The public sector as a key enabler in sustainable rural tourism

04 Dec 2012

Rural tourism routes have the potential to contribute to poverty alleviation by channelling tourism to poor rural areas. Although tourism is essentially a private sector economic activity, the public sector is a key influence in the economic sustainability of rural tourism routes. This exploratory study examines the role of the public sector in the provincial, district and local government spheres in rural tourism route development and marketing. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with stakeholders in two rural tourism routes that traverse very poor rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal, a province of South Africa. The study revealed inadequate support for tourism, and rural routes in particular, especially in the district and local municipalities. Tourism and the potential benefits of tourism route development is, by all indications, poorly understood, hence the required infrastructure, funding and marketing support are in many instances still lacking. The study concludes that for rural route tourism to deliver benefits to poor rural areas in a sustainable manner, greater co-operation across municipal boundaries and support for rural tourism routes by the public sector will be required in the provincial and local government spheres.