Tourism development on the Pondoland Wild Coast : a case based study.
Tourism is widely perceived as an easy access, low-impact means to achieving economic growth and development. In South Africa, community-based tourism has been promoted as a way of delivering resources and services to historically marginalised areas, and as a means by which rural communities can begin to exercise more control over the decisions and resources that directly affect the quality of their lives. A history of deliberate underdevelopment during apartheid, has left the Wild Coast region with high unemployment, widespread socio-economic poverty, limited infrastructure; and a pristine coastline of 'untapped' tourism potential. Given its incompatibility to other forms of development, tourism has been identified by government as a key sector for driving economic development and poverty alleviation along the Wild Coast. This study reviews four tourism enterprises in operation along the Pondoland Wild Coast in terms of their 'pro-poor' credentials (net benefits to local communities), socio-economic impact, participation and ownership by local communities, institutional establishment, and environmental sustainability. The selected operations exemplify different models of community and private sector involvement in tourism development on communal land. A wide range of investigative methodologies from primary and secondary data analysis, interviews, structured questionnaires, surveys, and quantitative assessment criteria, were employed in this study. The key findings and recommendations from the case studies are then considered in light of the developmental opportunities and constraints pertaining to the region. This study revealed that the Pondoland Wild Coast is faced with numerous socio-economic and environmental challenges. The principal limitations to sustainable tourism development include lack of basic infrastructure and services, prevailing tenure insecurity, unclear legislation and overlapping jurisdictional mandates, direct environmental threats such as a proposed toll road and mining, haphazard/illegal developments, and a poorly defined spatial planning framework. Whilst all four tourism enterprises appeared to be underpinned by sustainable development principles, they differed widely in the nature and size of benefits they provided, and their degree of institutional, economic and environmental sustainability. The findings and conclusions drawn from this study are intended to contribute towards the theory, practice and sustainability of 'pro-poor,' 'community-based', and 'responsible' tourism development, and assist future tourism development planning in the region.