Making tourism work for locals in Wakatobi National Park
“Compared to tour operators, we are under-resourced in terms of access to information, communications and transport,” says La Beloro, one of the organizers of Forkani, a local forum that aims to strengthen the rights of local communities. After a failed attempted to attract visitors through the local government and an international NGO, it looked as if the drive to build the momentum for community-based marine tourism would evaporate–and with that, a potentially sustainable source of income for the local residents.
In the Summer of 2015, WWF-Indonesia assessed the constraints facing the local community in terms of tourism and decided to do something about it. The organization has been active for more than 10 years in the park, having contributed to the improvement of its management plan and zoning in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy. This time, the emphasis was not on making the protected area work for nature, but for the people living in its vicinity.
Working with Forkani, WWF-Indonesia ran a capacity-building session for local facilitators in Kaledupa Islands, with the participation of several community-based fora. On the menu – introducing the core concepts of sustainable tourism development, imparting business skills and sharing strategy development aptitudes. For WWF-Indonesia, the aim is that these new skills will be shared by facilitators with local communities so that they are in a better position to compete with the tour operators who control the market.
According to Beloro, “the protection of the area is in our hands. This is why training participants will need to become agents of change.”