The immediate downstream benefits of tourism can be measured in clear economic terms for remote communities who have few employment prospects in rural Africa. But the social, environment, and political impacts are also key to driving ‘inclusive growth’ for such communities.
This emerged at the ATLAS Africa tourism conference, held in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in June this year, where the programme focused on how the tourism sector can help draw a wider demographic into development opportunities on the continent.
Giving the conference’s closing keynote address, South Africa-based Dr Sue Snyman, a research fellow with the University of Cape Town’s Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU), demonstrated how tourism ventures can drive more than just economic development.
‘The term ‘inclusive growth’ is a relatively new one in the sector,’ she explained during an interview following the conference, saying that it comes after terms like ‘pro-poor’, ‘responsible’ and ‘sustainable’ tourism have lost their momentum.
Drawing on her own doctoral research in communities surrounding high-end tourism ventures in several countries in southern Africa, Snyman gave examples of the possible spill-over benefits of tourism that could help integrate poorer communities and drive local development.
‘An example of the social benefits would be the improved infrastructure and services that come to an area when, for instance, a new lodge is built. Often, when tourism comes into an area, the roads are upgraded, and mobile phone networks come into the area. Sometimes you even have clinics being built.’
Local residents can also benefit from the education that might come as people are trained up in aspects of tourism, such as lodge management or book keeping. Others might benefit from the empowerment that comes with being part of joint ventures or becoming tourism operators themselves.
‘Inclusion from an environmental perspective could be because land is now conserved and isn’t used for mining or agriculture. There might also be a reduction in poaching as communities see the benefit of conservation, meaning animal numbers might improve.
‘If water sources inside a park are well conserved, that can improve water quality outside the park where communities extract water from rivers, for instance.’
However, Snyman’s research zeroed in on the direct economic implications of tourism for low income communities surrounding eco-tourism ventures in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. She found that there were significant direct and indirect economic benefits associated with the employment opportunities coming from tourism ventures. (For more on her findings, read African tourism: the ‘multiplier’ effect.
Dr Sue Snyman’s keynote address was entitled Inclusive tourism: making a sustainable difference. Read more on the ATLAS Africa conference here.
Dr Sue Snyman works with private tourism operator Wilderness Safaris in various capacities, and recently completed her doctorate through the EPRU. In addition to being an EPRU fellow, she is the vice-chair of the IUCN’s Tourism and Protected areas Specialist Group.