ASEAN Community based Tourism Standard focus on sustainable and inclusive tourism

(TITC) – Community-based Tourism (CBT) is one of the major priorities of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016-2025. ASEAN Member States are focusing on developing CBT in order to increase engagement of the local community in tourism activities in pursuit of distributing the resulting benefits to the local people. The goal of “sustainable and inclusive” tourism will be successfully achieved because CBT places the utmost importance on the role of the local community and its participation in tourism activities and environmental protection.

According to the ASEAN Community-based Tourism Standard, CBT is defined as “an alternative form of tourism that seeks to empower communities to manage tourism growth and achieve community aspirations relating to their wellbeing, and includes economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development”. Therefore, CBT not only involves a partnership between tourism businesses and the community to deliver benefits to both, but also involves community (and external) support for small tourism enterprises, which in turn commit to providing support for community projects that improve collective well-being.

CBT empowers local communities to determine and secure their socio-economic futures through fee-for-service activities that usually: present and celebrate local traditions and lifestyle; conserve natural and cultural resources; and foster equitable and mutually beneficial host-guest interaction. CBT usually caters for niche markets such as adventure tourism, cultural tourism, eco-tourism and agri-tourism, but draws on local products and services to spread the economic benefit from engaging in tourism.

CBT must involve and empower community participation in setting direction and decision-making; develop partnerships with relevant stakeholders; register with and obtain recognition from relevant authorities; improve social well-being and quality of life;  establish a fair and transparent benefit sharing mechanism; enhance local supply chains;  honor and preserve local identities, culture and traditions; promote environmentally sustainable practices within the community; respect different cultures and human dignity; and work towards financial self-sufficiency.

The ASEAN Community-Based Tourism Standard is recommended as a non-mandatory guideline for ASEAN member states (subject to the respective ASEAN member states’ laws and regulations) based on the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) so as to create quality visitor experiences by showcasing community livelihoods and natural and cultural assets in a presentable, safe and attractive manner.

The Standard can be applied to CBT initiatives throughout ASEAN countries as a benchmark of performance needed to assure visitors that their visit will be enjoyable, meaningful and meet expectations. It also seeks to ensure that communities, and their natural and cultural heritage resources are protected, and that income flows to the community to improve well-being.

The ASEAN CBT Standard provides umbrella performance indicators for the coordinated management of tourism products offered by communities under the organisation of a CBT Committee. Specific product standards adopted by ASEAN and relevant to CBT initiatives (e.g. the ASEAN Homestay Standard) form an integral part of the CBT Standard.

The intent of the Standard is not to exclude communities from being recognised as ASEAN community-based tourism initiatives, but to provide direction to communities on the quality of service needed to assure tourists that they can expect a consistent level of quality and service across ASEAN-endorsed CBT initiatives.

For a CBT initiative in the ASEAN region to qualify for assessment and certification, it will have to meet the following conditions: an elected CBT Committee exists that can represent community interests and coordinate CBT activities within the community; CBT Committee members must be free of a criminal record; the CBT initiative includes CBT Members or Members of sub-committees responsible for specific tourism products and services; the CBT Committee has completed a self-assessment of performance against the Standard; the CBT initiative has been registered with the nominated home country’s CBT Administration Authority, based on the self-assessment; the CBT initiative has been registered or has been operating for at least one year; the CBT initiative has been endorsed by the CBT Administration Authority for assessment towards certification.

The ASEAN Community-Based Tourism Standard includes 10 core standards:

1.0 Standards for community ownership and management

2.0 Standards for contribution to social well-being and quality of life

3.0 Standards for conserving and promoting sustainable environment

4.0 Standards for encouraging interaction between the local community and guests

5.0 Standards for quality tour and guiding services

6.0 Standards for quality of food and beverage services

7.0 Standards for quality accommodations

8.0 Standards for ensuring the performance of (in-bound) CBT Friendly Tour Operators (FTO)

9.0 Standards for safety and hygiene

10.0 Standards for promoting innovation, creativity and technology usage in the community.

To evaluate the quality and performance of CBT initiatives, the ASEAN CBT Standard has been converted to a Checklist. The Checklist is divided into 10 criteria, 29 Sub-criteria and 188 Indicators. 88 of the indicators are Minimum requirements, 54 are Advanced requirements and 36 are Best practice requirements (Table 1). These are used in the ASEAN Certification process. It is expected that CBT initiatives will seek to fully comply with all requirements over time.

Table: Summary criteria and indicators for ASEAN CBT initiatives

Best practice
1. Community ownership and management1.1 Effective & transparent governance arrangements exist5207
 1.2 Legitimate establishment2002
 1.3 Effective and transparent management exists5218
 1.4 Effective partnerships exist2215
2. Contribution to social
well-being and quality of
2.1 Human dignity is maintained2114
 2.2 Benefits and costs are shared equitably1113
 2.3 Local supply chains are enhanced and links exist to regional economies2114
 2.4 Local identity and cultural integrity is maintained, and valued cultural traditions are enriched4228
3. Contribution to
conserve & promote
sustainable environment
3.1 Natural resources are conserved1214
 3.2 Environmentally sustainable practices are promoted4138
4. Encouragement of
interaction between the
local community & guests
4.1 Guest and local community interaction exists2349
 4.2 Sustainability of Community-Based Tourism products1135
5. Quality tour and
guiding services
5.1 Ensuring local guide quality and expertise3115
 5.2 Managing tours and activities to ensure quality54413
6. Quality food and
beverage services
6.1 Ensuring food and beverage service provider quality3216
 6.2 Managed food and beverage services to ensure quality123116
7. Quality
7.1 Ensuring accommodation service provider quality4116
 7.2 Managing accommodations to ensure quality1610127
8. Performance of CBT
Friendly Tour Operators
8.1 Commitment to CBT ideals4228
 8.2 Contribution to community and nature protection45211
 8.3 Support for the local economy2114
 8.4 Promotion of joy of discovery, knowledge and respect3205
 8.5 Satisfying & safe experiences for tourists & community2215
9. Safety and hygiene in
the community
9.1 Ensuring safety and hygiene measures in the community1113
 9.2 Implementing effective risk management mechanism1113
10. Innovation, creativity
and technology usage in
the community
10.1 Encouraging the implementation of initiatives2002
 10.2 Providing better knowledge and adopting technology1113
 10.3 Developing better skills2002
 10.4 Ensuring creativity and new creations2002

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