are they constructed of native materials?
  • What activities are promoted by their selection of accommodation?
  • Are the local community a part of the accommodation’s supply chain?

Similarly in the Naran Valley of Khyber-Pakhtoon-Khwa, Pakistan the Community is aware of degenerating and degrading its environment yet feel they can control it.

The Role of NGOs in Pakistan for Community-based Tourism

The role of NGOs is very important for developing Community and, in my opinion, “providing leadership to a group of people who are not aware of their duties and rights towards sustainable development and tourism activities” is enough. However, often NGOs instead of providing support try to force their own ideas and projects onto communities. In such circumstances, good workshop or seminars can be held and reports can be written but not real work, often ending with a ‘developmental divorce’.

Donors’ Attitude in Pakistan

In Pakistan, donors? attitudes towards the working style of NGOs is also very complex. NGOs in turn take shelter in using western jargon such as autonomy of an organisation, participatory decisions etc etc.

Donors respond quite slowly to news of corruption and misappropriation of funds within their partners’ organisations. Weak, meaningful monitoring is another factor that promotes corruption within NGOs.

Donors could support through the building of local and national capacity to manage tourism at the local level in order to achieve sustainable tourism and poverty alleviation. And they could support public education programmes which encourage ethical trade and ethical consumption in tourism and build the political will to meet development targets through people?s experience of tourism.

Tourism is marketed internationally but it is “consumed” at the point of production: destinations. A tourism monoculture adversely affects the inherent quality of the destination and over-dependence on tourism increases the economic vulnerability of the area to decisions made elsewhere, by consumers and investors. Tourism development frequently brings with it demands for goods and services which are not produced in the local economy. These goods and services are then soured outside of the local area, often internationally, and only a small proportion of the economic value circulation then remains in the local economy. This is a particular problem in mountain areas. These leakage’s reduce the positive sustainable development impact of tourism, whereas the development of linkages results in the creation of more jobs and opportunities to locals.


  1. Tourism.html
  2. Belize:
  3. Bowler, Peter A. (1997) “Restoration as Cultural Myth”
  4. Bowler, Peter A. (1997) “Toward a Transpersonal Restoration”
  5. Evaluating Community Based Tourism operators and agents (Deborah McLaren)?
  6. Mathieson, A. and Wall, G. (1982) Tourism:Economic, Physical and Social Impacts
  7. Sachs, J. (1993) “The Display of Culture: A Comparative Study of Eastern and Western Tourist Brochures”
  8. What can be done :
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Author Information

Agha Iqrar Haroon first joined the tourism sector as a tourist guide at age 15. He worked as a journalist for Pakistan's leading English newspapers and went on study for a Masters in History and a second in Group Philosophy, with a diploma in Documentary and News Production ? all while continuing to work as a tourist guide. Between 1997 to 2000 he was posted as a consultant with the Pakistan Ministry of Tourism. In July 1998, he founded Ecotourism Society Pakistan and has contributed to the global debate and definitions around eco-tourism. Iqrar is currently working with Geo TV, Lahore and is a tourism research scholar with several internationally published papers. He is also pursuing a PhD in Sustainable Mountain Development.

One Response to “Ecological & Community-Based Tourism: Linkages and Leakages”

  1. Hense #

    Really enjoyed reading through.

    April 22, 2012 at 8:45 am Reply

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