Ethics of Indigenous Tourism

UNWTO Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism (Part 1)

Indigenous peoples are characterized by some of the richest, most unique and diverse cultural expressions of humankind which have developed over thousands of years across our planet and are spiritually linked to indigenous traditional lands.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization published recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism are referring first and foremost to tourism development within those indigenous communities that wish to open up to tourism or to improve the management of the existing indigenous tourism products and experiences within their communities.

These recommendations represent a clear pull factor for potential tourists who wish to experience indigenous natural and cultural heritage in physical, intellectual and emotional terms, and If managed responsibly and sustainably, indigenous tourism spurs cultural interaction and revival, bolsters employment, alleviates poverty, curbs rural flight migration, empowers local communities, especially women and youth, encourages tourism product diversification, allows people to retain their relationship with the land and nurtures a sense of pride.

Throughout the centuries, indigenous people have faced different forms of discrimination, displacement from their ancestral territories, cultural assimilation and more recently a severe depletion of the natural resources they depend on. And In order for indigenous tourism to develop and prosper in a respectful and equitable manner, all stakeholders need to take into consideration the following key socioeconomic and human rights aspects directly related to indigenous communities:

Respect cultural values and the cultural capital of indigenous groups, their physical, spiritual and cultural relationship with their traditional lands and customary laws, in order to be able to understand their expected benefits from tourism and the role they wish to play in it. Respect the management models that the indigenous communities wish to apply in tourism development.

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Engage in a thorough, transparent and permanent consultation process on the planning, design and management of tourism projects, products and services. This process includes a dialogue between indigenous and non-indigenous stakeholders (governments, destinations, tourism companies and others), as well as among indigenous community members whose consent to any tourism development is absolutely necessary.

From an Empowerment point the UNWTO recommend that we help facilitate skills development and empowerment of indigenous communities through organizational structures and governance models, including self-governance, that enable efficient decision-making with regards to tourism.

Support equitable indigenous enterprises and sustainable business practices which not only ensure an enhanced economic benefit, but also contribute to protecting cultural and natural resources, intellectual property, fostering community development and improving individual livelihoods.

Ensure that outcomes of tourism development are positive, and that adverse impacts on natural resources, cultural heritage and the way of life of the communities are timely identified and prevented or eliminated. And finally participate in the protection of natural and cultural assets of indigenous communities, as well as of their traditional lands.

Source: World Tourism Organization (2019), Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism, UNWTO, Madrid. DOI

Cover photo: iStock.com/FG Trade