Social and economic impacts of community based tourism projects : a case study of the Mehloding Community Tourism Project.
Valle, Juan Antonio Reina del.
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Tourism and its spin-offs have been acknowledged as possible means for development. When the main target of this development is the local community, solutions such as community based tourism projects have been implemented. This is the case analysed in this study, The Mehloding Community Tourism, a community based tourism project that is being developed in the Alfred Nzo district of the Eastern Cape province in the Republic of South Africa. Through the study of the existing literature, to establish a solid framework, and a deep analysis of the project; using the project documentation, interviews with key informants, and other information obtained in the field visits; it has been tried to reach a better understanding of the scope of the main social and economic impacts of the project, using as benchmark the original goals stated in the project documents. The results show a well initiated project with some weaknesses in the area of planning process, which are trying to be corrected at the moment. In the area of the project operations the management seems to be quite positive but there are problems in the participation and capacity of the trustees as well as a shortage of tourist. The core section of the analysis, i.e., the social and economic impacts is on the whole positive, with the social impacts appearing to be achieved in a higher degree than the economic ones. Although considering the small scale of the project and the relatively early stage of it, and despite of the general optimism of its members, the economic sustainability of the project is still uncertain. The study, with it scope and limitations, concludes that community based tourism projects, if well planned and developed, could have positive impacts over the local communities, in particular over those members directly involved, such is the case of the Mehloding Community Tourism. However it has raised some questions about the suitability of the initiative to achieve poverty alleviation in the area. It is suggested that, other than solving the major problems of economic sustainability and Trust capacity, the platform created at a human and institutional levels should be used for further developmental initiatives of the area.