Today, tourism products are becoming more innovative, and had created several types of different tourism packages. In the recent years, ethno-tourism (also widely known as community-based eco-tourism) is becoming a trend around the world. In ethno-tourism, the focus and attraction is about getting in touch with an indigenous group of people as well as their culture. The so-called ethno-tourists seek a differentiated experience via observing or even participating in living the lifestyle embraced by the indigenous group of people (i.e., the tribal communities). According to Sandmeyer (2006), some of the most popular destination for ethno-tourism includes certain remote areas in the Amazon, Thailand as well as Indonesia.
From the tourists’ point of view, there are many benefits to be reaped from participating in ethno-tourism trips. This can be witnessed from the rising demand and increasing popularity of ethno-tourism products in the recent years. If the tourists do not find ethno-tourism attractive, it is impossible that they will participate and seek to engage in a trips related to ethno-tourism. In this section, the several benefits of ethno-tourism activities will be discussed.
Expand their perspectives – see something different. Obviously, one of the benefits of visiting different places and different people around the world is to expand a person’s perspective, to see something different and to gain new insights on the different people from different parts of the world. As a person’s perspectives are expanded, he will be able to see things from multiple angles. By travelling around the world, tourists can move out from their comfort zone (i.e., their domestic country) to get in touch with different people from other places. And this is one of the reasons ethno-tourism is becoming more popular recently.
Increase their understanding on other cultures and lifestyles. Everyone tend to have a certain set of basic assumptions, belief, habits and lifestyle, mostly affected and adopted from their family members and peers, which are considered as their culture. However, traveling to see the different people, on how these different people live, work and spent their time can enhance a person’s understanding on other cultures and lifestyle. Indirectly, this will enhance his awareness on his own culture. As people have better understanding on each others, and how different people may adopt different culture, they may become more tolerant, and conflicts in society can be avoided.
Experiencing tribal lifestyle. When the tourists stay together with the indigenous group of people, they can experience tribal lifestyle, where such experiences can be invaluable in today modern society.
Take the time to relax and back to the nature. Tourists can also take the time to retreat to nature, to refresh their selves from busy lifestyle, and take the time to relax, so that they will be more able to cope with busy lifestyle in the future. Overall, this can enhance their health level, as stresses due to modern lifestyle and demand can be released. By going back to the nature, a person can also breathe the fresher air, and exercise more (i.e., less relying on modern appliances), and can then directly enhance his agility and vitality.
Gratitude and know the life purposes. There are many benefits can be gained by the visitors. Indeed, according to Benckendorff et. al. (2009), there are many evidences supporting that tourism can enhance the tourists’ understanding on life purposes, meanings, personal growth and well being. By seeing how others can live happily even without little enjoyment and usage of modern technology, someone can understand that true happiness does not demand any external things. All these will surely enhance the mental health of the person, as they become more fulfilled, gratitude and get to know the meanings of life better in the traveling process.
Although it is often debated that ethno-tourism can be harmful towards tribal communities, there are also many ways that tribal communities can be benefited from a well-organized ethno-tourism programs. The key word here is “well-organized”, as effectively planned and organized trip will avoid many of the drawbacks or harmful effects done to the tribal groups or communities. In fact, according to a study performed by Mohammadi, Khalifah & Hosseini (2010), a large percentage of the local communities in those tourism spot acknowledge and recognize the many positive effects brought by the tourism activities to their communities. In this section, several benefits of ethno-tourism towards the tribal communities will be discussed.
Derive extra and more income from tourism activities. Generally, tourism activities are found to be able to enhance the economic conditions of people around the tourism spot. For example, it is asserted by Mshenga et. al. (2010) that tourism activities are often able to bring economic growth to a certain location or communities. They also found that in many poorly developed or tribal areas, tourism can be beneficial in alleviating poverty in those poor communities. However, according to Horton (2009), the proposition that tourism can provide economic benefits to the tribal communities as well as the adjacent local communities may be true, that that must be managed well. If that is not properly managed, ecosystem as well as the process of ideology resistance may be harmed. This indicate that although the tribal communities may gain economic benefits from the ethno-tourism activities, the associated program must be planned properly to avoid undesired consequences to them or the local environment.
Meeting new people from outside and to be exposed to new culture. According to Mitchell (1998), as the tribal communities are exposed to others, they can obtain more socio-economic benefits, mainly in terms of employment, income and perceptions benefits as they are getting more integrated into the society. As they get to know others, having built up new exposure and perceptions, learning the others culture, they are more likely to get more integrated to society. Such an exposure can be valuable to them. However, not every researcher may agree that to expose the tribal communities to the outside world is truly beneficial to the tribal communities. For example, Sandmeyer (2006) argued that the original culture of the tribal communities may disappear slowly after they interact with the outer world for a long time.
Get to enjoy more infrastructures. There are also some other tourism induced multiplier effects. According to Zhang, Madsen & Jensen-Butler (2007), when certain areas are slowly developed as a tourism hotspot, very often, the place can attract capital inflow and investment for tourism activities. Infrastructure will be provided, and hotel will be built. The supply of clean water and electricity is also made possible. In the long run, the tribal communities can enjoy better infrastructure and have access to better healthcare system.
Giving them more choices to adopt better and modern lifestyle. Through the interaction with others people, the tribal communities have a chance to choose, if they want to pursue a better or modern living standard. Economically speaking, by having more choices, it is always good for the people. The tribal communities may discover something better for themselves.
Access to educational program for their children. One of the important benefits is that the tribal communities can send their next generation for education after getting more contact with people from the outer world. When the people are getting more educated, they have better chance to improve their life in the future.
There is much to gain for tour companies from organizing well-managed ethno-tourism trips. This is easily understood, as more and more tour companies are attracted to organize such trips for their customers. In this section, the many benefits that can be reaped from organizing well-managed ethno-tourism trips by the tour companies will be discussed.
Gain more income. Obviously, one of the most important benefits and motivation for the tour companies is to make more money from ethno-tourism. As there are huge demands in the market, it is reasonable for the tour companies to tap into these opportunities for better growth and financial profitability.
Build up reputation in the marketplace – via word-of-mouth effects. Apart from reaping financial rewards, as the tour companies able to deliver good services to the customers, they stand a good chance to build up strong brand name in the competitive tourism industry. With this, their reputation in the marketplace can be enhanced; which is certainly can be highly beneficial for the development of the company in the future.
Enlarge product portfolio. In fact, according to Furquan, Som and Hussin (2010), green tourism can be highly appealing to tour companies as there are increasing government pressures to improve environmental protection. In certain countries, subsidies may even be provided. In fact, by having able to deliver more services to the marketplace, the firm can get to earn more revenue from the market. Besides, the firm can slowly built up the economies of scale by having larger portfolio of product. This will definitely beneficial for the economics of the firm.
To conclude, we have presented many arguments illustrating that a well-managed ethno-tourism programs can deliver a lot of benefits to several parties, such as to the visitors, tribal communities as well as the tour companies. However, to organize a well-managed ethno-tourism program is easier said than done. So far, most of the ethno-tourism programs resulted badly and fail to deliver significant benefits to the tribal communities. As argued by Sandmeyer (2006), most of the economics or non-economical benefits are largely enjoyed by the tourists as well as the tour companies, as the welfare of the tribal communities is largely ignored. Thus, it is necessary for people to plan the trips properly and take good care of the tribal communities. With that, then only the benefits of ethno-tourism activities can be enjoyed by more stakeholders in the tourism process. If these are possible, then ethno-tourism will certainly being a lot of advantages to the society, from the economics and cultural point of view.
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