Community capacity building is widely acknowledged as a crucial tool to foster the process of tourism development. In Langkawi, rapid transformation of the island leads to the marginalisation of the rural economy. As a result, various strategies and tools have been attempted to empower local community participation in tourism activities. This article aims to examine the existing strategies adopted by related stakeholders in Langkawi to work with local communities. For this purpose, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted among 20 local stakeholders including government and non-governmental agencies, community leaders, and tourism business operators. Results of the interviews indicated that the existing strategies and tools of capacity building approach include (1) education and training, (2) small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) projects, (3) environmental conservation strategies, and (4) partnership building. In conclusion, related authorities and tourism planners need to consider local residents' opinions into the implementation process to ensure positive outcomes from the community development strategies.
- capacity building
- tourism stakeholders
- local community
- Langkawi Islands
Tourism and economic growth have been determined to be strongly and positively related  when tourism is seen as a local resource by the local community . According to , tourism has been identified as an important factor in many contemporary island economies, and in most developing countries, it has become a double-edged sword . Economically, tourism is an option for enhancing rural lifestyles and inducing positive changes in the distribution of income in underprivileged regions . By enhancing local involvement in the tourism sector, local communities will have a high degree of control over the activities taking place, and a significant proportion of the material benefits would accrue to them .
However, there are also many hidden negative impacts from rapid tourism development. Benefits of tourism to local residents have been perceived as being very limited , and the negatives included substantial environmental damage, cultural erosion, and community conflicts. For example, Langkawi Island in Malaysia is currently facing an oversupply of hotel rooms and chalets due to over projected data, creating unnecessary competition among the resort operators, with some eventually abandoning the islands, leaving unwanted scars to the landscape . These issues arise due to the limited involvement of the private sector and local community in tourism planning, since public involvement in the planning (without consideration of the design) process in Langkawi has been very limited . By reviewing Malaysia's regulations and policies implemented by the Federal Government, for example, in the 10th Malaysia Plan period (2011–2015), one of the key agendas was the empowerment of local community, especially women, to enable them to utilise their full potential to participate in economic and social activities effectively .
Furthermore, consistent with the Malaysia Five Year Plan, the Langkawi Tourism Blueprint 2011–2015 was prepared by the Federal Government and the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), aiming to redevelop Langkawi Island into one of the 10 best island destinations in the world tourism map. Among the three themes in the blueprint which included ‘Products’, ‘Infrastructure’, and ‘Enablers,’ the last theme was focused on efforts toward local community capacity building. For instance, one of the initiatives was to establish the Langkawi Tourism Academy in order to produce more graduates to enter the tourism industry and cope with the issue of talent shortages in Langkawi. In order to place more emphasis on local participation in tourism development, community capacity building strategies may be a good start for the tourism industry in Langkawi towards sustainable tourism development as it allows more community engagement in the management and control over their resources . Under the circumstances, monopoly of power in the local tourism businesses can be reduced via the capacity building approach to help the underdeveloped communities to improve their ability to participate in the tourism decision-making processes . Ultimately, this approach can lead the local communities' move towards sustainable tourism.
2. Community capacity building in tourism development
In the tourism development context, building capacity among local communities is seen as a ‘win-win approach’ that describes ‘community’ effort, time, resources, leadership, and commitment directed towards ‘community’ identified goals and change [12, p. 7]. This approach is the essence of ‘community development’ that helps local community to improve their ability to participate in tourism decision making and increase their influence as well as enhance local knowledge to access external resources [13, p. 31, 14]. Community development occurs at multiple levels, including individual, organisational, and community, and all levels can overlap during the empowerment process to strengthen their unexplored skills . Over a period of time, each level will have the ability to manage their own affairs to meet their development priorities . The ability of all individuals, organisations and communities to manage change to incorporate tourism development and to work collectively can foster and sustain actions for strengthening community benefits and welfare [16, p. 33]. Initially, community capacity building at the micro level approach focuses on the individual component and is the target group concerned with programme for education, skills, job training, and social well-being . At the organisational level, community capacity building refers to the resources, knowledge, and processes associated with local workers, technology, management programmes, networks, and financial resources aimed to improve performance and achieve sustainable goals . At the macro level, community-based empowerment refers to comprehensive capacities of indicators of natural resources, people, socio-cultural factors, budgets, policy, political system, education, and socio welfare in tourism activities . Several tools and strategies were introduced to facilitate community capacity building process, which include community leadership, ecotourism partnerships, community-based entrepreneurship (CBE), training and education, and external support.
Community capacity building has emphasised the importance of community leadership , partnerships through collaboration between government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the private sector, and local people [19–21]. Leadership can be used as a strategy to increase capacity when the leaders can ensure active involvement of a diverse network of community members, thus enabling those with disparate interests to take collective action by forming a unit of solution . One of the best mechanisms used towards capacity building is through community-based ecotourism partnership . In fact, the partnership of multi-stakeholder at all levels can determine the kind of tourism that a community wants without causing negative impacts . Three ecotourism partnerships have been suggested that can be either community-NGO partnership, community-private company partnership, or federation-private company partnership . A true partnership can therefore be an effective mechanism to transfer ownership entirely to local communities and obtain mutual material benefits through the joined resources and skills to develop ecotourism .
Furthermore, CBE has been considered as one of the successful approaches in benefiting the community. As the small entrepreneurship became an essential characteristic of the tourism industry across the world, this approach was adopted to empower local community . The involvement of the local entrepreneurs from new enterprises that operate within the local community is vital for short-term and long-term benefits . In addition, education and training programmes are needed in the tourism industry to educate residents about the impacts on their community . According to , this strategy is able to increase the community's understanding on tourism development, establishing foundation for local tourism leadership, and most importantly, create tourism knowledge awareness. Education and training programmes are best introduced at the early stage of community capacity building as it helps to create tourism knowledge and awareness [30, p. 76]. For example, some of the training programmes can provide exposure for participants to understand some of the concerns a tourist might have .
According to , external support for community capacity development can take different forms including provision of financial resources, technical expertise, training, information, political negotiation, and facilitation of capacity development processes. The approach emphasises on the transfer of knowledge, assistance by small private and community investors with product innovation, assistance with access to markets among the local community; creates spaces and social networks for local people to communicate; provides information on markets, marketing, and technology; and assists local authorities to develop support mechanisms to small tourism related businesses in the destination . Therefore, capacity building strategy is crucial for Langkawi communities because it allows them to have the right to control over resources such as property, money, skills, natural resources, and knowledge in tourism development. This approach can also encourage them to recognise their strengths, values, and local knowledge that will enable them to contribute to sustainable tourism.
3. Research approach
The qualitative research approach was used and Langkawi Island selected as the case study; data collection was conducted from 7th January 2014 until 16th January 2014. Time frame for primary data collection was 10 days with a total of 20 respondents that were asked open-ended questions. Each interview was individually tailored to draw out information from which interviewees could freely express their ideas  and make comments regarding community capacity strategies in Langkawi Island. Purposive sampling and snowball sampling were used to identify respondents in the data collection process. Through qualitative interviews, data were collected with four different categories of stakeholders encompassing government officials, local leaders, NGOs, and private companies in order to obtain ‘representative characterization’ . The semi-structured interviews were recorded and analysed with the framework techniques. All recordings of the interviews were transcribed verbatim and categorised into keywords, followed by indexing, coding, and classifying by themes. Data coding commenced at the beginning of the fieldwork and categorisation of the data into themes was conducted repeatedly and frequently during the analysis phase .
4. Existing strategies and tools of capacity building in Langkawi
While analysing the data, several mechanisms were adopted by related stakeholders to work with communities in Langkawi currently. These mechanisms relate to education and training programmes, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) project, environmental conservation activities and partnership building, all of which could contribute to achieve sustainability of local communities in Langkawi.
4.1 Education and training programmes as capacity building tools
Although review of literature showed that community leadership is the main ingredient that makes community capacity building happen [35, 36], yet, findings showed that community leadership is difficult to be realised in the Langkawi environment because local communities may not be equipped with adequate capacities to make a difference. All respondents suggested that in order to be able to work together with local residents effectively, leaders need to equip themselves with sufficient knowledge and skills. The findings support  that implied education and training programs were needed in the tourism industry to educate residents about the impact tourism is having on their community. Education and training are the most common forms of strategies in tourism development. The Langkawi Tourism Academy is an educational institution funded by the Ministry of Education combined with Taylor's College in a joint venture to produce more human resources and stimulate workforce preparation in hospitality programs. ‘
In addition, short courses such as Basic Pastry and Culinary Art, Marketing Strategy, Computer and Language courses are offered for local communities with age ranging from 12 to 70 years old. This was further explained by respondent 3 from the college, ‘
Hence, better education and training provided by the government and relevant agencies are essential tools for rural villagers to ensure the sustainability of homestay businesses. To improve language capabilities, several plans, and programs have been implemented by NGOs to help their members. For example, for KPSP in Tanjung Rhu, English training classes have been organised since 2008 to improve communication skills of local fishermen to help them to become part-time boatmen. Respondent 13 remarked that ‘
Numerous hotels and private companies are using the top-down approach by providing internal training for staff or knowledge transfer sessions from the executive level staff to save training costs. According to respondent 15, the Underwater World Langkawi (UWL), ‘
In addition, the Langkawi Orchid Farm also opened the farm to provide edu-tourism for local students by organising camping activities at camp sites, and ‘
4.2 Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) projects
The development of small entrepreneurship should be supported because it has potential to have a larger multiplier effect in stimulating the local economy, according to . Several SMEs projects have been developed by LADA for entrepreneurship development among local communities. ‘
Initiatives to develop homestay programs are one of the effective ways of enabling local communities in SME projects. As part of government initiatives to boost local economy, a homestay program is a form of family business operated by some certified homestay operators approved by the Ministry of Tourism. Initiatives of developing small scale enterprises that are locally owned by families or village communities will be able to promote product creativity and innovation in tourism services . Homestay operators were trained and granted licenses after a series of courses. Licenses would only be issued after inspections by the Ministry of Health on cleanliness and safety of bathroom, kitchen, and rooms. Subsequently, for infrastructure aid, ‘
In order to strengthen entrepreneurial and develop tourism capacities of fishing communities in Kilim and Tanjung Rhu, local people also carry out complementary activities to tourism and catering business. Local fishermen can supplement their regular income by selling their catches to tourists. Chairman of
In addition, Secretary of Hock Kean Hoay Kuan Association (respondent 14) also agreed with the view by saying that ‘
Capacity building in terms of bringing innovation in tourism will enable the introduction of new products to the market, or open up new markets through combining strategic orientation with innovative behaviour and process: new products, new services, opening new markets, new sources of supply, and new ways of management practice . Therefore, for the purpose of strengthening community capacity in tourism activities, related stakeholders such as government officials, NGOs, community leaders, and private companies have been increasingly putting efforts into entrepreneurship development and tourism products innovation to spur the local economy and fostering a healthier entrepreneurship climate in Langkawi.
4.3 Environmental conservation programmes towards sustainable tourism
According to , Langkawi Island has been acknowledged as the 52nd Global Geopark under the auspices of UNESCO's Global Geoparks Network. The geopark gave emphasis to local community involvement in conservation efforts  and LADA Geopark Division plays an important role to promote the involvement of local communities in environment conservation. Several awareness projects were designed in collaboration with villagers, students, and other NGOs. For example, activity
One of the strategies implemented by the government relate to the 3R (recycle, reuse, reduce) practices that were designed to encourage local communities to produce handicrafts made from recycled materials, ‘
According to respondent 12, conservation and sustainable tourism need to be prioritised by the government because ‘
4.4 Langkawi Tourism Blueprint 2011–2015
The government, at all levels, the private sector, entrepreneurs, and the local populace have played essential roles as catalysts in the island's progression, with the federal government notably being the chief player from the very beginning . For instance, the launching of the Langkawi Tourism Blueprint 2011–2015 should be a further catalyst to increase community capacity building strategies. Respondent 1 revealed that ‘
Respondent 14 agreed with this view, noting that, ‘
Relating to the vision of the blueprint, a head of department (respondent 6) explained, ‘
The perspectives of related stakeholders imply that the implementation of Langkawi Tourism Blueprint 2011–2015 may not fully meet the policymakers' expectations. Evidences can be traced from the feedback of some respondents regarding the negative impacts of the Langkawi blueprint which need to be properly considered. Since 1957, Malaysia has been maintaining a top-down system of governance until today. Most of the time, the decision making processes can be dominated by external consultants, government staffs, and development or aid agency personnel, whose knowledge of both the proposed development and of the decision-making process gives them an advantage over the local residents . For instance, top-down governance with one-way communication will only result in the local communities bearing the negative consequences brought about by the over-development in Langkawi.
4.5 Partnership programmes
Partnerships between government agencies, non-governmental agencies, private companies, and local residents can become a tool for the integration and facilitation of tourism development and sustainability. Based on the findings, partnerships such as public–private partnership (PandP), public–public partnership, community-NGO partnership, and private-NGO partnership have been able to bring the various parties together to address challenges and provide solutions on tourism impacts. Referring to the theme of ‘Enabler’ in the Langkawi Blueprint, one of the initiatives realised was the Langkawi Tourism Academy formed via a public and private collaboration (PandP) with Taylor's College. The purpose is to initiate a new curriculum by adapting Taylor's hospitality courses into LTA tourism courses. The directory officer (respondent 3) remarked that ‘
Taylor's College has also formed partnerships with a total of 75 four- to five-star hotels in Langkawi to allow students to participate in practical apprenticeship programs for skills training in their chosen field of work. ‘
Public-public partnerships were formed between LADA and other government agencies such as TEKUN, MARA, Bank Pertanian, MARDI, PELADANG, and PERIKANAN to provide financial support for the local communities to be involved in small and medium industries (SMI). According to respondent 6 from Community Development Unit, the main purpose of building these partnerships is to give opportunities for local people to do business. He explained that ‘
In order to ensure effective communication between all levels of stakeholders, a strong partnership is crucial as a mechanism to gain trust among communities. Communities' trust is significant for policy and project implementation as it refers to ‘confidence that political institutions will not misuse power’ [44, p. 478]. Once trust is established, partners are willing to commit more time and resources to develop the relationship and thereby reduce conflicts in the planning and development processes .
In the case of Langkawi Island, there is an increased movement towards community development by local government, entrepreneurs, and practitioners as the various parties begin to understand the importance of community capacity building in tourism planning and development. Local government agencies such as LADA have been working with related stakeholders encompassing community leaders, NGOs and private companies to implement community development strategies such as partnerships, education, and training programmes as capacity building tools, to implement the Langkawi Tourism Blueprint 2011–2015, to promote SMEs projects to spur entrepreneurism and also to introduce environmental conservation activities towards sustainable tourism. Based on the findings as provided by respondents, the strategies constitute the facilitating mechanisms to improve the living standards of the local communities. However, the findings also revealed that although the tools and strategies were implemented, not all were effective as both public and private institutions relied on the traditional ‘top-down’ approach. The findings further indicate that community development projects need continuous dialogue between government officials and local residents as a strategy to strengthen capacity building among local residents, and that all levels of stakeholders' involvement would invariably increase the effectiveness of community capacity building approaches. Undoubtedly, the Langkawi tourism environment requires more professionals and skilful workers who are equipped with managerial and entrepreneurial skills to reduce the over-reliance on foreign workers as well as to increase productivity in tourism product development. Local communities that are equipped with sufficient knowledge will tend to be more supportive and cooperative of capacity building strategies implemented by public and private institutions and all levels of organisations. Collaborative endeavours between all stakeholders in tourism planning process will be instrumental in producing a comprehensive development plan as the foundation of sustainable tourism.
Thanks for the support from the Universiti Sains Malaysia's Research University Cluster Grant (RUC) (1001 / PTS / 8660011).
Balaguer J, Cantavella-Jorda M. Tourism as a long-run economic growth factor. The Spanish case. Applied Economics. 2002; 34: 877–884.
Murphy PE. Tourism: A Community Approach. New York: Methuen; 1985.
Royle SA. From marginality to resurgence. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures. 2008; 2: 42–55.
Russell RV. Tourists and Refugees .Annals of Tourism Research. 2003; 4: 833-846.
Liu A. Tourism in rural areas: Kedah, Malaysia. Tourism Management .2006; 27: 878–889.
Munthit K. Tourism brings hope, worry to Angkor. 2006. Available from: http://news.yahoo.com [Accessed: September 20, 2013]
Mohamed B, Mat Som AP, Jusoh J, Wong KY. Island Tourism in Malaysia: The Not so Good News. In: Proceedings of the 12th Asia Pacific Tourism Association and the 4th Asia Pacific CHRIE Joint Conferences; 26–29 June 2006; Hualien, Taiwan.
Din KH. Dialogue with the hosts: an educational strategy towards sustainable tourism. In: Hitchcock M, King VT, Parnwell MJG, editors. Tourism in South-East Asia. London: Rutledge. 1993.
Government of Malaysia. Tenth Malaysia Plan 2011-2015. Putrajaya: Prime Minister's Department. 2011.
Harng LS. Who are we responsible to? Locals' tales of volunteer tourism. Geoforum. 2010; 41: 983–992.
Aref F, Redzuan M, Emby Z, Gll SS. Barriers of tourism industry through community capacity building. International Review of Business Research Papers. 2009; 5: 399–408.
Verity F. Community capacity building: a review of literature. 2007. Available from: http://www.health.sa.gov.au [Accessed: October 1, 2013]
Smith N, Littlejohns LB, Thompson D. Shaking out the cobwebs: Insights into community capacity and its relation to health outcomes. Community Development Journal. 2001; 36: 30–41.
Chaskin RJ. Defining community capacity: a definitional framework and case studies from a comprehensive community initiative. Urban Affairs Review. 2001; 36: 291–323.
Aref F, Ma'rof R. Community capacity building for tourism development. Journal of Human Ecology. 2009; 27: 21–25.
Hounslow B. Community capacity building explained. Stronger Families Learning Exchange Bulletin 1. 2002; Autumn: 20-22.
Liou J. Community capacity building to strengthen socio-economic development with spatial asset mapping. In: Proceedings of the 3rd FIG Regional Conference; 2004, p. 1-10.
Blackman A. Perspectives on leadership coaching for regional tourism managers and entrepreneurs. In: Moscardo G, editor. Building Community Capacity for Tourism Development. Cambridge: CABI Publishing; 2008. p. 142–154.
Forrest P. A vision for our region: Premier region tourism destination final report, North of Superior Tourism Region. Report prepared under contract for the North of Superior Tourism Region. Thunder Bay: Lakehead University; 2008.
Hiwasaki L. Community-based tourism: a pathway to sustainability for Japan's protected areas. Society and Natural Resources. 2006; 19: 675–692.
Koster RL. Mural-based tourism as a strategy for rural community economic development. In: Woodside A, editor. Advances in Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research. Bingley: Emerald; 2008. p. 153–192.
Goodman R, Speers M, Mcleroy K, Fawcett S, Kegler M, Parker E, Smith S, Sterling T, Wallerstein N. Identifying and defining the dimension of community capacity to provide a base for measurement .Health Education and Behaviour Journal. 1998; 25: 258–273.
Kay A. Coastal Planning and Management. New York: SPON; 1999.
Choi HC, Sirakaya E. Sustainability indicators for managing community tourism. Tourism Management. 2006; 27: 1274–1289.
Stronza A, Gordillo J. Community views of ecotourism. Annals of Tourism Research. 2008; 35: 448–468.
Pearce PL, Moscardo G, Ross GF. Tourism Community Relationships. Oxford: Pergamon Press; 1996.
Cole S. Entrepreneurship and empowerment-considering the barriers: the case study from Indonesia. Tourism Review. 2007; 55: 461–473.
Peredo AM. Toward a theory of community-based enterprise. Academy of Management Review. 2006; 31: 309–328.
Sheldon PJ. The challenges to sustainability in island tourism. Occasional Paper 2005-01. School of Travel Industry Management: University of Hawaii, 2005.
Sammy J. Examples of effective techniques for enhancing community understanding of tourism. In: Moscardo G, editor. Building Community Capacity for Tourism Development. Wallingford: CAB International; 2008.
Meyer D, Ashley C, Poultney A. Pro poor tourism pilot Southern Africa tourism investment in local capacity building and training. Case Study Briefs; No. 6. London: Tyler Consulting Ltd.; 2004.
Robinson G. Methods and Techniques in Human Geography. Chichester: Wiley; 1998.
Rice S. Sampling in geography. In: Clifford NJ, Valentine G, editors .Key Methods in Geography. London: Sage; 2003. p. 223–244.
Fallon LD, Kriwoken LK. Community involvement in tourism infrastructure: the case of the Strahan Visitor Centre, Tasmania .Tourism Management. 2003; 24: 289–308.
Mc Kinsey. Supporting regional leadership: unfinished business. Report to the Department of Transport and Regional Development, Canberra. 1996.
Moscardo G, editor. Building Community Capacity for Tourism Development. Wallingford: CAB International; 2008.
Scheyvens R. Ecotourism and the empowerment of local communities. Tourism Management. 1999; 20: 245–249.
Hashim MK, Mahajar AJ, Ahmad S. Innovative practices of Malaysian firms: some evidence from enterprise 50 winners. Malaysian Management Review. 2003; 38: 19–27.
Halim AS, Omar M. Building capacity to improve women's participation in rural development: a case study of Langkawi Island. 2011. Available from: http://sicri-network.org [Accessed: October 5, 2013].
Mc Keeve PJ. The UNESCO Global Network of national geoparks: geological heritage and sustainability. LESTARI Public Lectures No.7. Bangi: LESTARI Publications; 2009.
Omar SI, Othman AG, Mohamed B. Tourism life cycle: an empirical application of Butler's tourism area cycle model. In: Marzuki A, editor. Contemporary Issues on Tourism Development in Langkawi. Langkawi: LADA; 2013.
Noya A, Clarence E. Community capacity building: fostering economic and social resilience. Available from: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd [Accessed: September 20, 2013].
Johnson H, Wilson G. Biting the bullet: civil society, social learning and the transformation of local governance. World Development. 2000; 28: 1891–1906.
Luhiste K. Explaining trust in political institutions: some illustrations from the Baltic States. Communist and Post-Communist Studies. 2006; 39: 475–496.
Nunkoo R, Ramkissoon H. Power, trust, social exchange and community support. Annals of Tourism Research. 2012; 39: 997–1023.