Wang and Cater (2015, p.209) examined “the potential for tourism development to contribute to recovery strategies following major earthquakes, particularly in rural areas that may be overlooked in the effort to rebuild urban centres”. The Taomi community in Taiwan rebuilt its village after the 921 earthquake in 1999 applying ecotourism principles. In a case study about the Taomi the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) was used to analyze “the positive and negative changes to its six forms of capital – natural, human, physical, financial, social and cultural as perceived by all the interviewees from Taomi”.
Across literature, the SLA model generally only considers five forms of capital – natural, human, physical, financial, and social. In this case of ecotourism development, however, it made sense to include cultural capital as an additional asset.
Natural capital: In ecotourism it is extremely important to protect the natural assets, to promote conservation and to provide environmental education or guide services (Wang & Cater, 2015, p.214). NGO groups played a key role in designing and delivering education to the Taomi community: “Enhancement of Taomi’s natural capital stemmed from various ecotourism education activities and topics such as environmental education, greening workshops, ecological ethics, ecological aesthetics and outdoor ecological greening education” (Wang & Cater, 2015, p.214).
Human capital: Human capital played an important role in catalyzing the ecotourism development. “Beaumont (1998) pointed out that environmental education or eco-guide services are a critical factor in sustainable natural-setting areas. Thus good human capital skills and knowledge can bring further financial capital into the community” (Wang & Cater, 2015, p.214). NGOs trained the Taomi in tourism skills and knowledge: “The human capital included tourism planning, study visits, skills training, mutually interactive classes, certification and defining eco-guide responsibilities” (Wang & Cater, 2015, p.214).
Physical capital: The development of physical infrastructure brings financial opportunities and benefits into a community, but it also entails financial costs (Weaver, 2001, cited in Wang & Cater, 2015, p.214). “To establish ecotourism successfully, the residents had to set up effective guidelines regarding the sustainable eco-village vision, such as the community logo of a frog. Physical capital directly involved the eco-village vision, eco-technology construction and dragonfly interpretation, ecological pond construction, empowering environmental greening activities, the tourism infrastructure and establishing the Taomi Community Tourist Information Centre” (Wang & Cater, 2015, p.215).
Financial capital: Initially, most residents were only interested in finding solutions to their own livelihood problems. “It was important to find out how to enhance residents’ economic incomes. Some key themes were the positive impacts provided, such as the educational fund, the community fund, the trial operation and ‘Making a Big Cake’ activity to assist increasing residents’ financial capital. The trial operation included initial provision of accommodation, tourist reservations and operations by the NGOs, as well as setting the prices of all the ecotourism services”.
Social capital: Although ecotourism aims to improve the local quality of life, tourism development can often decrease the quality of livelihoods (Wearing & Neil, 1999 in Wang & Cater, 2015). According to Stronza and Gordillo (2008, cited in Wang & Cater, 2015), communities with strong social capital can solve the political challenges posed by development. Wang and Cater describe how NGOs contributed to Taomi’s social capital: “In Taomi, the development of social capital was handicapped by residents’ attitudes and weak networks hampering willingness to participate in community affairs in the initial rebuilding. To overcome residents’ indifference, the NGO groups cooperated with local organizations to build and evoke residents’ social capital. In particular some important activities created to this end were educational training in organizational operations, public speaking, interacting with the media and the ‘We love Taomi’ activity” (Wang & Cater, 2015, p.217).
Cultural capital: According to Scheyvens (1999, in Wang & Cater, 2015), ecotourism development supports local communities in understanding “how to improve and maintain traditional culture and heritage values, and their cultural capital”. Weaver (2001, cited in Wang & Cater, 2015) by contrast points out some of the sociocultural costs that can occur: “Cultural and social intrusion, imposition of an elite alien value system, and erosion of local control”. The Taomi case shows how cultural capital can be restored. “Before the ecotourism development the Taomi community lacked significant local historical and cultural records. The NGO groups’ intention was to seek out and exploit local culture and history to evoke local memory and instill a sense of place into residents’ emotions. Moreover, to be able to incorporate aspects of Taomi history and culture when talking to tourists was an important element of eco-guides’ training; cultural capital has to be connected to natural capital in ecotourism development in the Taomi setting” (Wang & Cater, 2015, p.218). A small exhibit was developed in the visitor center that explains the impact of the earthquake.
Political capital: Social capital did not fully explain the power and inequality issues in the Taomi community, which led to the analysis of the political aspects. Wang and Cater identified political capital to be “a critical form of capital” that affects all other forms of community assets. Examining the Taomi case, the authors found that governance and administrative structures were insufficient to direct the ecotourism development, which generated “some negative impacts regarding benefits and powers; in particular a lack of goal setting, empowerment and leadership, and organizations fragmentation between NGO groups, other groups and organizations in Taomi, resulting in a lack of benefit sharing”. Wang and Cater believe that “many of these problems stemmed from an individualist attitude that became stronger as ecotourism developed, and struggles between groups and key members became more pronounced” (Wang & Cater, 2015, p.219).
While Wang and Cater added cultural capital as a 6th dimension to analyze the impacts of tourism on the Taomi community, Shen et al. took it a step further: Shen et al. (2008, p.2) analyzed the SL model and stress the importance of context: “When applied to Pacific cultures, Cahn (2002) notes that culture and tradition is prominent in a Pacific livelihood, and proposed a sustainable Pacific livelihoods model with the integration of culture and tradition. Such deliberations indicate that a ‘one size fits all’ SL approach is neither possible nor appropriate – context is important”. Shen et al. (2008, p.1) claim that the SLA model may “not fit fully the tourism situation”. Instead they suggest embedding it into the tourism context and propose a Sustainable Livelihoods Framework for Tourism (SLFT) as depicted below.