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|Author :||Limpho Lekaota & Jarkko Saarined|
|School/Work Place :||Vaal University of Technology, South Africa & University of Oulu, Finland|
In order to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs, rural communities should be able to participate actively in all aspects of tourism, including planning and management. The main purpose of this study is to evaluate the local communities’ participation in rural tourism development utilizing mixed method. Survey and interview materials from local rural communities and local authorities (nature reserve managers, tourism officers, environmental/conservation officers and Conservation Committee Forum members) in the Katse and Mohale Tourism Development Area of Lesotho. Non-probability, purposive and convenience sampling approaches were used to gather the data. The study was conducted in three villages adjacent to the T’sehlanyane Nature Reserve - Ha ‘Mali, Bokong Nature Reserve -Ha Lejone and Liphofung Nature Reserve - Phelandaba.
The information gathered was used to formulate a model of the elements influencing rural tourism benefit-sharing processes in rural local community contexts. Such model could be beneficial as without a strong emphasis on local benefit-sharing, Lesotho people, especially in the rural areas, would probably not receive the potential benefits of tourism development in the future. Such a model would support communities’ participation in tourism development, leading to sustainability of resources in rural tourism.
Ha ‘Mali and Ha Lejone respondents recognized community members’ participation but the Phelandaba respondents generally disagreed that the communities were involved in planning, as they indicated not being consulted in any planning about tourism. Respondents from all three villages would prefer greater involvement and decision-making power in the management of tourism.
The study concludes that government should not merely construct conservation and tourism development areas but should also empower local communities to participate in all stages of planning, development and management. Involving community members in as well as formulating supporting tourism regulations, implementation, monitoring and evaluation procedures would be beneficial for sustainable rural tourism development.