The private sector-community relationship in ecotourism : the case of Umngazi River Bungalows, Eastern Cape
Ngila, Dorothy Mutheu.
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Ecotourism has increasingly been adopted in many countries as a responsible and sustainable form of tourism. The role of the private sector in ecotourism development and specifically the involvement of communities in their activities, is of interest given that the global system of development and neo-liberalism, advocates for an increased involvement of the private sector in developmental activities. This thesis aims to explore the relationship between the private sector and surrounding communities in the ecotourism sector using Umngazi River Bungalows in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, as a case study. Literature on neo-liberalism, ecotourism, community participation, and stakeholder theory was used to provide the theoretical framework for the study. A multi-strategy methodology approach was adopted in the study with qualitative and quantitative methods being used. Data analysis included basic quantitative statistical analysis and Dey’s approach of grouping responses for qualitative analysis. The thesis distinguished between three types of ecotourism and social responsibility projects at Umngazi River Bungalows, including service infrastructure, income-generating, and philanthropic projects. It was concluded that those projects where the hotel had substantial operational control were more successful than those that were fully community driven. The hotel was found to practice soft ecotourism. The management of the hotel and communities were proactive in ensuring that the natural environment was protected. The hotel has a positive and open relationship with its employees and the tribal authority in the area, and a conspicuous absence of government involvement as a key stakeholder in the operation of ecotourism in the area was noted. It was also concluded that full participation was not necessarily achieved through involvement in decision making structures, but that communities appeared to be content with the other forms of participation.