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Probably all our best travel experiences happened when we fully submerged ourselves in the local way of life. Whether it was joining a traditional Indonesian wedding, driving a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka or camping on an uninhabited island – these are our favourite memories.

This form of travel, called ‘community-based travel’, is becoming more and more popular. In this article, we’ll explain to you what community-based travel is, what the benefits are and how you can incorporate it in your own travel plans.

Local market

What is community-based travel?

You could say community-based travel is the oldest form of tourism, but it got marginalised after the rise of international tour operators and mass tourism. However, an increasing amount of travellers is growing tired of this. They seek authentic experiences and genuine connections with the locals instead of tourist traps. 

At the same time, local communities (mostly farmers, fishermen, indigenous people and artisans living in remote, rural areas), want to invite travellers into their communities. They want to give them insight into their culture, traditions and daily life.  

Community-based travel
Community-based travel

That’s what created community-based travel in its current form. It’s a form of sustainable tourism that allows travellers and locals to connect and both learn new things from each other and broaden their horizons.

You can determine whether something is community-based travel by seeing if it combines both the conservation of nature and the conservation of traditional ways of living. It should promote sustainable activities at all times, and be organised by the local community itself. 

Community-based travel

What are the benefits of community-based travel?

We strongly believe that the benefits of community-based travel are huge. Of course, if you’re used to going on trips that are fully organized by tour companies, this might be a change. Still, it’s a change for the better. Here are some of the benefits of community-based travel.

Jobs & income
If you do community-based travel right, you can make positive impact on local communities. It creates job opportunities and an extra, complementary income for (sometimes) marginalized communities. On top of that, you also help sustain these communities and their cultures in general!

Cultural exchange
Exchanging interactions with people with other customs, cultures, traditions and world views helps you to be more open-minded. It also strenghtens your intercultural communication skills and gives you a better understanding of individual countries and the world as a whole.

Cultural exchange
Cultural exchange

It’s sustainable
Community-based travel is a sustainable form of tourism, both environmentally and socially. Activities are usually of a smaller scale, use less polluting forms of transportation and promote (and sustain) traditional ways of living for future generations to come.

TIP: Another way to ensure future generations can still enjoy landscapes as they’re now, is by reducing the amount of plastic waste as much as possible. Read our guide on how to ban plastic waste from your travels here.

It’s authentic & unique
By engaging in community-based travel, you’ll come to find the activities you take part in are far more authentic. These aren’t tailor-made experiences, designed to fit the expectations of mass tourism and maximize profits. Instead, you’ll get a genuine representation of how other people live their daily life. 

A fair distribution of profits
You know your money is going to the right place with community-based travel. When you book an activity through an international tour company, the bare minimum of the profit will actually go to the local communities. This risk of tourism leakage (the risk that revenue generated by tourism is lost to other countries’ economies) can be averted with community-based travel.

Community based travel
Community based travel

Tips & tricks for community-based travel

The best advice for incorporating community-based travel into your trips is to live like a local. But as this might be a bit too simple, here are some more tips and tricks: 

  • Do your research in advance, because living standards vary all across the world. This ensures you’ll know what to expect. However, don’t overdo it, because you don’t want to rule out the element of surprise.
  • Try to learn some words of the local language. Although English goes a long way, it can be nice to know the basics. People tend to open up to you more if you put in a bit of effort! 
  • Immerse yourself in the experience as much as possible. Eat unfamiliar foods at small restaurants, stay in homestays and adjust to the local schedule

Community-based travel
Local culture

  • Stay away from the things you know already. It’s time to experience some new stuff! Your Starbucks latte and supermarket products will be waiting for you at home. 
  • When looking for activities, focus on things like village tours, cooking classes, farm visits and crafting together.
  • Instead of only taking in the local culture, share something about yourself as well. They might be curious to know how you live, work and meet-up with friends and family. Community-based tourism goes two ways and is all about interaction!

If you have any questions regarding community-based travel, please drop a comment in the comment section below!

Sustainable travel