Mainstream tourism has long been criticised for excluding local, indigenous people. While community-based tourism helps those marginalized by the mainstream tourism industry, it tends to benefit the more privileged, says Jane Carnaffan. She examines what lessons can be learnt from community-based tourism projects on the islands of Taquile and Amantani on Lake Titicaca and similar projects in Peru. During her PhD field research, she found that travel agents and NGOs work with the more well-off, well-connected and better educated in a community.
Less successful community members are left on the sidelines, or integrated into tourism businesses at lower levels: tending the fields and cleaning the houses of those looking after tourists. Unscrupulous travel agencies are often blamed for favouring certain families over others in return for discounts. This brings down prices and causes conflict among community members. If community-based tourism is to live up to its grassroots principles, it needs to address the essential questions of who benefits and how much. The author concludes that tourism projects need to plan ways of spreading the benefits of tourism development more equitably throughout communities.