Learning from Traditional Communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
One of the core elements of Community Based Tourism (CBT) is the focus on the locality, on the residents as part of the process as well as the touristic products. Traditional tourism focuses first on tourists. It is mostly described in cycles in which the first and most important phase is to increase the quantity of tourists, creating attractions that can market the destination well ( see more on Butler’s Tourism Area Life Cycle Model — TALC) . The CBT on the other spectrum, focuses first in making sure the locals will benefit and the places can get visibility while being taken care of.
I had the opportunity to spend a week with the traditional communities of Serra da Bocaina, exploring and discovering the traditional knowledge of the Indigenous, Caicaras and Quilombolas in the region of Paraty, south of Rio de Janeiro and Ubatuba, north of São Paulo. It was so enriching to learn how they live, their believe systems, their struggles and how they are planning to organize a Community Based Tourism in their region.
Together with the Observatório de Territórios Sustentáveis e Saudáveis — OTSS and the Forum of traditional communities(https://www.otss.org.br/) we visited the communities, talked to the people, recorded some activities and learned more about their lifestyle. I was there also on behalf of the Breda University in The Netherlands, where we are trying to create some learning bridges.
In our conversations about CBT, we discussed how the first step is the inclusion of the community in the development and the discussion of the purpose of the project. This way, having the community engaged and participating, you create a sense of belonging which in turn brings protagonism and protection for the place. Another important step that we talked about was the type of tourists to attract. If the focus is to use tourism as a tool for the local development while preserving the tangible and intangible heritage it is important to have tourists with this profile. A strong network is also fundamental in order to strengthen the project and have supporters with the same mind-set. That is why they have created the Forum of traditional communities in this region, to work together even having different backgrounds (indigenous, African descendants and fisherman). They also partner with Oswaldo Cruz Foundation — Fiocruz, a Brazilian knowledge center.
Last but not least we discussed the importance of making public-private partnerships. Sectors just like NGO’s, governments, consultants, etc. They can be a support in finding more information on financing activities, infrastructure and marketing. Together, all these sectors can help CBT to achieve sustainability and long-term business.
From this week I have learned that these traditional communities perceive CBT as an important social practice for achieving a good quality of life withinthe community as well as to support their fight for their territory.
I had the opportunity to offer a bit of my knowledge and experience in the field but mostly I had learned from them, their context, their dreams and their courage to stand for themselves.