Magazine article International Trade Forum

Tourism: Community Development Pays Back

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Tourism: Community Development Pays Back

Article excerpt

Large corporations in the tourism sector are finding that investing in local community development brings healthy returns. An interview with the manager of Hotel Sofitel in Bahia, Brazil, gives an example of corporate social responsibility in practice.

The belief that large corporations benefit little from developing the supply capacity of local communities is false. True, there are a number of non-quantifiable benefits, which can make it difficult to justify an investment. However, consider the cost and time involved in developing a marketing or image-building campaign. Many corporations are finding that it pays off in terms of reputation and cost savings to be a responsible corporate citizen by investing in the communities where they work.

Firms that might be associated with environmental damage, such as mining, oil and chemical companies, have discovered the advantages of investing in local communities. For example, Shell Corporation invests largely in education and housing. And some minirpjompanies have paid for the restoration and renovation of historical sites.

Touft'sm is no different.

Tourism sector is shifting

Recently, the tourism sector shifted from developing resorts with imported qualified personnel and supplies to training local people and improving the community's supply capacity. It is a mutually beneficial relationship for both communities and resort areas.

The Costa do Sauipe in Bahia, Brazil is the largest tourism resort in South America. It was financed by the pension fund of the Banco do Brasil. The hotel Sofitel, based in the resort, is an ITC partner in a project to reduce poverty through community-based tourism. It is developing supply capacity in seven areas, of which two are services - cultural activities and waste management. Other services hold potential, including transportation, cleaning and laundry, water sports, language classes, and printing and publishing.

Interview with Christophe Caron, General Manager of hotel Sofitel in Costa do Sauipe:

Q What made the hotel decide to participate in the ITCproject in Costa do Sauipe?

A Since 2000, Sofitel has operated two hotels in this resort with 600 rooms and a large conference centre. The first problem we faced was the supply of qualified personnel. We had to hire in Salvador, 80 kilometres away. The cost of transportation was becoming a nightmare. Every day, the resort transported 3,000 people, which cost more than workers' salaries did. We discussed this issue with Banco do Brazil and together decided to create a special project to better integrate the local community. ITC's methodology on community-based tourism was identified and implemented in the Berimbau project.

Q What are the benefits to the community?

A In 2001, Sofitel started training its own staff. Because there are 55 different lines of work, this is a complex task. Language skills are also necessary in the hotel business. The population of 5,200 within a 20-kilometre radius is poor and uneducated, with limited access to medical care. Sofitel alone employs 500, providing workers and their families with training and medical coverage. Our goal for 2005 is to employ locally 70% of permanent staff and 50% of extra and seasonal employees. Since we started, 250 Sofitel employees have been promoted to higher positions, including some in management. …

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