Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ecotourism as development option for Africa?

Thank you, Martin, for this opportunity as guest blogger to follow up on a question asked in an earlier blog entry (Is ecotourism a development option for Africa?) and coinciding with the closing date for the Imvelo Awards (for responsible tourism in South Africa).
Tourism - including rural tourism and ecotourism (some definitions) - have become important in the economy of many African nations. Mass Tourism has been notorious for concentration of profits by foreign owners or a local elite and we should seriously look at options of how tourism can assist in equitable development. This is where community-based and eco-tourism can be of interest for development in Africa.
Just like other “miracle” development plans involving the “green revolution” (in the late 1960s and resurfacing again and definitely not convincing all) or “the informal sector” in the past, ecotourism struck a chord with governments and NGO`s as an “easy” option for community development and reducing poverty. Yet such “miracle” solutions tend to promise more than they can deliver, especially if proposed as isolated one-track development options. Over-enthusiasm often ends up with very unimpressive results (like in this very critical article about Latin America) or causes unexpected side-effects which need to be addressed (one suggested way is working towards fair trade in tourism).

However, if tourism forms part of a multidimensional development strategy rather than an intended “miracle” solution for poverty, it can certainly be interesting for development. This is especially interesting on a local level in communities with a certain set of basic conditions. To mention a few:
· A reason for tourists to visit.
· Reasonable access from existing tourism centers.
· A group of people committed to invest many working days with low or no short-term returns.
· A real interest in offering sustainable and responsible tourism.
· An understanding of the concept of quality service.
· Social cohesion and internal organization.
· An understanding of the importance of communication and promotion.
(Ignoring these last two so often leads to failure that they are worth looking at in more detail in a future blog entry)
written by Gerhard Buttner
Photo: Wupperthal, South Africa (part of Africa ecotourism flickr group)


Guillaume Foutry said...

Good article. Ecotourism could be a good source of income for local populations in Africa, but I think it has to be implemented by locals with stringent regulation or labels.

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Hope this helps someone!