Lombok triggered my attention after my travelling experiences and my personal interest in sociological and environmental research topics. I fell in love with this island after trekking the Rinjani volcano and, for this reason, returned to do my master research.
Following the global trend to a more responsible tourism industry, the Indonesian government is now focusing on sustainable tourism and Community-Based Ecotourism (CBET) in Indonesia (UNWTO, 2013). A Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (STMP) has been made for Lombok guided by the principles of sustainability (Ministry of Tourism, 2014). Tetebatu, a small rural village, located adjacent to Gunung Rinjani National Park, in Lombok island, was mentioned as a focus area in the master plan. In the village, CBET programs started with the help of various actors amongst national tourism operators in 2015. The project was called Green Tourism Village and focused on turning indigenous villages into tourist-friendly spots without losing their authenticity. The priority was to conserve the integrity and originality of the villages but at the same time offer a certain comfort for tourists, which includes the implementation and installation of basic sanitation and the expansion of infrastructure to provide safe access to the villages (Ministry of Tourism, 2014). However, little is known about the communities, but it is known that some have already been working in CBET. Thus, the central issue in this research was the call for critical social analyses of the growing business of CBET and specifically in the village of Tetebatu. There was a need to investigate and explore residents’ perceptions of tourism development and how CBET aims to support sustainable development for local communities. By understanding the local opinions and perceptions of the residents, a more coherent and successful plan can be developed and implemented, contributing to the development of a more culturally and socially responsible form of tourism. The aim of this research was therefore to contribute to tourism that can be profitable at a small scale in the long run and which can minimize current issues in destinations (Hashemkhani Zolfani, Sedaghat, Maknoon, & Zavadskas, 2015).
The research used the ethnographic methodology. Ethnography involves understanding the social world or culture, the shared behaviours, beliefs and values of particular groups, typically via immersion in their community (Ormston, Spencer, Barnard, & Snape, 2014). The research question focused on the perceptions of the residents of the CBET elements and how CBET could contribute to residents’ livelihoods and to tourists’ experience. This was a qualitative and exploratory study, concerning residents’ perceptions in Lombok. Knowledge was created by using an interpretive paradigm, underpinned by the belief of multiple realities which examine people and their cultural and social behaviour (Altinay, Jang, & Paraskevas, 2016).
Desa Tetebatu is a village located in the Sikur District, East Lombok Regency: A village featuring rice fields, waterfalls, traditional handicrafts, a strong culture and very welcoming residents. Tetebatu is well known and famous as a tourist destination because of the scenery, hills and rice fields located at the southern foot of Mount Rinjani. Tetebatu is located in a farming area which makes the livelihood of the residents mostly in the agricultural sector, either as farmers with land or as farm labourers.
As part of the ethnographic approach, , field research was done by the researcher living in the village of Tetebatu, constantly interacting with the residents over three weeks’ time. Primary data was obtained using participant observation, 17 semi-structured expert interviews with residents, 11 informal interviews with tourists and photographs have also been used as a visual research method. The photo method is, according to Knowles and Cole (2008), an expanding orientation in research that brings inspiration and representation from the arts to qualitative social science. Residents were interviewed to understand how CBET products were developed and implemented in the village. Tourists were interviewed about their experiences in the village and the interaction between hosts and guests. The data gathered from interviews and field notes were prepared for analysis, and transcribed word-for-word. In total, the data set of 94 pages was analysed using thematic analysis as a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns within data through themes (Baarda, 2014; Braun & Clarke, 2006).
Findings and discussion
Based on several elements between Community-Based tourism and Ecotourism, the findings of this study indicated a number of important conditions which are essential to the understanding of CBET in the village of Tetebatu. The findings partly confirm the theoretical synergies between these two concepts by focusing on the three main elements of sustainable development: social equity, economic efficiency, and ecological sustainability.
CBET as a tourism product
In Tetebatu, CBET tourism products commonly refer to communities which engage in frontline operations that incorporate direct interface with tourists such as homestays, lodges, guesthouses, eco-tours, guides and porter services or local tours and treks, cultural performances for visitors, restaurants, kiosks and souvenir and handicraft shops. Residents mentioned that many of these activities are based on the development of local resources such as attractions or as direct services to tourists. Mostly, these small organizations are owned either by the community on a cooperative basis or by families/individuals within the community. In Tetebatu, all activities are based on the local resources and natural attractions in the village. Almost all residents agree on ‘’the nature as tourist attraction’’ in the development of tourism. From the perspective of the residents, it is the authentic nature that attracts tourists. The most mentioned attractions by the residents were visiting the rice fields to see the rice process, but also to view the waterfalls and the forest. Second, residents mentioned that trekking to the famous Rinjani Vulcano is one of the most popular activities in Lombok. Before, only the northern villages gave access to the park, but now a new gateway to the park from Tetebatu has recently opened. Hence, this new tourism product could lead to more visitors. Moreover, the analysis showed that learning experiences are classified as a tourism product. The Tetebatu area is perhaps best known for its cultural attractions. The traditional Sasak handicrafts artisans are spread throughout the villages in this area and show the bamboo weaving process, sarong weaving and pottery. These activities do not necessarily result in learning a new skill, but the experiences created can go much further and can also be related to other feelings, such as the knowledge about how difficult and time consuming these processes are.
Interactions between hosts and guests
Another element of the findings showed that there was considerable agreement on the different levels of interaction between hosts and guests as an important factor in CBET development. An important opportunity for the residents to benefit from tourism clearly centres on tangible economic benefits and new forms of skills from employment. The findings also revealed that learning the English language resulted in job opportunities. The interaction between hosts and guests has also revealed residents’ views about their changing life as a result of modernization. A guesthouse owner explained: ‘’Now we have a better infrastructure in the village and we have access to internet to promote our businesses. It is really different from the past. People did not use internet and we only had the Lonely Planet book.’’ While discussing tourism developments with the youngsters and residents in the village, it was clear that the younger generation now has reasons to stay in the village because of the tourism opportunities. A new road through the village was the reason that the number of accommodations has doubled since last year. Tourists explained that they like the unique and primitive guesthouses in the village. Therefore, offering homestays makes it sustainable and authentic. During the interviews, residents explained that the promotion of their businesses through the internet changed the village enormously. Therefore, residents now have the opportunity to get in contact with tourists through technology. All accommodation providers or trekking companies promoted their accommodations online on platforms such as Booking.com, Tripadvisor, Airbnb, Google and Traveloka. However, some residents mentioned that there is no attention given towards the promotion as there is a lack of human resources.
Discussion – opportunities and challenges
The findings provided several practical implications for destination managers, residents in the village of Tetebatu, but also for villages in other destinations. The importance of participation in the tourism product was the main finding in this research. Since the residents mentioned that they are proud of their natural resources and are willing to show their every day of life, there are more products as part of their daily life which could be implemented as tourism product. For example, cooking classes. It was mentioned that only men are in contact with tourists and women mostly work in the kitchen. This is the reason why women also need to get the chance to organize these activities as the difference in gender roles as a barrier for interacting was observed. Therefore, social conflicts in terms of power struggles or competing values can be seen as a negative impact and failure in CBET (Blackstock, 2005; Deery, Jago, & Fredline, 2012; Schellhorn, 2010). A clear challenge is related to plastic pollution. The residents are really proud of their natural attractions and therefore the irritation of plastic pollution is mentioned often and is seen as a challenge for the village. In my opinion, to preserve the area, clean-up activities can be organized to protect the environment and to create awareness about waste management.
Although the residents can now promote their accommodations, whenever I asked them if they have any questions to me, they generally asked: ‘’Can you help me write a text for my homestay and to promote my activities?’’ This question shows how unprepared they still are. The residents have also mentioned that there is a need to train the community and show them what they can share in their everyday life with tourists.
It is clear that the residents are proud of the charm of guesthouses and homestays in Tetebatu, built with local materials such as wood, palm leaves and bamboo. Moreover, when interviewing the residents, the importance of preserving the local culture is crucial and is always mentioned. They describe their relations as having a strong connection with each other, their friendliness and pride in their traditions. Contrary to preserving the culture, in the south of Lombok the latest big tourism development is known as Mandalika Resort. There will be mostly four and five-star hotels with recognizable brand names, which will lead to a total of 10,533 hotel rooms in the Mandalika resort area (ITDC, 2016). The Mandalika development is expected to boost the island’s tourism. I am wondering about the impact of this resort area and, in my opinion, it is a big challenge for the village because it is seen as a threat to preserving the local homestays.
This case study was a starting point to explore residents’ views of tourism development and how CBET can support sustainable development for local communities in the village of Tetebatu. The involvement of residents and local participation is crucial to the success of sustainable tourism which is also discussed in the literature by many researchers (Cole, 2006; Gursoy, Jurowski, & Uysal, 2002; Saufi, O’Brien, & Wilkins, 2013; Teye, Sirakaya, & Sönmez, 2002; Tosun, 2006). The ideal future development from the residents’ perspective looks like keeping a green and cultural village and having unique homestays and guesthouses. Tourism in Lombok is relatively recent and faces development decisions fuelled by an upturn in tourism. In that sense it is critical that residents are involved from the beginning of this developments.
It will be necessary to improve product quality and use services provided by the residents to spread the economic benefits of tours. Pointing out what tourism providers offer, as well as their unique attributes, is advised for use in promotion. The youngsters in the village mentioned they were familiar with social media and internet. Therefore, they could help and support the usage of online marketing tools and explain how they can be used. Destination managers can use the findings of this study as a starting point to connect with the locals and address their needs by facilitating training for tourism providers, as there is a lack of coordination between them. It is necessary to learn how to market the village in a way that attracts visitors while keeping it sustainable. External stakeholders can help to connect the residents and bring them to the same stage of knowledge and understanding. Moreover, a special website can be created to promote the village as a CBET destination. This can be done through a common website. It is further recommended to assess the gender roles in the village. A gender analysis can also add knowledge to the literature as well as the distribution of benefits of CBET amongst residents. Residents are mainly farmers and they showed they really would like to educate tourists. Therefore, there is space for a more specific study focusing on the concept of agritourism. It is further recommended to assess the perspectives of more involved stakeholders such as travel organizations, accommodation providers, tourists and government bodies. When assessing more involved stakeholders, community participation in tourism development and in decision-making can be evaluated.
Read the response by Irena Weber (University of Primorska) here.