Tourism in former-Soviet Kyrgyzstan is becoming easier, better and more value-packed. The Kyrgyz government recently began offering visas on-demand and has abolished mandatory OVIR registration. Entrepreneurs are creating international linkages and developing websites to sell services from new start-up trekking and travel agencies. A new genre of managers are working to give visitors more diversified, customer-oriented options. But still, in a country of breathtaking mountain vistas and countless unexplored adventures, tourism accounts for under half the average for countries globally (as percentage of GDP) and community based tourism is new.
Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association “Hospitality Kyrgyzstan” (KCBTA), (the country’s driving force behind CBT best practices and innovation) is leading the charge. The association’s objective is to improve living conditions in remote mountain regions by developing a sustainable and wholesome ecotourism model that utilizes local natural and recreational resources. Located in the capital Bishkek, KCBTA is an umbrella association uniting 15 diverse destination communities (“CBT groups”). The CBT association was registered on January 3, 2003 with support from Helvetas Kyrgyzstan Programme’s Community Based Tourism Support Project (CBT SP) with operations throughout the country.
Community based tourism (CBT) was initiated in May 2000. This initiative has great support from local people and today there are 5 actively working CBT groups throughout almost the whole of Kyrgyzstan. For further development and coordination of the activities within the country, these groups have established their own umbrella organization, The Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association (KCBTA) – “Hospitality Kyrgyzstan”. The main objective of the KCBTA is to improve the living conditions of people in remote mountain regions, by developing rural tourism without harming the natural environment and culture of local people.
KCBTA supports the rural sector with cost effective administration centered in the interests of its chapters. KCBTA balances marketing strategy for local and international segments while fostering communication on new projects, activities and opportunities to its rural chapters. KCBTA encourages rational and responsible natural resource use through training on environmental protection, ecology, cooperation and heritage sites to local members of rural communities. KCBTA provides support to member organizations by marketing their services and products, providing business training, supporting organizational capacity building and organizing training, seminars and study tours. The association represents member interests in national policy development and negotiations within the mainstream tourism industry.
KCBTA showcases each region’s best attractions. As a rule, tour operators are local community members and products are offered by local artisans. Local community members present attractions and their beauty with intimate, age old, insight and immersion in their lifestyle, history and culture.
KCBTA chapters follow in the spirit and principles of the organization and support its “Hospitality Kyrgyzstan” brand. The central KCBTA office promotes balance between reasonable prices the highest possible quality. The KCBTA main office and its chapters work together to find consistent service and price policies as a strategy for create the most benefit for consumers and the rural tourism sector together.
KCBTA’s primary partner is Helvetas, a Swiss Association for International Cooperation that has committed to a long-term alliance. Helvetas is running programs in more than 20 countries of the world (for more details, please visit the website at www.helvetas.org). KCBTA also maintains close relationships with the State Committee for Tourism, Sports and Youth Policy, private tour companies and various international organizations and projects
What is Community Based Tourism (CBT)?
“Community based” means supporting products, services, knowledge and practices found in local communities and offered by local stakeholders. The following definition is used by the World-wide Fund for Nature (WWF):
“Community Based Tourism is a form of tourism where the local community has a substantial control over and involvement in its development and management; and a major proportion of the benefits remain within the community”.
Community based tourism (CBT) is the practice of providing natural, value-packed travel services that utilize local accommodation, food, music, art, crafts and traditions. CBT is an excellent value and travel experience that supports rational and sustainable development. CBT gives travelers authentic visits inside homes, villages and heritages while delivering proceeds directly to the families that visitors stay with and buy from.
Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing of all industries globally. But despite the industry’s enormity and pattern growth, everyday tourism destination citizens have commonly found themselves left out of the decision-making and investment process. As a result, in all too many places among Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, unsustainable tourism has degraded communities, increased crime, damaged natural resources, ruined artifacts and destroyed sites of heritage. CBT shifts the paradigm from focusing on aggregate “growth” to include participatory stakeholder decision-making, investment opportunity for traditionally local inhabitants and sustainable environmental practices. Thus, CBT is used to describe a variety of activities that encourage and support a wide range of objectives in economic and social development and conservation. CBT principles include:
CBT relies on participation of local stakeholders
CBT has to contribute to the local economic development through increasing tourism revenues
CBT has to develop socially and economically sustainable tourism
CBT is certainly “for-profit,” but its essence is promoting local products and local ownership. CBT requires that the majority of revenues (usually 75-90%) are given directly to the families or proprietors visitors buy from, and the remaining amount generally supports a shared community office and national association. Thus, CBT businesses may receive coordination and training from a central facilitator or foreign consultant, but are never owned by distant investors.
CBT faces two main challenges: promotion and convincing new visitors to try it. Since many community based tourism businesses are in isolated villages, most CBT entrepreneurs don’t have the ability to conduct market research or strategic planning, nor the financial resources to implement them if they did. The second challenge is convincing visitors to try it. Travelers know what comes with a traditional hotel and vacationers want to enjoy their time and relax. But foreign travelers, especially westerners, can be leery of sharing their space with “strangers,” so although most first time patrons love the experience, convincing travelers to try it remains a challenge. If you enjoy CBT, help the industry by telling others about your experience.
From its very beginnings, one of the main goals of the Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association (KCBTA) “Hospitality Kyrgyzstan” has been developing and promoting a wholesome and sustainable ecotourism model. That means tourism where the actions of tourists towards the regions visited are nature and ecosystem friendly. In order to popularize ecotourism and more careful treatment of the environment, the KCBTA has developed an Ecological Code, or an Ecotourism Organizations’ Codes of Conduct. Now the document is an integral part of any agreements on cooperation signed between the KCBTA and partner organizations.
ECOTOURISM ORGANIZATIONS’ CODES OF CONDUCT
The Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association “Hospitality Kyrgyzstan” has developed the following Ecotourism Organizations’ Codes of Conduct. These Codes of Conduct provide guidelines for all the tour operators and other ecotourism organizations operating in Kyrgyzstan.
NATURE CONSERVATION PRINCIPLES:
Awareness of the Impact on Natural Resources. Be aware of the actual and potential impact of tourism on natural resources and attempt to minimize this impact through one’s own policies and practices, including:
· Disposing of waste and sewage properly
· Reducing natural resource consumption by tourists
Supporting efforts to clean up waste and polluted areas. Find out about these efforts and support them by, for example, providing money, lobbying governments and businesses, contributing your time and that of your staff, and by encouraging tour clients to support them.
Using environmental-friendly vehicles. The transport you choose for your clients makes a difference – choose the means of transport that has the least environmental impact. Try to use non-motorized transport whenever possible.
Impact monitoring: Keep the number and behaviour of tours/travelers compatible with the fragility of visited environments and work with protected area managers, the Association’s partners and/or other local NGOs to implement impact monitoring plans when possible.
CULTURE CONSERVATION PRINCIPLES:
Supporting Authentic Cultural Exchanges. Be aware of the actual and potential impact of tourism on cultural heritage and attempt to minimize this impact through one’s own policies and practices.
Respecting Cultural Heritage. Respect the culture and customs of the people whose communities you visit, and make sure that your clients do so as well.
· Give all visitors a thorough cultural briefing before visiting local communities. Where possible hire local lecturers to conduct these briefings. Include information on local customs and traditions and on appropriate behaviour for tourists in the area. Use local “Codes for Tourists” if available.
· Ask permission to take photographs or videotape.
· Ensure that your clients respect religious ground, churches, cemeteries, and other sites with religious or cultural significance and that they do not remove any artifacts.
Respect historic sites and markers. Make sure that your clients do not remove any artifacts. If access to historic or archaeological sites is restricted, get permission before visiting. Ensure that your clients behave respectfully particularly if a site has religious significance.
LOCAL COMMUNITIES DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES:
Partnership with Community-based Ecotourism groups: Supports community-based ecotourism groups in developing a sustainable business that contributes to conservation and community development. Subcontracts from small, community-based enterprises wherever possible and assists them in achieving the appropriate quality standards.
Where no community-based company is available, the tour operator directly employs people living in the areas being visited. Local community members may be employed to deliver all the services to clients, including administration, guiding, transport, meals, lodging and supplies.
Purchases Supplies from the Local Community: Create additional benefits to the local community by purchasing as many products and services as possible from the community being visited. Encourage your clients to buy locally made handicrafts and products made from wildlife by local people, so long as these products are not made from endangered species and their purchase does not violate the law.
Supports Community Development Financing: Contributes a proportion of net profits to community conservation and development funds, and/or makes a direct financial donation to the communities being visited. Follows protected area guidelines for entrance fees and concession permits and encourages customers to make contributions to support conservation and community development projects.
Accommodation options. Choose accommodation compatible with local traditions and that minimize negative environmental impact. Choose lodgings that have effective waste treatment systems, recycles and disposes of non-recyclable garbage appropriately. Where possible, choose accommodation owned, built, and staffed by local people.
Coordination with local communities. Coordinate with the communities that you will visit so that your visit is welcome and expected.
· Arrange visits to communities well in advance.
· Reconfirm your visit, preferably 24 hours in advance and be prepared to pay the community for costs associated with cancelled visits.
· Arrange with the community what you and your clients will do while there.
· Find out what size of group the community can welcome for the planned activities.
ECOTOURISM PROMOTION & EDUCATING PRINCIPLES:
Promoting Responsible Visitor Behaviour. Educate travelers before and during the trip on low impact travel and conservation compatible practices (including ecological and cultural sensitivity). Travellers should practice low impact travel and conservation compatible practices while travelling.
Contribution to Truthful Marketing of Eco-tourism: Partners of the Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association: tour operators, local communities, government partners and other NGOs to help market community-based eco-tourism enterprises. Include these enterprises in its brochures and itineraries.
Education of staff. Educate and brief the staff on this Codes of Conduct. Provide all staff with copies of the Codes of Conduct, and be sure that they are familiar with its contents. Include information about specific local requirements.
Monitoring of Codes usage. Ensure that your clients follow the Codes of Conduct. Enforce the Codes in a consistent way. Make sure that clients understand the responsibilities outlined in the Codes. Be prepared to use stricter rules when necessary.
a. General Information
–Why volunteer with CBT?
If you would like to support CBT groups and the KCBTA in reaching their goals, such as participation of local stakeholders, contribution to local economic development and promoting and practicing socially and ecologically sustainable tourism, why not volunteer with us?
CBT groups in Kyrgyzstan will appreciate your contribution like i.e. language skills; looking at CBT organizations with a ‘foreign eye’ and thus possibly having the ability to give further inputs or come up with new ideas; working experience in fields relevant for CBT groups activities; technical skills and others. In return, you will have the chance to get a deeper insight into the daily work of CBT groups by actively participating in a CBT community. Moreover, there will be enough time to explore local culture, national traditions, study a new language and learn about the country’s history.
If you don’t have a possibility to come to Kyrgyzstan, there is still another option of volunteering with us. You just need a computer, access to the web and you are ready for internet volunteering. CBT groups and the KCBTA will be happy to receive your support by translating or correcting documents or giving feedback on CBT activities.
–Remuneration and Supervision
CBT groups and / or the KCBTA will help you in organizing visa, reaching your destination after arrival in Bishkek and provide you with other information needed. During your stay in Kyrgyzstan, the KCBTA main office will be an additional supervisor for you – apart from your supervisor at CBT group.
For volunteering, we cannot provide remuneration or social insurance, but each CBT group will do their best do offer you some compensation for your work – for instance, provide you with accommodation (a private guesthouse, share with local family, CBT destinations only).
Internet, cyber or virtual volunteering refers to volunteer work entirely done via internet. It has the advantage that you don’t have to leave your country or home, but still can offer support to an organization. You just need a computer and an internet line. In case of the KCBTA and CBT, internet volunteering can typically involve the following tasks: translation of texts from Kyrgyz, Russian and English into various languages and correction of texts in English or other languages by native speakers. Additionally, the KCBTA and CBT can benefit from a feedback forum (to be launched at www.cbtkyrgyzstan.kg soon) where you can drop your proposals, new ideas for CBT, suggestions for further improvement and so on.
–Translations / Corrections
–How it works
If you are interested in translating or correcting texts, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about a list of currently available documents. Usually, a title, language, length and short summary of the document are provided, the date it was put online and eventually the deadline for the assignment.
Choose a document you would like to translate or correct, write an email to email@example.com with a title and subject of the document. Then the KCBTA will send you the requested document. After completion of translation or correction, please send it back to the same e-mail address. The KCBTA will confirm receipt of the document and possibly give you a feedback.
–General outline of tasks at CBT
To give you an idea about what kind of work is waiting for you at a CBT group, here is a general outline of possible tasks. It can be redecoration or reorganization of a Tourist Information Center; translation; editing & proofreading; correction or creation of leaflets and other publications, tour descriptions etc.; teaching English to CBT members; supporting in developing new tours; improving marketing; applying for grants; writing news about the CBT group for publishing on the KCBTA website, and so on. Persons with some experience in fundraising and ecological management are especially welcome.
–General volunteer profile demanded
A CBT group expects that you are interested in Kyrgyzstan, in local culture(s) and are ready to live in a remote town / village, which is most probably not offering the same facilities as you are used to at home. You are fluent in English, have previous traveling experience and are at least 18 years old. Apart from these basic expectations, any further skills like experience in teaching English, knowledge of Kyrgyz, Russian or another local language, computer skills, experience in marketing etc are of course highly appreciated.
d. Contact information
If you are interested in volunteering with one of the groups advertising a volunteers’ position, please contact the KCBTA main office at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.