Tourism development and poverty alleviation: rhetoric or reality? A case study of Kenya
Poverty is the scourge of many developing countries, including Kenya. The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) upholds tourism as a vehicle for economic development and poverty alleviation (EDPA) in developing countries. Amongst EDPA strategies, WTO highlights small enterprise development and underscores the need for government support. Tourism is a key economic sector in Kenya, yet the tourism development model is anachronistic and colonial emphasising safari/coastal products based in the southern and coastal regions and overlooks the rich cultural resources available countrywide. Furthermore, the fact tourism is foreign-owned means that economic benefits leak from the local economy. A new model of tourism development, involving small indigenous enterprises and promoting cultural products to new markets would be an appropriate means of EDPA in Kenya. Thus, a clarification of Kenya's capacity to promote the development of indigenous enterprises and to link tourism revenue to the local economy is essential.
This study presents a case study methodology of indigenous micro, small and medium tourism enterprises (SMTEs) in the Southern and Coastal regions of Kenya and has been developed through semi-structured interviews with owner-managers of Kenyan SMTEs and representatives of support organisations. The fieldwork reveals a typology comprising independently owned enterprises (IOEs), subdivided into formal (licensed) and informal (illegal) enterprises and community-based enterprises (CBEs). The formal IOEs are owner-managed legal enterprises in which the owners exhibit knowledge of administrative systems, have access to significant capital, pursuing second career moves, possess significant levels of skills and knowledge and are able to circumvent the bureaucratic red-tape. The informal IOEs on the other hand do not possess most of these characteristics. The CBEs are enterprises based on communal ownership of tourism resources.
The CBEs studied faced significant challenges, notably in the leadership for tourism product development, entrepreneurship, funding, infrastructure development, business and management skills. This study also critically analyses the relevant literature on the various issues and concepts of community capacity building, identifies the best practice strategies and proposes a theoretical model. These factors are tested within the Kenyan context through adaptation of constructive and choice-ordering projective techniques and in-depth semi-structured interviews with community members, community leaders, CBE managers, government officials, members academia and representatives of support organisations. The Draft National Tourism Policy favours the development of CBEs to enhance linkage and proposes raising tourism awareness in primary schools as part of its long-term strategy.
The study reaches the conclusion that formalising tourism enterprises as a vehicle for EDPA in Kenya requires significant government investment in public-sector support mechanisms to provide sustainable tourism development opportunities for Kenyan communities. It also asserts that the models of CBEs offer a progressive route for EDPA.