Community impact

Touristic tours and excursions can have negative impacts on the land, privacy and cultural rights of visited communities.

The development of national parks, protected areas, and other excursion sites may lead to the displacement of (tribal) peoples from their ancestral lands and change the livelihoods of local communities. This may create conflicts of interests due to a loss of traditional jobs or barred access to pastures, hunting grounds or water (e.g. safari vs. cattle farming; access to sea vs. fishing) and may stimulate poverty and cycles of deprivation. Indigenous peoples and traditional fishing communities are particularly vulnerable as their land rights are often not secured by title deeds.

Local (indigenous) people’s right to privacy can be undermined by tours and excursions to their communities and areas in which they make their living, as well as the use of their cultures as tourist attractions, and the selling of poverty as a tourist attraction in slum tourism. Communities may be exposed to visitors as a kind of “human zoo”.

Indigenous peoples are literally "marketed" by some tourism businesses, with their communities presented as tourism products without respect for their cultures and traditions.

Expulsion for tourism development

The Endorois tribe was expelled from their lands in Kenya to make way for a conservation area in 1973. The tribe only received compensation 30 years later when they took their case to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights

Growing tourism in the north of Sri Lanka is having a major impact on local communities. Access to beaches, which have been a major source of income and livelihood for most families, who are dependent on fishing, for generations, is being increasingly restricted because beaches are being blocked for tourism use.

Half a million indigenous peoples' livelihoods are threatened in Tanzania

The most known indigenous group in Tanzania is the Maasai, with an estimated population of 430,000. Many Maasais are dependent on their livestock for survival. These pastoralist communities depend on their land to feed their animals, as their families have done for generations.

The 2018 report by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs reveals cases where the government’s concern for conserving the remaining nature and generating incomes from tourists is put above concern for the Maasai’s livelihood, despite the fact that several reports find that granting land rights to indigenous peoples is often the best way to conserve nature.

Thailand’s indigenous people risk losing more of their land to hotels and national parks amid an unchecked tourism boom that has marginalized them (...).

As demand for land for hotels and other tourism facilities grows, authorities are targeting indigenous land, said Emilie Pradichit, director of human rights group Manushya Foundation, which this week published a report on Thai indigenous rights.

According to news from the Business & Human Rights Resource Center from 4 July 2019, 250 Communities in Mexico are to be Relocated for Mayan Train Project in Mexico. 

…As part of the Mayan Train project, the National Fund for Tourism Promotion (FONATUR) on Thursday reported that it plans to relocate 250 communities which are close to 15 railroad stations.

FONATUR plans to build homes, shops, linear parks, wildlife bridges and even modify roads adjacent to each terminal, but also what will be the seat of the municipal palace. According to a document, profits will not come from transportation alone, but from the infrastructure and services that will be established around each station.

The 28-page document explains that one of the first terminals that will be built will be that of Palenque, Chiapas, which will work as a prototype for the rest of the stations, as well as that of Calakmul, in Campeche. Regarding Palenque, the plan aims to develop the five-sided infrastructure. The station will be located in the center surrounded by commercial pavilions and a central square in the front that will be located some few meters from the municipal palace. The Palenque station includes government services, a solid waste management and water treatment plant.

In December 2019, the Mexico office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a string of criticisms of the country's consultations with indigenous communities over its planned Mayan Train project. The U.N. office found that the consultations were flawed and the process “has not complied with all international standards on human rights.”

In May 2020, Mexico’s national human rights commission demanded the government halt construction of the Mayan Train railroad, saying non-essential work on the ambitious tourism project risked coronavirus exposure by vulnerable indigenous groups.

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Take action

Policy and process

  • Integrate clauses in the (Supplier) Code of Conduct to respect local communities and to prevent the exacerbation of ongoing or the creation of new (legal) disputes over land ownership through tours and excursions.

Training and capacity building

  • Organise regular training for relevant internal functions and business partners on community impacts of tours and excursions. 

Impact assessment

  • Consult local stakeholders and potentially affected rightsholders through an in-depth human rights impact assessment on potential/actual impacts of tours and excursions on the local community.

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.