Committee: Forum on Indigenous People’s Rights

Issue: Supporting Indigenous Communities in their Development of Tourism on their Territories to Create Sustained and Inclusive Economic Growth

Chair: Monica Yang


Introduction of the Issue

Colonization is the act of  settling or taking control over people of another country or region. It has been a common act for centuries over the globe. The first modern colonization can be dated back to the 15th century when the Portuguese and the Spanish colonizers explored North America, Africa, Middle East, and India. After the first modern colonization, numerous colonization actions happened consecutively, such as the Europeans colonizing India, the Scramble for Africa, European Imperialism in Asia  et cetera. All of these have great impacts on countries that are being colonized. For instance, many dominant countries, especially the Western powers, would spread/impose their cultures and traditions, religions, political stance, and other social behaviors into their colonies, contributing to the tendency for colonies to lose elements of their cultural identity over a long period of time. Nevertheless, the indigenous people, those who live in a country or a geographical region before people of different cultures or ethnicities arrive, tend to have little or almost no connection with the local community, or the majority of the country’s population. Therefore, it is more likely for the indigenous communities to preserve their culture and traditions after colonization compared to the local communities.

        Although each indigenous community has distinct cultural and social characteristics that induce caring and curiosity for people and organizations around the world, they are still facing many  difficulties in the maintenance of their unique features. For instance, indigenous communities tend to be smaller in size, so they are often known to be the minorities in their country. As a result, they tend to lose their rights toward many privileges, such as education and suffrage, that other citizenships in the country obtain. This prevents the indigenous communities from developing through economic growth.

        However,  as stated earlier, indigenous communities’ distinct features interest a lot of people. Therefore, some indigenous communities started to develop “indigenous tourism” which allows a greater number of people to recognize their culture and speed up the process of economic growth. In Argentina, the Indigenous Community Development Project consisted of 54 indigenous communities and  75% of the communities participated in the indigenous tourism project supported by the government and local organizations. This clearly brought wealth, including both personal income and community income, to those communities (Verner). First, more job opportunities were created for the indigenous people, which led to a  boost in self-confidence and sense of autonomy as they feel more secure from having a higher income. Second, the increase of recognition encourages more people to donate and help these indigenous communities to maintain their cultures. Nevertheless, there are some downsides and concerns regarding the establishment of indigenous tourism. First, according to Andres Barona, the economic growth induced by tourism is not as significant as expected. This is because the expenses for maintaining the environment and cultural heritage damaged by tourists tend to balance out or even exceed the revenue collected by indigenous communities through tourism. Second, in the first 5 years of Argentina’s Indigenous Community Development Project, the number of tourists in the indigenous tourism industry doubled (Verner). This did not only increase the amount of environmental pollution, but it also sped up the process of the mixtures of cultures between the indigenous communities and tourists. Most importantly, as the quantity of tourism increased, the quality of the  trips decreased through the amplification of waste production, air and noise pollution, etc. This influenced visitors’ view on participating in the tourism program, and further, changed the type of visitors  visiting the indigenous communities. For most cases, this is a negative situation because most of the people who tend to have better travelling manners will be the first ones to withdraw from the program, while the ones who have worse travelling manners will continuously flood into the indigenous communities to destroy the culture and environment (Ramer).

        Apart from the problems caused toward the indigenous communities, the establishment of indigenous tourism often creates conflicts between indigenous communities within local communities. This is mainly because most of the indigenous tourism business is initiated by the government, so local communities tend to have a great power regarding how they want to organise their local tourist sector. Nonetheless, these decisions are not always friendly toward the indigenous communities. For instance, the creation of beach hotels near the indigenous communities tend to pollute their living area or even cause them to lose their home. Besides, the fishing communities, such as some indigenous people in Phuket (Thailand) also lose their jobs and become displaced.

Another example is  the Havasupai community: the Havasupai is an indigenous community living near the Grand Canyon in  Arizona, United States of America. Knowing that the Grand Canyon is a popular tourist attraction that many will visit, there are also around 20,000 visitors who decided to climb down the cliff to visit the Havasupai Reservation, which only costs 15 US Dollar per trip per person. Although the money obtained is given to the Havasupai community, it is not enough for them to sustain their community. Moreover, the Havasupai community has to deal with lots of pollution issues coming from the visitors, especially the air and noise pollution coming from the jet plane and helicopters flying past the Canyon on a regular basis (Ramer).

        As it can be seen from above, indigenous tourism is indeed a good source, or the first step for indigenous communities to reach out to the general public and create inclusive economic growth. Nonetheless, there are simultaneously some drawbacks that affect the originality of the indigenous communities . Therefore, it is essential to find a balance between the advantages and disadvantages under the concept of indigenous tourism, in order to obtain a sustainable and inclusive economic growth.


Key Terms Explanations

Carrying Capacity: Carrying capacity is the maximum amount of resources available that can be sustainably supported by a given environment. In many nations, the increase in tourism industry uses the soil excessively and lavishly. This leads to their soils’ carrying capacity to decreasing and further affect the quality of crops. If the carrying capacity of soil continues to decrease, then the soils would soon become non-arable lands and uninhabitable for other non-human living organisms.

Conflicts of Interest: Conflicts of interest in a situation in which two parties or two ideas contradict one another. This appears in the development of tourism in indigenous communities because while it can boost the economy, it can also lead to the lost of their culture and traditions.

Ecological Footprint:  Ecological footprint is the world’s leading measure to see the pressure humans put onto  nature. By measuring the ecological footprint, it enables humans to manage our ecological assets, such as but not limited to, natural resources, more wisely. One of the most commonly used measurement is the carbon Footprint (Footprint Basic).

Ecotourism: Ecotourism refers to the responsible travelling to natural areas done by visitors, which include protecting the wellbeing of the environment and the local citizens. Apart from that, ecotourism also incorporates the concept of education for visitors and local citizens. Some of the principles of ecotourism include minimizing physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts, as well as building environmental and cultural awareness and respect (What is Ecotourism).

Green Growth: This term describes the improving of lives and ensuring a healthy planet for future generations. It is a path of economic growth that uses natural resources in a sustainable manner. It is used to provide an alternative concept to industrial economic growth (Key Issues).

Indigenous Communities: Indigenous communities are those who live in a country or a geographical region before people of different cultures of ethnicities arrive and dominate the country or the region. They tend to have distinct cultures, social characteristics, or ways of living from the dominant society. However, they are often facing the extinction or their cultures and traditions as there is more connection between the indigenous communities and the dominant society. Some of the famous indigenous communities include the Mayans, the Igbo or the Yoruba.

Indigenous Tourism: Indigenous tourism refers tourism activities that directly involve the presence of indigenous people or the culture and/or geological environment of the indigenous communities. For instance, the employment of indigenous people to describe the culture of their community as a way of attraction can be considered as indigenous tourism.

Post-Colonial Development: Post-colonial mainly refers to a period of time after the colonization of the more dominant countries. Many postcolonial countries tend to take on the cultures and traditions of their Western colonizers, and further hinder the growth of their own characteristics or even lead to the extinction of their original traditions. Therefore, postcolonial development is an important concept for counties that were colonized, especially for the fact that they have the opportunity to start creating its own characteristics independent from their colonizers.


(Image 1: Postcolonial Countries Around the World)

Sustainable Tourism: Sustainable tourism refers to the maintenance of environment by the local citizens, such as industries’ commitments to making low impact on the environment and local culture, while providing more job opportunities for local citizens to boost the economy.


Past Actions: Governments For Indigenous Tourism

Argentina - Indigenous Community Development Project

This is an indigenous community development project that took place between September 18, 2000 and December 31, 2006 (Projects & Operations). It mainly focused on the development of independent indigenous communities through the establishment of indigenous tourism. It assisted more than 40 indigenous communities in Argentina to establish their tourism business through education and marketing techniques. Apart from that, all of the funds and/or loans came from World Bank and other non-bank organizations in the United States of America. Although many indigenous communities in Argentina did raise awareness regarding their existence and importance, but it also damaged many geological and environmental features of those regions (Verner).

Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada (ATAC)

This is an association that draws the connection between indigenous communities in Canada with the Canadian governments and industry leaders from all over Canada to support indigenous tourism. Just like many other associations, the ATAC also teaches the indigenous communities how to market their tourism programs. However, the ATAC has also developed an organised guide along with suitable itineraries to enable tourists to visit multiple aboriginal communities at once. The goal for this program is to increase the total Canadian GDP by 300 million US Dollar within five years while raising the number of indigenous employees up to more than 40,000 workers before the year 2021 (Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada).

Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2013-2016

This is an action plan established by the New South Wales (NSW) government to help indigenous communities to initiate their tourism industry and products independently.

This action plan includes methods that the NSW government, local agencies, and other organizations could financially support for the aboriginal communities.

 Moreover, this action plan also consists in ways to which indigenous communities can increase employment rate through tourism. This includes providing experienced consultants from the NSW government and supplying suitable education for the indigenous people in order for them to become tourism professionals. Beside the plans, the NSW government also aimed to achieve goals through the plans such as the rise of market awareness for showing indigenous communities’ vibrancy and diversity (Sandra Chipchase).

Past Actions: Government Against Indigenous Tourism

International and Domestic Visitors Market: Australia

In 2013, several professors in the University of Queensland did a research on the demand and supply issues in Australia’s indigenous tourism. They took the stance against the establishment of indigenous tourism, believing that the existence of indigenous tourism does not only fail to promote economic growth in indigenous communities, but also harms the livelihood of those indigenous communities. Furthermore, the professors are highly against the Indigenous Tourism Operators, which is an organization that helps indigenous communities to organise their tourism business. Within the final report done by the professors, they found out that the Indigenous Tourism Operators overestimated the international visitors’ demand for indigenous experiences. While the operators believe the popularity for indigenous tourism in Australia is right after Sydney, the survey conducted on more than 1000 international visitors shows that only 5 percent of them are interested in exploring the indigenous communities. Therefore, it is hard for the indigenous communities to be completely independent from the control of the Tourism Operator, which further limits their economic growth.


Questions to Consider:

  1. What are the components and/or programs of indigenous tourism?
  2. How to include the indigenous population in individual countries in planning tourist strategies and managing potential impacts?
  3. Who will be the target customers when the indigenous tourism industry is established in one specific region? (Please note that different visitors: children / teenagers / adults / elderly all have a different preference when it comes to travelling or visiting indigenous communities. Therefore, it is essential to find one or more target customers before the tourism plans are set in order to bring the most sustained economic growth to the place)
  4. How are we going to persuade tourists to join the indigenous tourism activities? Through advertisements from the government? Non-Governmental Organizations? Intergovernmental organizations? Local companies?
  5. How can we ensure the quality of the tourists’ behavior during their stay in order to minimize the cultural and environmental destructions towards the indigenous communities ?
  6. Should there be more governments, non-governmental organizations, and intergovernmental organizations supporting the establishment of indigenous tourism or other means that can preserve their cultures? If so, how can those authorities assist indigenous communities? Which kind of support should they provide in order to achieve the greatest effectivity and efficiency? How to increase those authorities’ willingness to help with their development?
  7. Should there be any laws or regulations that can avoid the loss of cultural identity and biodiversity through the tourism business?

Possible Solutions

  1. Governments and/or NGO’s and IGO’s can provide professional training regarding marketing, program designs, etc. for indigenous communities so that they can slowly grow their tourism industry independently.
  2. Provide a forum for different indigenous communities that are already part of the tourism community or those that are interested in establishing a tourism business to gather on a regular basis to discuss common problems and share insights.
  3. Provide better education for indigenous communities for the purpose of granting basic knowledge for the aboriginal people so that they won’t be suppressed by the dominant society in terms of the tourism industry as well as economic growth.


References for Additional Research

  1. General information about indigenous tourism: 
  2. Basic evaluation about indigenous tourism using the Carribean and Latin American communities as examples: 
  3. The history of indigenous people and tourism:
  4. Aboriginal Tourism Activities Creates Cultural Conflicts:
  5. Demand and Supply Issues in Indigenous Tourism: A Gap Analysis / Mapping Australia’s International and Domestic Visitor Markets Against Indigenous TOurism Operators: 
  6. Indigenous Community Development Project: 

Works Cited

"Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada." Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada. N.P., 2017. Web. 20 July 2017. <>.

"Footprint Basics." Footprint Basics. Global Footprint Network, 4 Apr. 2016. Web. 11 July 2016.

"Key Issues." Sustainable Development. The World Bank Group, 2013. Web. 12 July 2016.

"Projects & Operations." Projects : Indigenous Community Development LIL. The World Bank. World Bank Group, n.d. Web. 20 July 2017. <>.

Ramer, McLaren Deborah. "The History of Indigenous Peoples and Tourism." THE HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND TOURISM. Cultural Survival Quarterly Maganize, June 1999. Web. 20 Jul. 2017. <>.

Sandra Chipchase. “Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2013-2016”. Destination NSW. N.P., 201. Web. 20 July 2017. <>

Verner, Dorte. "Tourism and Indigenous People - Lessons from Recent Experiences in Eco and Ethno Tourism in Latin America and the Carribean." Responsible Tourism Series. World Bank, 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 July 2017. <>.

"What is Ecotourism?" What is Ecotourism?. The International Ecotourism Society. The International Tourism Society, n.d. Web. 21 July 2017.

Whiteford, Michelle & McLEnnan Char-lee. Demand and Supply Issues in Indigenous Tourism: A Gap Analysis. The University of Queensland. 2013 January. Web. 20 Jul 2017. <>