Community tourism offers unique experiences

Meneesha Govender, Just Meneesha, tourism, Africa, investment, TIA360
Picture: Supplied by TIA360

Community-based tourism (CBT) has become popular for two reasons. It not only gives the traveller a more realistic insight into local lives, but also seeks to ensure the travel experience makes a genuine difference to local people. TIA360 believes that as more and more people eschew the postcard ideal of travel in favour of authentic, socially responsible and environmentally friendly exploring, CBT has an important place in the tourism sector of the future.

What is community-based tourism

CBT experiences vary greatly, depending on the country and needs of the local people. Hence the definition of CBT varies too. However, most definitions have two key similarities:

  1. A community has some level of involvement in the tourism venture through decision-making, ownership, management or simply being involved in the delivery of the tourism service; and
  2. A community will benefit from the tourism venture firstly through employment. Other benefits include economic, social, cultural and/or environmental.

The South African government emphasises the importance of community tourism. As far back as 1996, it stressed in its White Paper on the Development and Promotion of Tourism Development in South Africa that communities were expected to play a vital role in the development of tourism in the country.

In 2002, the National Responsible Tourism Development Guidelines for South Africa went on to urge communities to establish new and complementary products for the formal tourism sector, saying visitors should be encouraged to spend more money in the local economy. These guidelines also stressed that potential adverse social impacts should be monitored and minimised because protecting local cultures from over-commercialisation and exploitation was key.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002, recognised that tourism would contribute to achieving several Millennium Development Goals, especially those relating to poverty alleviation, environmental conservation and the creation of employment opportunities for women, indigenous communities and young people. Similar principles were integrated into the subsequent Sustainable Development Goals adopted by South Africa in 2015.

Currently, South Africa’s New Growth Path and Industrial Policy Action Plan identifies tourism as one of the six pillars of growth and as a sector that will contribute to the development of rural areas by growing the economy and creating decent work and sustainable livelihoods. The National Tourism Sector Strategy, formulated by the National Department of Tourism to act as a blueprint for the tourism sector, identifies CBT as a tool that can help alleviate poverty and create jobs.

There’s work to be done

At present, the growth of tourism in South Africa has not yielded genuine benefits for local communities. To encourage sustainable tourism development in communities, the National Department of Tourism (NDT) developed the Operational Guidelines for Community-Based Tourism in South Africa in 2015. Through a series of discussions with relevant stakeholders, the NDT set out guidelines to support the development and management of community-based tourism.

South Africa’s commitment to growing and bolstering not just tourism, but community tourism as well, is evident. And we believe the time has come for everyone in the sector to play a part in putting into practise what our policies and white papers have been calling for. Let’s get to work, together.

  • This article first appeared on the TIA360 website.
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About Meneesha

Online and books editor by day, mum even while I sleep, individual all the time. I live in the beautiful city of Durban - the unpolished gem in South Africa. If I didn't have a family, I'd be that crazy cat lady your mum probably warned you not to feed! Blogging is where I share, vent, rant, laugh and generally be myself. Join the ride!

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