Tourism businesses engaging with local communities need to treat their hosts respectfully.

That’s the message that Judy Kepher-Gona, a sustainability consultant and founder of Kenya-based Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda, conveyed during Skift Sustainable Tourism Summit on Wednesday.

Kepher-Gona told Skift Editor-at-Large Lebawit Lily Girma — in a discussion titled “Putting Communities at the Center of Tourism” — that good tourism businesses reached out to local communities during the heart of the pandemic, citing successful examples she saw in Kenya of companies negotiating business dues with communities.

“All this thinking and narrative that communities don’t understand tourism …. its vulnerability and … complexity was demystified,” Kepher-Gona said. “Because they sat around the table and said, ‘Yes, we understand what Covid has done for the industry.'”

But although Kepher-Gona believes host communities are willing to engage with tourism businesses, she still sees a lot of disrespect toward local citizens.

“Most of the time, they are excluded in the conversation because it is thought they don’t understand a lot of things,” Kepher-Gona said.

Tags: kenya, sustainability