With the rapid growth of air travels and rising middle class in the region, tourism has become an important source of employment and income for countries in the region. The number of tourist arrivals in the region has increased by 8.1% between 2006 and 2013 to reach 98 million in 20131 . However, such rapid expansions in the tourism industry may lead to problems such as exploitation of natural resources and local community members.
Under the AEC initiatives, the ASEAN Community Based Tourism (CBT) Standard has been developed to create quality visitor experiences by showcasing community livelihoods and natural and cultural assets in a presentable, safe and attractive manner. It also promotes gender equity and social inclusion through equitable sharing of benefits – a community development fund and opportunities in income generating activities. By linking with other regional economies, ASEAN CBT standard ensures that for every CBT initiative, employment opportunities is for local community members and maintains strong cooperation with other CBTs and regional private and government organisations to increase regional tourism.
CBT thus gives local community members opportunities to participate in planning, managing and operating tourism products and services. 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 hostguest interaction. CBT usually caters for niche markets such as adventure tourism, cultural tourism, ecotourism and agri-tourism, but draws on local products and services to spread the economic benefit from engaging in tourism. It also seeks to ensure communities, and their natural and cultural heritage resources are protected, and that income flows to the community would improve the community’s wellbeing.
1 ASEAN Statistics: http://www.asean.org/resources/2012-02-10-08-47-55/asean-statistics