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Entrepreneurship, Poverty and Sustainable Livelihoods
Community-based tourism entrepreneurship offers innovative income-generation opportunities to the most vulnerable segments of society allowing them to become economically active and achieve improvements in the aspects of their lives that they find most important.
Vulnerable communities in poor regions in the US and in developing countries have the ability to produce tourism services and products that are an extension of traditional life practices like tracking wildlife, making crafts, cooking, storytelling, or engaging in cultural performances. These opportunities capitalize on tourists’ increased interest in services and products that are directly delivered by and contribute to the wellbeing of their hosts. Tourism businesses have embraced this trend advertising their products as authentic, local, socially-conscious or even pro-poor, and their success has generally trickled down to benefit vulnerable segments of society through increased employment and improved tax revenues. This trend also opens the opportunity to engage poor individuals in tourism micro-enterprises, provided that these individuals are empowered and enabled by an appropriate support system.
Much like small-scale farmers, tourism micro-entrepreneurs face many competitive challenges including no brand recognition, lack of quality assurance, limited knowledge of market preferences and inability to break through retail monopolies to reach markets. These and other challenges have generally prevented the underprivileged from starting tourism businesses and lifting themselves out of poverty and dependency on several forms of top-down aid.
Listen to what Dr. Duarte Morais, now a faculty member with the NC State Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management Department has to say about Susainable Tourism and Economic Development.
Initiative: Tourism Entrepreneurship and Poverty Alleviation
The Tourism Entrepreneurship and Poverty Alleviation Initiative attempts to take advantage of market forces and innovative technology to create support mechanisms that foster entrepreneurial activity among vulnerable individuals. Moreover, cognizant that increased income earnings do not always translate into improved wellbeing, every project in this initiative directly addresses particular health consequences of Poverty (e.g., malnutrition, health un-insurance, AIDS).
Why does this matter?
Despite the millions of dollars spent by developed countries in international aid, poverty is still at the root of our planet’s most severe environmental and security threats. Therefore, investigators in this initiative are deeply engaged in action research trying to find innovative solutions to poverty in developing nations. Additionally, the current economic difficulties and relative economic disparities in the US warrant our due attention to mitigating poverty domestically.
- People First Tourism Cooperatives
- START Network – Sustainability and Technology for the Advancement of Rural Tourism
The People-First Tourism Cooperative Model developed by Drs. Duarte B. Morais, Samantha Rozier-Rich and Stacy Tomas, in partnership with the state’s Recreation Resources Service and NC State’s Center for Earth Observation. This project is attempting to stimulate economic innovation in rural North Carolina. The cooperatives support micro-entrepreneurship among the rural poor by leveraging the economic force of tourism, the State’s rich environmental resources, and synergies between tourism and other economic sectors - including construction, agriculture and transportation.
By joining a cooperative, entrepreneurs receive: 1) business skills training from regional small business centers, 2) market preferences consulting services from NC State tourism experts, 3) micro-credit, legal and tax advice from participating grassroots organizations, 4) group negotiating power for liability insurance, and 5) direct access to markets through associative branding and a geospatially-enabled web marketplace that mediates tourist to business direct contact. The quality of the tourism services and products will be monitored by tourists with ratings, similar to eBay and TripAdvisor feedback.
Because the members/entrepreneurs are able to produce appealing tourism services and products that are an extension of their daily lives this project generates renewed value for rural lives and natural resources. Additionally, since micro-businesses have low start-up capital needs, these opportunities are within the reach of low income individuals who have traditionally depended on welfare or low pay jobs. Therefore, this project will allow many North Carolinians to lift themselves out of poverty and reduce their dependency on public assistance programs. While still in the early stages of its rollout, the People-First Tourism Cooperatives project can easily be scaled-up state-wide to stimulate innovative, sustainable rural livelihoods.
Examples of Recent Publications from PRTM in the area of Entrepreneurship, Poverty and Sustainable Livelihoods:
Usher, L., & Morais, D. B. (2010). Women’s human agency and self-determination in Guatemalan tourism development. PASOS: Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 8(4), 507-518.
START Network is a transdisciplinary project pursued in collaboration with colleagues in University of Pretoria’s Tourism Management program. This project, led by Dr. Duarte Morais, is an attempt to develop a cell phone-based social networking system to connect rural indigenous groups in Southern Africa interested in providing tourism services with independent travelers and tourism companies via inexpensive SMS communications. The quality of services and products, and the ethical and reliable behavior of members in the network are documented through ratings similar to e-bay feedback seller ratings.
The START Network project will empower participating individuals and communities with business skills, knowledge of market preferences and of supply channels, giving them access to information and training. This, in turn, will begin to level the playing field between tourism companies and community-owned businesses. This program will engender trust and transparency within and between numerous groups of rural tourism entrepreneurs as well as between these groups and business partners nationally and globally.
Team members at NCSU and the University of Pretoria in South Africa will test the Tour-WishVast concept and receive feedback from stakeholders in South Africa in January 2011.