Dr. Jerome Agrusa on Community Empowered Tourism Development

Dr. Jerome Agrusa

Travel2change wants to advocate how responsible travel can make a difference in the lives of travelers and hosting communities. Our approach is to work “with” and not “for” hosting communities, supplementing one of our Principles “Collaboration” – Collaboration between travelers and hosting communities to ensure the most positive and sustainable impact!

Dr. Jerome Agrusa, Professor of Travel Industry Management in the College of Business Administration at Hawaii Pacific University, wrote a case study on Community Empowered Tourism Development. It shows a good example of how government, society and the private sector worked together which resulted in a village being able to sustain its culture and environment while allowing sustainable tourism to develop. The success of this bottom-up model can be a source of inspiration and guidance in other tourism locations to produce additional significant positive results.

As remote and isolated communities are eventually visited by tourists looking for new and exotic places to visit, tourism is currently one of the fastest growing businesses. The uniqueness of an areas culture may be as appealing to tourists as an unspoiled beach or a breathtaking landscape.



If managed properly through the implementation of the Bottom-Up Approach, the stress caused by tourism development to indigenous communities and their cultures does not have to be destructive and imperialistic The Bottom-Up Approach allows local indigenous people to be actively involved in the decision making process and planning of tourism activities, providing the local population a sense of ownership over their own futures and development, and encouraging them to be more engaged in tourism development activities.

The case study of Prainha do Canto Verde, a fishing village in the northeast of Brazil demonstrated a shift in the normal paradigm of how government, society and the private sector have previously worked together resulting in a village being able to keep its culture while allowing sustainable tourism to develop. The results can be considered to be very positive in impacting the social, economic, cultural, and environmental aspects of the village.

Opportunities for income generation were created: All entrepreneurial endeavors (restaurants, sleeping facilities, tourist attractions) are owned and operated by locals and by the village cooperative, ensuring that the profits stay in the village. Tour guides are local youngsters that have the opportunity to add to their families’ total income.

Knowledge transfer to other villages – Spreading the knowledge: Prainha villagers are engaged and committed in helping to develop other villages that are environmentally sustainable and are ready to implement community-based tourism. Workshops and training seminars are delivered to surrounding villages thus training locals in a wide range of skills essential to sustainable tourism development, from how to organize a tourism cooperative, to marketing and sales promotion.

Lesson learned: Eventually, isolated villages and cultures will be in contact with modern tourists who are more than ever willing to experiment with what unique cultures have to offer. Exposure to tourists can be a liability to local cultures and the environment. However, implementation of an approach that brings together the forces and expertise of the civil society, businesses, and government, always placing the priorities of the local community first, and allowing villagers to control the development process, a sustainable economic alternative in tourism can emerge. Benefits can range from the creation of additional income to provide local economic development to reinforcement of the local culture, as well as empowerment of minorities to environmental conservation.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to increase the quality of life of local villages’ sustainably through tourism without the cooperation between the local community, government, and non-governmental organizations.

Dr. Jerome Agrusa, is a Professor of Travel Industry Management in the College of Business Administration at Hawaii Pacific University. Agrusa is well regarded for his expertise in research and teaching in the area of hospitality and tourism management. He was awarded the title of “Tourism Expert” for the Asia Productivity Organization (APO), an intergovernmental international organization whose mission is to contribute to the socioeconomic development in the Asia-Pacific region. Agrusa has published over 100 research articles and conference papers and presented his research in more than 25 different countries.

Does community empowered tourism development work? What do you think? Tell us your opinion!


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