The Impacts of Tourism on Rural Livelihoods : Namibia ’ s Experience

  • Ashley C
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Summary This paper assesses the wide range of impacts that tourism has on the livelihoods of rural residents in parts of Namibia. It aims to serve two purposes. First it illustrates that a focus on livelihoods offers a useful perspective on tourism for enhancing local benefits. It contrasts with conventional tourism perspectives which tend to focus exclusively on either economic, commercial or environmental impacts. It also contrasts with narrow assessment of local benefits focusing only on job creation and cash income. Taking a livelihoods perspective helps identify the wide range of impacts - direct and indirect, positive and negative - that matter to local people. Second, the paper aims to show how tourism's contribution to livelihoods can be enhanced by adjusting decisions on what is developed and how, in ways that reflect people's livelihood priorities. This has implications for how tourism planners, other policy-makers, communities, businesses and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) work. While some implications are context-specific, others have more general relevance to tourism practitioners elsewhere. The approach outlined here also provides an example of how livelihood analysis can be applied to a sector. In this case the focus is tourism in rural areas. But the principle of assessing a range of livelihood impacts, and identifying how sectoral policies can be adjusted to enhance impacts, could be applied in other sectors. The paper uses the 'Sustainable Livelihoods' framework for assessing the diverse positive and negative impacts that different types of tourism can have on people's asset base, portfolio of diverse activities, specific outcomes which they seek, and their influence over external organisations. It then identifies the implications of this analysis, which include: The development impact of tourism will not be uniform: it will vary widely within and between communities; Enhancing the livelihood impacts of tourism does not mean simply maximising the number of tourism developments, or maximising wage income; A wide range of costs and benefits need to be taken into account. In particular, it is as important to address negative impacts as to maximise positive ones. And to address impacts on people's assets and existing activities, not just direct contributions to household income and security; Careful planning and design, based on an understanding of local livelihoods, can greatly enhance the positive impacts of tourism; Maximising livelihood benefits needs a good understanding of what people most need and want (their livelihood priorities) and of the complex ways in which tourism options affect livelihoods (direct and indirect livelihood impacts). Therefore it requires a considerable role for local people in decisionmaking. This can be done either by devolving tourism rights to community level, and helping communities with participatory planning; or by ensuring that government planning processes are participatory and responsive to local needs; or by ensuring, through government incentives, that planning by private entrepreneurs is responsive to local needs. The details of how to enhance livelihood impacts are location-specific. The principles of recognising that a range of livelihood concerns are important, and supporting systems that enable local people's priorities to be incorporated into tourism decisions, can be generally applied.

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  • Caroline Ashley

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