This is a response to Manuela Blapp’s article: Creative tourism in Bali’s rural communities
The BALI Community Based Tourism Association (Bali CoBTA) was established 2010 with support from the Minister of Culture and Tourism, the Bali Provincial Tourism Authority and independent contributors (Tourism stakeholders of Bali). Bali CoBTA is a non-profit and non-governmental organization. It promotes responsible and sustainable community-based tourism (CBT) and offers support for the transformation of CBT villages (“Desa Wisata” in Bahasa Indonesia) into ‘Creative Tourism Villages’, by establishing a cooperation relationship between interested villages and related stakeholders. These stakeholders include e.g. government tourism authorities, travel agencies, CSR doers, hoteliers, academics (domestic and overseas), and journalists. We always welcome those that are able to assist and facilitate the research and development of “Creative Tourism” by providing volunteers for HR management, training to village residents and by improving the utilization of existing facilities. In “Creative Tourism Villages” tourists are given a unique opportunity to engage in and experience local culture and community life, while communities earn an additional income and preserve and showcase their environment, culture and heritage.
The thesis of Manuela Blapp is built on the theoretical overlap between creative tourism and CBT and examines the current offer and future potential of creative tourism in the five Balinese Villages. It is an innovative and inspirational piece of research. It shows that creative tourism is a suitable strategy for rural communities and elaborates on advantages, disadvantages and requirements for a merger of creative tourism and CBT. This provides valuable direction for the future activities of Bali CoBTA. The ethnographic approach, that enabled the researcher to understand and describe the social worlds of the Balinese Villages, and the qualitative content analysis, were most valuable in arriving at relevant and practical conclusions and recommendations.
To implement these recommendations there are important questions that remain to be answered, such as how to convince locals to share their everyday life (to a certain extent). The more they are willing to do this, the more meaningful is the cultural learning experience and the better can be the genuine interest in cultural exchange satisfied for both tourists and hosts. Furthermore, it needs to be safeguarded that the number of tourists per day does not surpass the carrying capacity of the villages and that incomes and jobs in the creative industries are fostered. Finally, target markets need to be defined, with realistic expectations, and new products should be developed based e.g. on a catalogue of cultural capital.
CoBTA has the spirit to use this thesis to make a fundamental contribution to the development of Creative Tourism. A problem, however, is that it does not have funds and ability to manage and maintain the needs, do the marketing activities, and follow up implementation and activities related to the development of CT Villages. Therefore, CoBTA is urgently looking for an expansion of its staff, to materialize the actions as recommended by Manuela Blapp. Since each Village is unique we are looking for a person who is able to identify and propose recommendations about the four core themes of creative tourism (that the analysis reveals) that are authentic and original for each village, including:
- The everyday life of locals in tourism products,
- Sharing the everyday life with tourists, • Meaningful interactions between hosts and guests, &
- Cultural learning experiences for hosts and guests.
CoBTA is also open to other researchers, that can provide guidance for the development of Creative Tourism Villages, in a way that is profitable in the long run and takes a socially and culturally responsible outlook. Furthermore, CoBTA would like to cooperate with (international) knowledge institutes to further develop the knowledge about Creative Tourism or CBT in Bali. CoBTA is already participating in the STARS Project (Sustainable Tourism Agent in Rural Society) This project was initiated by Erasmus Plus, and is co-funded by the EU countries. The project aims to empower youth in a rural society to get involved in the development of tourism. The goal is to empower youth to earn an income from tourism by, for example, promoting hiking activities whereby the youth will act as the guide.