Communities in tourism are a primary stakeholder group. As a result, tourism has a diverse actor network engaging with destination communities, from donor organizations with charitable contributions to tourists who may be interested in volunteer projects or traveler’s philanthropy. Often, community engagement in tourism is fronted from ethical and philanthropic standpoints, as social responsibility. But what exactly is the purpose behind social responsibilities by tourism companies and other organizations in destinations when engaging with local communities?
Because value in engagement varies between organizations, we sought to find out what motivates tourism businesses and other organizations in destinations to engage with communities in tourism. Results from our poll, just like in other published tourism research, show that the primary reasons for engagement are for businesses to look good, and also to solve community needs. It is clear that motivations behind engaging communities in tourism vary, and this raises the concern of whether all engagement is appropriate. Could there be imbalances in engaging communities in tourism?
Significance of communities in sustainable tourism is proven. Yet value of engagement varies between organizations. What motivates tourism businesses and other organizations in destinations to engage with communities in tourism?
Solving community needs – 35.3%
Minimize risk for business – 5.9%
CSR- look good – 35.3%
Access community resource – 23.5%
One of the biggest imbalances in community engagement in tourism is the idea that positive economic outcomes are sufficient reason to justify any form of community engagement. Social responsibilities in any form of community engagement must have positive social outcomes, not only economic implications in terms of rewards and benefits given to local communities. Engagement as an agent for positive tourism development, should be molded on terms that are economically and socially just in order to have outcomes for thriving destination communities.
The right engagement question will result to community empowerment as positive social outcome. This is possible when those engaging with communities in tourism live by the right engagement question, which results to destination communities that are empowered psychologically, socially, politically and economically. The right engagement question is one that builds trust between the engaging parties. Any effort for community engagement in tourism is bound to fail if the engagement question does not build trust, even if efforts meets the needs of the community being engaged.