Diversifying Livelihoods in Remote Areas - Facilitating conditions and barriers to successful community-based tourism enterprise: A case study on Mayan village El 20 de Noviembre, Mexico

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Creative Sustainability
98 + 3
Over the past few decades, community-based tourism (CBT) has been explored as a poverty alleviation strategy in rural and marginalized areas. Since its emergence in the 1980s, the concept has been endorsed for taking a community-centered approach to development by highlighting the locals’ role in ensuring social empowerment, raising income levels and contributing to environmental conservation, thereby aligning with the principles of sustainable development. However, past research has shown that despite its noble intentions, CBT bears a high risk of failing, meaning that it does not always deliver the outcomes it intends to. The purpose of this thesis is to identify and analyze the factors that enable and inhibit success of CBT development in rural and marginalized communities. Using an intensive case study strategy, the data collection for this thesis took place during a one-week field trip to the Mayan community of El 20 de Noviembre, Mexico. The data was collected using three methods: eight semi-structured interviews, three participant observation occasions and field notes that were collected on all days spent at the case community. The findings were analyzed using inductive-oriented analysis techniques, and the findings were then reflected with the pre-existing literature on the subject. This thesis contributed to the understanding of conditions that facilitate and inhibit CBT success by identifying a number of internal and external factors, a majority of which can be reflected with past case studies with a number of new, emerging factors specific to the case community. Due to differing perceptions within community, this thesis (1) confirmed notions in past research that the understanding of the word ‘community’ in CBT should be strengthened and adapted to local context in order ensure a harmonious and sustainable development of the enterprise. The results also showed that (2) certain community dynamics such as class can have a restricting effect on benefit distribution, job creation and participation. Such restrictions should be examined and resolved in order reduce the risk of social dilution in the long run. With a wide array of barriers identified, such as developments needed in capacity training, infrastructure development, marketing and promotions, this thesis (3) advocates for a long-term ‘facilitator’ to support the community in CBT development with a respect for the factors and community values. Considering the dynamic nature of communities, it is also important to monitor and evaluate the factors on a periodic basis in order to adapt to community evolvement. After strategies for the resolving of these factors have been comprised, the community can move onto next phases of CBT development according to its strategy.
Thesis advisor
Halme, Minna
community-based tourism, sustainable development, poverty alleviation, community enterprise
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