Ecotourism as a vehicle to reduce unemployment and poverty: The role of the community and employees

14 Nov 2019

Ecotourism has been positively linked to job creation, small business development and poverty alleviation. The article forms part of the larger study which seeks to assess the contribution of ecotourism to sustainable development in Umkhanyakude which is in KwaZulu Province in South Africa. Through a combination of simple random sampling and purposive sampling, 51 participants were selected from each of the four local municipalities, resulting in a combined total of 204 respondents overall. The study employed a parallel convergent design consisting of qualitative and quantitative research methods. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data from programme officials, project managers and owners of ecotourism ventures; while questionnaires were applied to elicit data from community members. The results revealed that Ecotourism initiatives contributed to the alleviation of poverty and unemployment in areas like Mtubatuba (40%), Hlabisa (30%) and Umhlabuyalingana (20%). Adversely, the study found that ecotourism in Jozini was largely underdeveloped and under-resourced, with relatively low community perceptions (10%) about its benefits. Drawing on these results, it was concluded that despite lack of financial resources, opportunities exist to improve implementation of ecotourism through capacitation of local communities and institutionalisation of community-based sourcing models.