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Tourism route development as a catalyst for community involvement THANDI NZAMA [PROF] University of Zululand Department of Recreation and Tourism
OUTLINE OF THE PRESENTATION • Purpose of presentation • Introduction • Justification for route tourism • Definitions • Route tourism and community involvement • Status of route tourism development in SA • Qualities / characteristics of successful routes • Practical approach to successful route development • Challenges of route tourism • Conclusion
PURPOSE OF PRESENTATION The purpose of this presentation is to look at the ways in which route tourism can be a stimulus in facilitating community involvement. According to Meyer (2004), routes are initiated with one or more of the following objectives in mind: • To diffuse visitors and disperse income from tourism; • To bring lesser-known attractions and features into the tourism business/products; • To increase the overall appeal of a destination; • To increase length of stay and spending by tourists; • To attract new tourists and to attract repeat visitors; • To increase the sustainability of the tourism product and • To create opportunities for community involvement.
INTRODUCTION • One of the main constraints and that is hampering tourism development and growth, particularly in rural areas is a limited involvement of local communities particularly the previously disadvantaged communities and individuals most of whom live rural areas. • Rural areas have plenty of natural and cultural-heritage resources that can be used for tourism development. • Tourism routes development has been seen as one of the strategies with a potential of making use of these resources while facilitating the involvement of communities in tourism development.
JUSTIFICATION FOR DEVELOPMENT OF TOURISM ROUTES The development of tourism routes has gained prominence world-wide in recent years as: • one of the tourism development strategies aimed at attracting and dispersing tourists to different parts of the country in both rural and urban areas. • a primary tourism product development strategy countries which is viewed as “one of the best ways to secure sustainability in the tourism sector by clustering of activities and attractions in less developed areas and stimulating cooperation and partnerships between communities in local and neighbouring regions” (Briedenhann & Wickens, 2004:72). • a market-driven approach for tourism destination development.
JUSTIFICATION FOR DEVELOPMENT OF TOURISM ROUTES If well planned, tourism routes have a potential of • attracting a variety of users such international overnight visitors, longer staying visitors and domestic users. • providing a good opportunity for developing less explored areas with valuable natural and cultural resources that appeal to special interest tourists e.gavitourism. • Pulling and tying together several attractions that would independently not have the potential to entice visitors to spend time and money into a unique product. Based on a specific theme, tourism routes pull together a variety of activities and attractions with a purpose of stimulating entrepreneurial opportunities through the development of ancillary products and services (Greffe 1994, Gunn 1979, Fagence 1991, Lew 1991, Getz and Page 1997).
DEFINITIONS…..route tourism • Route tourism refers to the initiative to link together a variety of tourism resources, activities and attractions of smaller centers under a unified theme thus stimulating entrepreneurial opportunity through the development of anchor and ancillary products and services and collectively marketing these as a single tourism destination (Rogerson & Visser 2004: 405; Meyer, 2004; Lourens, 2007:475; ). • The route concept is considered by many tourism analysts as an effective method of tourism distribution especially of tourists travelling by road (driving, hiking and cycling) within a given geographic area and is seen as one of the vehicles that can stimulate of economic development of local communities (Lourens, 2007)
DEFITINIONS…..COMMUNITY • The concept community has many definitions but in this context it refers to ALL members of the public that reside adjacent to the tourism route and clustered around the tourism nodes. • These are communities which, if the route is successfully and sustainably developed, should be involved in route tourism development benefit from it. • Through route tourism, a series of attractions found within these communities are linked together in order to promote local tourism development by encouraging tourists to move from one place to another thus creating opportunities for the formation of local partnerships.
ROUTE TOURISM AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT • Several studies have indicated that among the many ingredients for successful and sustainable route tourism development is community participation (Meyer, 2004) . • Community members should be involved in all stages of route development i.e from planning to implementation. Ideally, tourism routes should be designed to: • involve and benefit local communities drawing from their skills, expertise, capabilities and aspirations. • empower and benefit disadvantaged rural communities. • stimulate local development and bring local communities together. • disperse visitors’ money among a larger number of recipients some of whom have been regarded as disadvantaged communities. • promote business operations of the poor communities.
ROUTE TOURISM AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT • Unfortunately, some of the tourism routes in South Africa have been criticized for not involving local communities beyond the membership of their associations. • In some cases local communities are not involved in route development but get some benefits through job creation. • Rogerson & Visser (2007:413) argue that “the rhetoric about participation and involvement often mask fundamental questions about whether individuals and communities have the assets to enable a take-up of what proffered as economic opportunities” created by tourism routes.
ROUTE TOURISM AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT • Examples • The results of the study on Socio-economic impacts of three rural tourism routes in KZN (King Shaka route; Zululand Heritage route and the Zululand Birding route) conducted in 2012 indicated that the majority of people who reside adjacent to these tourism routes were not involved in the establishment of these routes, some were not even aware of these routes. • Findings also indicated that there was minimal integration of local communities into mainstream route development. • Mathfield (2000) criticised the Midlands Meander for not providing benefits to disadvantaged communities and assisting black entrepreneurs. Since then, the management of the Meander has actively pursued opportunities to assist emerging artists and tourism product owners in local communities. • The Highland Meander also exhibits a weak state of Black communities’ involvement.
STATUS OF ROUTE DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA • In South Africa, there is considerable activity surrounding the development of route tourism (Rogerson & Visser, 2004; Marlien, 2007). • Some of these routes are very successful and advanced e.g the Midlands Meander in KwaZulu Natal, the Wine Route in the Western Cape, the Highlands Meander in Mpumalanga etc • Through the central government’s poverty fund, support has been provided for planning and launching of a series of tourism routes or trails designed to benefit poor communities by drawing them into the tourism mainstream (Rogerson & Visser, 2004).
STATUS OF ROUTE DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA • The private sector and the non-profit organisations have also contributed to route tourism development and subsequently tourism routes continue to be launched in every province in South Africa almost every year. • The focus has mainly been on the number, type and economic impact of these tourism routes and not on the extent of community involvement. • As an example, Open Africa which is a non-profit organisation that has been running since 1995 that uses to tourism as an economic platform to create and sustain jobs in rural Africa has developed 62 routes in 6 countries in Southern Africa which support approximately 2,161 businesses.
STATUS OF ROUTE DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA – Case study : KZN • There are several tourism routes in KwaZulu Natal, which differ in terms of popularity, length and purpose for their development. These include the following: • The Southern Explorer • The Freedom Route • Midlands meander • Drakensberg experience • R66 Zululand Heritage Route • R22 Route • The King Shaka Tourism Route • The Zululand Birding route
STATUS OF ROUTE DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA – Case study : KZN • Midlands Meander is one of successful and advanced themed-based routes in KZN which has evolved over twenty years. • Consistency in their marketing efforts has been key to its success. • The Midlands Meander is a tourism route with its core product offering being arts and crafts, agricultural produce and a scenic rural environment (Mathfield, 2000). [product mix; product diversity] • Midlands Meander is completely private sector funded but there has been some co-operation with the public sector in form of the involvement of the Midlands Meander Association in local planning issues (Rogerson, 2004a). [strong association through membership]
STATUS OF ROUTE DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA – Case study : KZN • Another well-established route is the Zululand Heritage Route, popularly known as Route 66 which stretches for 250kms from Dokodweni Toll Plaza to Phongola. • The development of Route 66 was informed by the findings of the research on visitor behaviour and preferences that was conducted by Tourism KwaZulu Natal which indicated that departing foreign and domestic tourists expressed their disappointment at the lack of opportunities to learn more about traditional culture and heritage of the local communities as well as wildlife. • This then resulted in the development of a route that links available cultural heritage products and games reserves. • Among “special interest” based route is the Zululand Birding Route which is regarded as one of Birdlife South Africa’s first “Avitourism” products that showcases 605 bird species that are found in Zululand.
QUALITIES/CHARACTERSTICS OF SUCCESSFUL TOURISM ROUTES Well planned tourism routes have • themes e.g cultural heritage route, freedom route, wine route etc, The theme should transcend geographical diversity and distance but provide for integrative marketing (Lorens, 2007). • numerous nodes which may be a number of smaller centres which are marketed together, under one umbrella as a single tourism product. • allow for an amalgamation of anchor and subsidiary nodes. Nodes should have a potential of creating tourism demand. • vary in length, some are short only capturing local attractions and can be accessed by foot, bicycle or horseback (sometimes referred to as trails); national stretching through different provinces while other are international permeating through different and countries e,g the Cape to Cairo route which captures the splendours of network of African Tourism routes (Visser, 2004).
QUALITIES/CHARACTERSTICS OF TOURISM ROUTES • allow for product mix. • They can be developed in both urban and in rural areas and can also link rural and urban areas. • offer opportunities for partnerships locally, nationally and internationally. • can be private or public sector driven or a partnership between private and public sector. Ideally route tourism development should be dependent on the establishment of cooperation and close partnerships among key stakeholders. Forming the basis for successful route development is a strong political will at both local and regional level which provides a foundation and a conducive environment for routes to thrive.
PRACTICAL APPROACHES TO SUCCESSFUL ROUTE DEVELOPMENT • Route planning with a clear strategy to direct the plan • Establishment of associations, partnerships • Development of a theme, broad goals, objectives • Development of key offerings at the nodes and interesting experiences along the route (anchor and complementary products). • Diversification of products – offering a range of product options • Provision of interesting experiences between the nodes • Provision of signage both indicative and interpretative • Provision of a marketing plan (branding, market exposure through brochures, representation at trade fairs, public relations etc) • For long routes provision for feasible daily distances, key attractions and accommodation facilities • Being up to date with the trends • Exchange of information with local and international product owners
CHALLENGES OF ROUTE TOURISM Contrary to the common belief that there is a lack of enthusiasm and willingness to participate in tourism development, research has indicated that some of the challenges that are associated with tourism route development include the following: • Lack of capacity to initiate and sustain the route • Lack of necessary infrastructure • Lack of lack of experience in creating associations and partnerships, • Lack of awareness of institutional framework that support route development • Financial constraints • Lack of a pool of entrepreneurial and technical skills
CONCLUSION • I would like to conclude by quoting Briedenhann & Wickens (2004:78) who pointed out that “while South Africa undoubtedly has a long way to go in achieving the integration of rural communities into its mainstream there are few who would not admit that this is no longer a matter of choice, it is an imperative”