Community participation in urban tourism development : a case study - Georgetown and the freedom experience.
Since the reintroduction of South Africa into the international community, tourism has been emphasised, through policy and public speech, as a means to achieve socio-economic upliftment and job creation. Although tourism has potential to contribute to a country's wellbeing, its implementation may introduce many complexities and potentially undesirable consequences. One way of alleviating some of the negative consequences of tourism, is through sufficiently involving communities in the tourism development and execution process. Most often the emphasis on involving local communities in tourism development has been rural based. The move to include previously disadvantaged urban communities, has been less well articulated. Local government authorities have only recently been given responsibility for both community involved tourism development and local economic development, and are therefore still formulating their approach to address these issues. Within KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) there are relatively few government projects currently concentrating on community-based tourism in urban and peri-urban areas. This project looks at one of these initiatives to build a case for sustainable community-based urban tourism. The Freedom Experience is a predominantly urban-based heritage tourism initiative proposed by the Pietermaritzburg-Msunduzi Transitional Local Council for development within Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas. Georgetown is a previously neglected area falling within this region and is used as a case study to explore the process of participation in urban tourism development. The key stakeholders involved in tourism development within KZN are ascertained and interviewed. Difficulties and opportunities are identified for community-based urban tourism development in general, and for the case study area in particular. Due to idiosyncratic characteristics of individual situations and communities, any specified procedure for community participation, and any organization involved with its implementation, needs to be flexible. A process is, suggested, which attempts to avoid the dualistic nature of either top-down or bottom-up approaches to tourism development. It introduces a less rigid approach, which breaks from the view that decision-making needs to be conceptualised within a hierarchical context. Communication and decision-making responsibility and accountability are shared between various levels. An approach is presented, which supports small scale community and tourism development projects linking into an overarching development framework. This approach should result in sustainable development, bringing community benefits which can be immediately effective. It advocates the establishment of self-supporting enterprises which function successfully, independent of tourist demand. In this way contributing to the fulfilment of socio-economic, job creation and related capacity building objectives, without relying on an influx of tourists from a historically disloyal and unpredictable consumer base.