Empower Communities

Empower Communities

Celebrate local cultures and improve the livelihoods of host communities

Our world is a wealth of diverse peoples and rich traditions. Because travel brings us to far corners of the globe, it is an unparalleled opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and learn about their ways of life.

While travel enriches our lives and broadens our horizons, it also has the power to support the communities we visit and improve their quality of life. Tourism creates much-needed jobs and income for underserved populations, such as women and rural communities, and brings money into developing countries. Along with providing local economic benefits, tourism can help preserve traditions and foster cultural awareness and pride.

However, tourism can also have the opposite effect. Mass tourism development and disrespectful visitors can spark conflict with host communities. Local residents may be marginalized from the tourism industry and their opinions not valued. Tourism can also aggravate income inequality and community hostility, and contribute to culture loss and degraded heritage sites.

We make sure that local people reap the benefits of tourism and empower them to improve their livelihoods, share their heritage, and contribute to sustainable development.

The Issues

We’re transforming tourism’s relationship with local communities by addressing the following issues. 

While tourism provides decent work and economic revenues, these benefits don’t always reach local communities

Limited Local Economic Benefits

Tourism may force communities to abandon their homes and prevent them from accessing their traditional lands and resources.

Displacement of Residents

Offensive and destructive behavior by tourists can cause community resentment and damage cultural resources.

Disrespectful Visitor Behavior

Tourism can cause local traditions, skills, and values to be forgotten or modified and lead to a loss of cultural diversity.

Loss of Local Culture

Overcrowding and mass tourism can result in negative impacts that degrade the quality of life of local residents.


What's At Stake

Through our work, we aim to strengthen vulnerable communities and safeguard the resources they treasure.

  • Traditional Cultures & Ways of Life

    Traditional Cultures & Ways of Life

    Tourists are drawn to culturally vibrant destinations where they can immerse themselves in the local cuisine, music, religious traditions, and history. However, an influx of foreign visitors can result in a loss of cultural authenticity and distinctiveness as local communities conform to meet tourist desires and western ideals. As more value is placed on tourism and lands are developed, traditional livelihoods, skills, and crafts may be forgotten.
  • Heritage Sites

    Heritage Sites

    Tourism can damage and degrade places and structures that possess historical or spiritual significance for local communities. Heavy visitation can place excessive pressure on these sites. This coupled with destructive behavior by tourists and a lack of preservation activities can lead to their gradual deterioration.
  • Indigenous Peoples

    Indigenous Peoples

    Indigenous communities are among the world’s most impoverished people, and they are also some of the most vulnerable to tourism’s impacts. Tourism can lead to conflict and resentment with indigenous people as development drives them from their traditional lands and degrades their sacred sites. This is compounded by the fact that indigenous communities are often excluded from the tourism economy and their traditions misrepresented or exploited in order to entertain tourists.
  • Local Quality of Life

    Local Quality of Life

    While tourism can benefit local communities by creating new jobs and recreation opportunities, improving local infrastructure, and generating funding for essential services, if tourism is not sustainable it can end up having the opposite effect and diminish the quality of life for local residents. When too many tourists visit a place, it can result in unwanted noise and pollution, crowded roads and beaches, water shortages, and a lack of affordable housing. Oftentimes, tourism is also associated with an increase in crime and safety concerns.

Transforming Tourism's Human Impact

Sustainable tourism doesn’t stop at protecting the environment – it also means transforming tourism’s impact on the people and cultures we visit. At Sustainable Travel International, we believe tourism can and should…

  • Be respectful and inclusive of local communities
  • Balance visitor growth and tourism development with local needs
  • Create decent jobs and economic benefits for local people
  • Celebrate cultural heritage in an authentic way
  • Stimulate sustainable development and build community resilience

What We're Doing

Inclusive Tourism Development

We ensure tourism development addresses local needs by involving residents in tourism planning and providing opportunities for their voices to be heard.

Local & Respectful Travel

We help travelers make more responsible and mindful choices that benefit the local communities they visit and foster cultural awareness.

Localizing Supply Chains

We help tourism companies maximize the benefits they create for local communities by evaluating their supply chains and identifying opportunities to partner with local businesses.

Community-Based Tourism Products

We build the capacity of local communities to develop and market their own tourism products that showcase their cultural and natural heritage.

Our Projects

Did You Know?

Tourism supports 319 million jobs, 1 in 10 workers around the globe.

Cultural heritage tourism contributes about  $171 billion to local economies each year.

For every $100 spent on a tour to a developing country, only  $5 stays in the local economy.

Indigenous people make up  5% of the world’s population, but account for 15% of the extreme poor.

News & Stories

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