Asia-Pacific Partnership for Responsible Rural Tourism

The APPRRT combines multiple related and overlapping concepts into a single proposition; making tourism work for the sustainable development of Asia’s marginalised and underserved indigenous peoples. Of the world’s 370 million or so indigenous people, roughly 75% live in Asia. They are over-represented in global poverty statistics, making up only 5% of the world’s population, but constituting 15% of the world’s poor.  

Indigenous peoples and the portrayals of their cultures have been good for tourism; often featuring in exotic itineraries in colourful promotional materials. However, tourism has not always been good for them. With beach-dwelling fishing communities displaced by luxury hotels; sacred sites desecrated by golf-course developments; remote communities treated as human zoos; sacred rituals promoted as entertainment; and so on. Moreover, tourism, as the world’s largest industry, usually benefits corporations that exist far away from the destinations to which they send their clients, leaving little revenue for those who actually provide the tourism experience. In many developing economies that rely heavily on tourism incomes, most of the revenue generated by tourism is retained by foreign corporations, airlines, hotel chains, tour operators and so on. Even when the revenue remains in the country, it stays with city-based organisations and little of it actually benefits the rural destinations that tourists visit. Local workers are relegated to low-paid seasonal labourers as cleaners, waiters, housemaids, handicrafts makers, or street vendors of soft drinks and trinkets. Moreover, the negative environmental impacts of tourism are substantial. They include the depletion of local natural resources as well as problems with pollution and waste. Tourism puts enormous stress on local land use, and can lead to soil erosion, increased pollution, natural habitat loss, and more pressure on endangered species.  

In recognition of many of these adverse characteristics of tourism, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, SDG target 8.9, aims “by 2030, to devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”. The importance of sustainable tourism is also highlighted in SDG target 12; to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.” It is pointed out that “a tourism sector that adopts sustainable consumption and production practices can play a significant role in accelerating the global shift towards sustainability.”  



Accordingly, the proposal for Asia Pacific Partnerships for Responsible Rural Tourism (APPRRT) unites the following concepts into a single agenda for joint actions:  

Pro-poor tourism (PPT) is defined as tourism that generates net benefits for the poor. Benefits may be economic, but they may also be social, environmental or cultural. Pro-poor tourism is not a specific product or sector of tourism, but an approach to the industry. It can also improve the social and environmental impacts of tourism development, such as capacity building, empowerment, and access to infrastructure and other basic services. 

Community based tourism is tourism in which local residents (often rural, poor and economically marginalised) invite tourists to visit their communities with the provision of overnight accommodation. The residents earn income as land managers, entrepreneurs, service and produce providers, and employees. 

Responsible tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” Responsible tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility for and, take action to make tourism more sustainable. 

Sustainable tourism takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities well into the future. 

Rural tourism focuses on actively participating in a rural lifestyle. It can be a variant of ecotourism. It comprises any form of tourism that showcases the life, art, culture, and heritage at rural locations, thereby benefiting the local community economically and socially as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the locals for a more enriching mutual experience. 

Indigenous tourism is tourism in which Indigenous people are directly involved either through control and/or by having their culture serve as the essence of the attraction. Indigenous knowledge contributes to the operation of cultural tourism through the preservation of culture, learning community history, income generation, and maintenance of the relationship between the community and visitors. 

Homestay is a popular form of hospitality and lodging whereby visitors share a residence with the residents of the destination that they are visiting

The Asia Pacific Partnerships for Responsible Rural Tourism unites these concepts into a single proposition, as follows;

The purpose of the Partnership is to bring relevant stakeholders together in joint activities that will promote the proposition towards a more sustainable paradigm of development that is driven by and which in turn drives tourism towards its fullest potential for achieving the global SDGs. It is envisaged that a wide range of actors will be capable of contributing towards the objective, including; government tourism authorities, private sector organisations, venture capitalists, development agencies, professional bodies, NGOs, researchers, community organisations and individual householders, farmers, and entrepreneurs. In this regard, we see a substantial opportunity for incubating and promoting economic activities for youths and women. The initiative is expected to engage stakeholders jointly in a range of activities towards a common goal, including to; 

Certification Formulation

Formulate a certification process that recognises exemplary practices in RRT.

Devise Road Maps

Devise a comprehensive road map towards the realisation of its objectives.

Establish a working group

Establish a working group to organise activities and events, curate appropriate materials, attract participation, and generally promote the proposition.

Help Rural Tribes

Help rural, tribal, indigenous and ethnic minority communities implement tourism that satisfies their needs.

Identify, Document and Promote Best-of-Practice Case Studies

Identify, document and promote best-of-practice case studies towards the development of innovative models for RRT that can be widely propagated.

Link the Responsible Rural Tourism Related Scheme

Link the RRT proposition to related ongoing schemes, such as Malaysia’s Homestay Programme and India’s Make in India.

Organise Meetings

Organise meetings, forums, get-togethers – both virtual and face-to-face – to provide mutual support and to expand the network.

Promote engagement with youths

Promote engagement with youths and women, given that tourism creates economic opportunities that frequently benefit women.

Promote Virtual Tourism

Promote virtual tourism during the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Raise Awareness

Raise awareness among key actors of the opportunities that RRT offers for sustainable development, e.g., alerting: Rural communities to the economic and social opportunities of RRT, Tourists to the attractions available from RRT, and also the responsibilities it involves, Investors to the economic opportunities, Governments to the potential for rural development that is sustainable, NGOs to roles that they can play, Researchers to the need for new knowledge to guide the proposition, Etc.,

Research, Test and Implement New Technologies

Research, test and implement new technologies that might be capable of advancing RRT and the workings of the network.


SMDT ( Sustainable Mountain Development &  Tourism), Nepal.

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