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2014-06-26 | Peer Reviewed

The impact of ecotourism employment on rural household incomes and social welfare in six southern African countries

. 2014. “The impact of ecotourism employment on rural household incomes and social welfare in six southern African countries.” Tourism and Hospitality Research 14:1-2: 37-52.
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Rural African communities are largely characterised by high levels of unemployment and poverty, low skills levels and a heavy reliance on natural resources. Increasing populations, together with the impacts of climate change, are putting pressure on natural resources and the issue of sustainable land use is becoming critically important. Ecotourism is one possible sustainable land use which can also assist with both local socioeconomic development and biodiversity conservation. This paper looks at the impact of ecotourism employment on rural household incomes and overall social welfare in six southern African countries. Extensive socio-economic interview schedules were conducted in camps run by Wilderness Safaris in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A total of 385 staff interviews were conducted in 16 high-end ecotourism camps, constituting a majority of the staff in these camps. A further 1400 community interviews were conducted in over 30 rural communities associated with these ecotourism camps. Two types of community members are differentiated in this study: those directly employed in a high-end ecotourism operation (staff) and those not employed in the high-end ecotourism operation (non-staff). For every camp, both groups of respondents were from the same community, living either in or around the protected area where the ecotourism operation was situated; allowing for comparisons between the two groups. The results show that rural households are relying heavily on the market economy, largely in the form of ecotourism, for support and highlight ecotourism employment’s important role in local socio-economic development in remote, rural areas. The results also highlight the importance of formal education, livelihood diversification and other formal employment in these areas. Suggestions for increasing the benefits to local communities are put forward.