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|Author :||Felicité A. Fairer-Wessels|
|School/Work Place :||University of Pretoria, South Africa|
Rural communities in South Africa have not been active stakeholders in tourism development. Community awareness and involvement in the preservation of natural and cultural heritage through sustainable tourism development in selected areas adjacent to the protected iSimangaliso Wetland Park , World Heritage Site, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is investigated.
Sustainable development as concept is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland, 1987) within political; economic; socio-cultural; and eco/environmental environments (Queiros, 2003). Sustainable tourism development is therefore seen as imperative to ensure successful livelihood of communities and minimize negative impacts on these environments. Accordingly rural communities in South Africa must be empowered to participate in job creation through local procurement, partnerships, generating business and sharing customers. Therefore communities need funding and /or capital (Okazaki, 2008; Tosun, 2000), market access and opportunities to upgrade and expand their businesses. The tourism sector can provide a direct market as well as advice and support to community members (Ashley & Jones, 2001; Botha 2006; Qua-Noo, 2001; Van Rooyen, 2003). Amongst other initiatives, local authentic cultural festivals and traditions (Dlamini, 1999; Larlham, 1981; Zibani, 2002) can be used to attract tourists that promote the conservation of the environment and local heritage (Van Zyl & Botha, 2004), generate employment opportunities and economic benefits (Apleni, n.d.; Arcodia & Whitford, 2006; Prentice & Andersen, 2003).
Through the UN Millennium Development Goals (United Nations, 2010), South Africa as a member state strives to advance on the eight goals that seek development and progress. This research indirectly addresses Goals 1 and 7: Goal 1 that aims to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger - communities in the researched areas suffer from hunger due to lack of food and water; and Goal 7 that aims to ensure environmental sustainability, also perceived as relevant with the researched impovished rural communities.