The recent shifts in tourism in iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Tourism is the fastest growing economic industry and has become one of the leading sources of growth and development in South Africa. However, tourism is in a constant state of flux requiring continuous research to document and analyse these shifting trends. Since 1999, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (South Africa’s first World Heritage Site) has been using ecotourism as part of its development and conservation strategy. This has resulted in the shift in tourism from what used to be a fishing destination prior 1999 to its current form as a premier ecotourism destination. The aim is to analyse and document the shift from mass tourism to ecotourism in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, using the Eastern Shores as a case study. Through modernism and postmodernism tourism discourse, this dissertation analyses visitor characteristics, behaviour and perceptions of both tourists and tourism businesses over time in an attempt to describe and explain the tourism shift on the Eastern Shores. This research reveals that there has been a distinct tourism shift in the Park from the ‘mass’ fishermen created by the Fordist mode of mass and standardised production to the more ecologically inclined ‘niche’ tourist where the de-differentiation of postmodernism has created diversified forms of tourists and tourism products. Within these broad classifications, this research has discovered the existence of more nuanced tourist profiles. Mass tourists range from the ‘sun, sea, sand, sex and sangria’ tourist to fishermen. Ecotourists on the other hand range from the casual or mainstream ecotourist who practices a shallow form of ecotourism to the dedicated ecotourist whose activities promote conservation and sustainable development allowing for a deeper form of ecotourism. Further, on the Eastern Shores, domestic coastal ‘mass tourists’ have also become more ecologically inclined. Previously these tourists would come for one activity, that is, to relax on the beach or fish. At present, the majority of these tourists now also pursue nature based activities, adventure tourism and/or sightseeing. The changes in the tourists visiting the Eastern Shores are representative of the global shifts in tourism that are currently taking place. Tourism is constantly evolving as part of global capitalism and will continue to shape tourism in iSimangaliso Wetland Park.