Travel insights from Latin America

7 Ways to Enrich Your Travels with Ethical Community Tourism

Ethical community tourism blog

By Hannah Pentin | February 23, 2024

One of the best ways to strengthen local economies, create jobs, and bring respect and appreciation for new cultures is through community-based tourism.

This is particularly important in regions where the local GDP relies almost entirely on the regular influx of tourists. But, what exactly is ‘“community-based tourism?”

It’s a term which is gaining attention on a global scale, and “has often been viewed as a community development tool for alleviating poverty and improving community lifestyle standards”

CBT can contribute to higher employment rates, improved education, and a better standard of living for locals. Not only this, but it can support the preservation of cultural heritage.

Travel allows for new experiences, it broadens our perspectives and enriches our knowledge of the world. However, it can have negative consequences on the environment and local communities. 

To help you navigate to a more ethical community-focused tourism, check out our top tips for your next trip!

Tip 1: Show respect towards laws and customs

Remember; you are a guest in every new destination. Familiarizing yourself with the local laws and customs before arriving is the best way to visit respectfully.

Many communities are trying to preserve their cultural heritage and natural resources, so it’s also crucial to support, and not disrupt, this practice. Positive interactions between both tourists and locals may result from this, leading to a more fulfilling experience for both.  

Tip 2: Support the local culinary scene

Community tourism ethical visits

Students enjoying typical Amazonian food in Puyo, Ecuador.


Eating in local restaurants, cafes, and stalls ensures you contribute to the development of culinary tourism in a region. 

This promotes economic resilience and reduces the dependency on outside resources, while giving you an authentic connection to typical dishes.

You might even discover the history behind what you are consuming – for example, why a particular dish is so highly regarded. 

Did you know the bandeja paisa in Medellin, Colombia was consumed by farmers and mountain workers in the past to refuel them for long days in the Andes?

Keen for local culinary tours? Here are a couple websites to get started with your research: WithLocals, ToursByLocals

WithLocals actually “generated over €8.1M in income for local hosts and local businesses in 2022, and over €25M since its founding”, proving that their promotion of more ethical travel practices is making a significant difference. 

Veering away from the popular, touristy areas or international restaurant chains is essential. And, trying local culinary delicacies can actually heighten your experience. 

Farm-to-table events are an eco-friendly way to support the local economy by helping local farmers and producers. You’ll also learn about the agricultural and culinary customs of a particular region. 

Tip 3: Hire local tour guides and operators 

Kagumu works with locals in EVERY destination where we visit.


Locals have intimate knowledge of the area’s culture, history, and traditions.

Hire a local to gain an ‘insider’s perspective’ that goes beyond the popular tourist hotspots and uncovers hidden gems and unknown stories. 

In Colombia, for example, ZippyTours is a well-known company which leads tours to Comuna 13 in Medellin (once considered the most dangerous neighborhood – now a hub for entertainment, art and culture). These tours are guided by a local, and the experience is free, and instead tip-based.

If you’re looking for a genuine, high-quality coffee tour in the Colombian Andes to learn about the journey of production all the way from bean to cup, then check out: Secretos Del Carriel

With experiences like these, your money directly benefits the local community economically while generating employment opportunities, assisting in reducing poverty, and benefiting the overall well-being of the local population. 

Tip 4: Stay in locally-owned accommodations

Choosing locally-owned hotels, guesthouses, homestays and language schools can have a big impact on your experience. 

Opting for these will open the doors for deeper connections with new ways of life and mean your money will go directly into the pocket of locals.

Locally-run accommodations have distinct aspects that make them more enticing than international hotel chains. 

It could be their ‘home away from home’ feel, the sensation of trying something different, or the subconscious knowledge that you are contributing to the local economy. 

Tip 5: Work with the local communities 

Why not participate in an impactful, and sustainable, local project?

Joining a well-run organization will provide you with a profound understanding of a community and will allow you to contribute to its sustainable development.

If done right, this can help protect nature, develop sustainable agricultural practices, help create more resilient neighborhoods and much more.

Online platform, Worldpackers, connects hosts around the world with travelers who want to volunteer their skills in exchange for accommodation, food and other benefits.

Workaway, similarly, opens the doors for travelers who are looking for homestays and cultural exchanges.

Check out Kagumu’s range of service learning trips around Latin America by clicking here.

Tip 6: Visit during a festival or carnival

Community tourism festivals

Day of the dead in Mexico


Attending traditional festivals or activities is a great way to support the cultural appreciation of a destination and its people.

Festivals and carnivals promote a wild and fascinating array of traditions, peoples, heritages and events.

Do your research ahead of time. This will give you a firm grasp of the festival’s origins and thus help you build a more profound connection with its meanings. 

Latin America is awash with fantastic carnivals and festivals.

Our favorites include the World Tango Festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Day of the Dead in Mexico, and Carnival in Ecuador.


Tip 7: Buy local

Finally, everyone loves a souvenir of their trip. A gift to remind you of the fab time you had in a new country.

Think carefully about where and what you buy when in a new country. Opt for locally-made items, ensuring your money goes directly to the producer.

Keep an eye out for artisanal markets, or locally-owned boutiques. Avoid buying a last-minute gift at the airport, instead ask your local guide for advice. 

This mindful consumption will not only boost the local economy but will ensure your souvenir holds a much deeper connection with your adventure.