Community based tourism is where visitors connect with rural and Indigenous communities while they stay in local homes, benefitting from a hands-on experience that reflects local identity through customs, social norms, foods and beliefs of the host community. Guests develop a deeper connection with another culture often leading to new perspectives and a greater understanding of each other’s worldview.
In Chile’s Panguipulli Model Forest, Mapuche women are developing community-based tourism thanks to Project Trawun, a collaborative initiative that has impacted nearly 50 individual families in the Los Ríos Region.
Project Trawun is based primarily on technology transfer in the field of special interest tourism. During development, a transdisciplinary team from the Center for Environmental Studies and Sustainable Human Development (CEAM) at the Austral University of Chili in Valdivia, mapped out a route around Panguipulli highlighting some lesser known communities which were, until now, hard to access, territories, such as Pocura, Drawers , Coñaripe and Liquiñe.
For the past year, they have been working with the women in the community to help establish their small businesses in the tourism field. In return, CEAM benefits from the transfer of ancestral knowledge of the traditional cultures of their region.
To complement the establishment of cultural tourism, travellers and hosts in Panguipulli can access a Community Tourism Guide. This resource highlights products that are produced in each of the participating regions while also offering recommendations on cultural experiences, such as where to sip local matte with a respected storyteller, how to find the region’s natural hot springs or where to enjoy the flavours of the region whipped together in a local’s home kitchen.
Beyond the economic advantages, Guillermo Pacheco, one of the project coordinators, notes that “local residents see an opportunity to ensure their quality of life in socio-cultural and environmental terms.”
The host communities control how many tourists enter the region, and will only take on as many guests as their housing and energy resources can comfortably accommodate, fostering sustainable use and collective responsibility. They are the architects of a more ecological tourism, built from the people, their environment, their culture, their thoughts and actions.
Hector Alonso, from the Panguipulli Model Forest, says they “helped develop this proposal to strengthen the links between the local communities with their forest ecosystem. Cooperation, dialogue and discussion were key in developing this tourism-based project that respects both the Mapuche worldview and that of the territory’s other inhabitants.”
Indigenous participation in Model Forests creates stronger partnerships, more effective resource management and a deeper level of understanding amongst stakeholders about biodiversity and sustainability.
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