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International Conference:
Tourism and Communities

A consortium including a vietnamese (Van Lang University) and french institutions (Université de Pau et Pays de l’Adour, and University of La Reunion) has been working on an AUF-funded inter-university scientific cooperation project (ISCP) in the Asia-Pacific region. Together with Cambodia Royal University and Naruesan University in Thaïland, they have developped a research / training program focussing on the relationships between tourism and communities.

The research activities they have developed have shown that the concept of Community-based tourism varies a lot with the places and angles through which it is considered. The researchers intend to conclude the program by a conference. The major goal of this conference is to put these various interpretations into perspective and to analyze how they differ from a country and from an institution to another. The conference will be followed by one day-long workshop during which Ph.D. students in Humanities from the Asia-Pacific Region and specialized in tourism will have the opportunity to share and confront their experiences and views.

Dates, venues and program:
The conference will be held late October 2011, either in Mui Ne, a balnear station north of Vung Tau (former Cap Saint Jacques), or in Ho Chi Minh City (Van Lang University). Final information about the program will be made available as soon as possible.

Paper proposals :
 * Paper proposals must be sent by email to Prof. Pierre-Marie DECOUDRAS, Geography Department (University of La Réunion), pierre.decoudras@univ-reunion.frand before May 15th, 2011.
 * Each proposal must include a title, 5 keywords, an abstract (2500 - 3000 signs long), and detailed information about the functions and professional address of the author.
 * Successful applications selected by the scientific committee will receive an acceptation notification no later than June 20th 2011.
 * The conference final program will be posted online no later than September 1st, 2011. First Call : document pdf (opens in a new window).

Since the early eighties, the relationship between tourism and communities (either local or ethnic communities, depending on the geographic or cultural background of the researchers) has become a major issue (Girard & Schéou, 2010). The shift towards sustainable development as well as the increasing questioning of mass tourism and its standards have strengthened the need to emphasize cultural specificities, thus leading to stage the « authenticity » of societies all across the world. In conjunction with ecotourism, community-based tourism (CBT) has become more and more fashionable. According to international tourism bodies, CBT is based on the idea of involving the communities, yet the way it is implemented offers a wide array of applications and interpretations, mainly because of how simplified the two underlining concepts - communities and participation – have become and because each country has its own specific context. Furthermore, scientific approaches applied are also extremely diverse, because of the cultural backgrounds of the researchers themselves, but also because of the objectives they may pursue (either fundamental or applied research).

The ideal scheme assumes the presence of an organized community at a local scale, a community dedicated to « expose » itself, to stage its daily practices and which is trained to do it. The first question that has to be addressed is the definition of the community itself: what kind of community are we talking about?  Is it an ethnic community, easily recognizable by its language, its clothing, its housing, its way of life and its traditions or activities, on a well-defined territory? Or is it a rural neighborhood in the countryside, practicing fishing or growing rice, but mostly similar to any other village in the area?

The second question pertains to the concept of participation, which is supposed to help prevent tourism development projects from resulting from agreements between foreign investors and national governments, without involving local people in any kind of consultation or contribution to their implementation (Girard & Schéou, 2010). Participation must be an incentive for those who are supposed to benefit from it to be proactive and mobilize their resources. But this can be done very differently from a place to another, depending on the human resources available Does the community have a say about the choice of the tourism activities that are offered? Is it only involved in the preliminary studies, mainly in data gathering? Does participation extend to the implementation and management of tourism activities? Does it include an involvement in designing and managing the whole project? Also, how does the community benefit from the induced effects of tourism (job creation, food supply, handicraft, …) and how are the revenues distributed ? And whatever the modalities, is it fair to says that tourism implementation is a major contribution to ensure its continued existence?

Community-based tourism, ethnic tourism, fair tourism … these notions hide a wide array of realities, depending on the local contexts. Likewise, between the survival of slowly disappearing traditions and inventing brand new ones for tourism purposes, between an economy managed by the community itself and a public or private sector- managed staging of these communities, almost any combination is possible, leading to very different consequences for the communities.
The goal of this conference is to try and understand the motivations and efficiency of communities undergoing tourism implementation, as well as the different forms these kinds of tourism may take. The expected contributions must focus on the relationships between tourism AND communities, pointing out relevant indicators that may help figure out how the staging of tourism may meet the requirements of economic, social and cultural sustainability. These contributions might also focus on specific models, questioning and challenging them. Hopefully this will give the participants an opportunity for prolific exchanges, eventually leading to a publication that will be based on case studies but will also go beyond the description of specific contexts to identify relevant economic, social and cultural transversal indicators.

A few examples:
* Level of association and participation for each step of the tourism activities implementation;
* Evolution of the habits, behavior, and cultural codes of the local community ;
* Number of jobs created, either direct or indirect, for the community ;
* Typology of these jobs (high ranked/low qualification jobs,  permanent/temporary, male/female) ;
* how much and how are benefits shared among the community?;
* how many members of the community have benefited from a training;  land speculation ;
* tourism-induced pressure (local communities vs tourists ratio) ;
* advice of the community about tourism promotion;
* ...
One can consider the problem through various viewpoints, from economic efficiency of the models to how resilient the communities are in regard of the changes induced by tourism, including the various levels of implication of the community members and the kinds of governance involved. Granted, the underlying hypothesis expresses nothing new. It is linked to how difficult it is for a community to remain « unchanged » when facing otherness and when its standard of life significantly rises. In the context of pursuit of sustainability, our goal could be reduced to two basic questions : under which conditions can touristic promotion of these communities facilitate both their economic development (maybe even their survival), and the preservation of their culture? What are the most relevant indicators for researchers in order to create tools that might give a better understanding of the challenges facing the relationship between local communities AND tourism?

Non exhaustive bibliography
Beeton, S. (2006). Community Development through Tourism. Victoria, Landlinks Press.
Girard, A. & B. Schéou (2009). Le tourisme solidaire communautaire à l’épreuve des illusions culturaliste et participative, l’exemple d'une expérience au Bénin, Colloque « Tourisme et objectifs du millénaire pour le développement », Sousse, Tunisie.
Girard, A. & B. Schéou (2010). Tourisme et communautés rurales : une relation délicate, intervention orale au colloque de Ben Tre, Vietnam.
Häusler, N. & W. Stasdas (2003). Training Manual for Community-based Tourism. Zschortau, InWent.
Johnston, A. M. (2006). Is the Sacred fo Sale ? Tourism and Indigenous Peoples. Londres, Earthscan.
Lequin, M. (2001). Écotourisme et gouvernance participative. Sainte-Foy, Presses de l’Université du Québec.
Scheou, B. (2009).
Du tourisme durable au tourisme équitable. Paris-Bruxelles, Ed. De Boeck.

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