A community based tourism model that works for people and the planet

Homestays are a community based tourism model that allow visitors the opportunity to experience the daily life of their host family and interact with the lived experience of local communities. This often includes community led tourist activities that offer an authentic insight into local knowledge, culture and customs. We believe homestays can have an impact beyond the sum of their parts – laying the foundations for an ecosystem of small community based businesses, building community resilience and providing a direct link between the health of the ocean and the people who rely on and want to visit it.

The widespread benefits of community based tourism models

For the community

When managed with a community-wide approach that is open, fair and transparent, homestays can bring communities together: amplifying local voices and serving as a multiplier in the community economy and diversifying alternative livelihoods. 

To complement homestays, community based tourism creates opportunities for local people to provide a range of products and services, including the supply of traditional construction materials, transport, fresh produce, traditional cuisine and crafts, as well as leading activities such as diving, trekking and birdwatching.

For families

Running a family business, such as a homestay, can be an effective route towards financial independence, releasing funds for education and helping families build the confidence and capacity to safeguard their futures.

“The main benefit of the homestays is that it allows us to take care of our family and all the income stays in the community.”
Alfonso, Homestay Owner
Atauro Island, Timor-Leste

For the environment

Developing tourism focused alternative livelihoods not only reduces reliance on natural resources in the community but stimulates pride of place, environmental interest and shared passions. At Blue Ventures we’ve witnessed firsthand the impact community ambassadors can have in leading new environmental initiatives from beach cleans and recycling projects to leading habitat surveying and fisheries monitoring.

This can act as a catalyst in promoting further long-term interest in locally led marine management initiatives, in turn, delivering benefits back into the community through improved catches and increased ecotourism demand.

For tourists

Homestays offer tourists the opportunity to experience rural areas of outstanding natural beauty, often far removed from the typical tourist trail, in an authentic and meaningful cultural exchange. 

These models are initiated and run by the communities, who are proud to introduce new people to their way of life and share their local knowledge. In addition to this, tourists know that their money is going directly to the community and contributing to safeguarding the protection of livelihoods and the surrounding ecosystems.

At Blue Ventures we develop innovative and transformative approaches for nurturing and sustaining locally led marine conservation. Through this community-first approach, we support alternative livelihoods that increase local capacity, reduce the reliance on natural resources and build community resilience in the face of growing global emergencies. Utilising our experience in building successful community based tourism models, we facilitate and guide communities through this process.

In small-scale fishing communities, homestays have proven to be an inclusive and rewarding community initiative that provides reliable income for families that are amongst some of the most vulnerable to our changing climate, public health emergencies and depleted fish stocks. Homestays can act as a catalyst to diversifying local livelihoods, building new opportunities and developing sustained community led marine protection.”

Ryan Lewis - Seagrass Conservation and Livelihoods Project Manager, Blue Ventures

The six pillars to an effective homestay model

Community led
Access to markets
Self governance
Local products
Community led
The premise and identity of any homestay association must come from the needs and desires of the community. Facilitation from an NGO can significantly aid this process and provide efficiency and effectiveness, but full community ownership is imperative to successful community based tourism.
Through engaging tools and training, community members are able to nurture business intuition and development – skills and knowledge which they can then pass on to future generations, building a culture of entrepreneurship within the community.
Access to markets
Creating an easy to navigate, trustworthy and informative online platform for marketing and bookings increases visibility and likeliness of sustained demand for their services. Community associations and networks help to pool resources and maximise sales opportunities.
Collaborative self governance

A structure that supports the shared vision and values of the community builds trust and creates shared responsibilities. A mutual understanding that setting high standards across all tourism activities improves livelihoods and protects natural resources for everyone in the community.

Supporting local products and services
Often located in rural and remote areas, homestays can not work effectively without supporting products and services that further diversification and sustain community togetherness. Services such as tours, activities and catering not only strengthen the wider community input but build on the visitor experience.
To ensure long-term success business models must prove to be sustainable and able to run independent of external funding. This can take time but needs to be the end goal of any effective alternative livelihood and ensures dependency on external factors is minimised.

Being a homestay host is a good job. It requires less than being a fisherman and has opportunities for growth in the future. Homestays also benefit the entire community as well as other villages, not just the host families. For example, we use part of our income to buy fruits and vegetables for the guests to eat. This brings income to other community members and other communities.”

Estevao, Homestay Owner, Atauro Island, Timor-Leste

Learning through shared experiences

Although every community based tourism model should be tailored to that community, there are a number of shared challenges and learning opportunities. Community exchanges, both national and international, have proved to be a highly effective tool in developing homestay standards, identifying areas for improvement, and building confidence through training and shared learning.

First inspired by a set of exchange visits over 2017 and 2018 between community representatives from Raja Ampat (Indonesia), Atauro Island (Timor-Leste) and Tun Mustapha Park (Malaysia) and funded by WWF, Blue Ventures has co-created a homestay and community based tourism manual jointly authored by Seventy Three, Blue Ventures, Yayasan Barunastra and WWF Malaysia.

This homestay toolkit sets out a number of key considerations that local communities, and their partners in government and civil society, might wish to take into account when deciding whether and how to develop a community based tourism venture.

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