The sustainability of community-based ecotourism in southern Africa

  • Kevin Frank Mearns

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The global trend towards sustainability is influencing humankind on a daily basis. One of the aspects of human life that is significantly influenced by this trend is decision making with regard to travel and holidays. The investigation was initiated in an attempt to monitor the sustainability of community-based ecotourism in southern Africa and to set a baseline for future comparison.
A comprehensive inventory of 331 community-based tourism ventures across southern Africa was compiled as part of the study. A spatial selection was undertaken to refine the selection of ventures which could be safely and economically visited in southern Africa. A telephonic interview was carried out with each of the remaining 241community-based tourism ventures in order to determine which ventures may be categorized as community-based ecotourism ventures. The results of the telephonic interview were used to classify the community-based ecotourism ventures into types. A random selection within types followed to select six case studies for further investigation.
An evaluation framework was constructed to monitor the sustainability of the selected community-based ecotourism ventures. The evaluation framework made use of a number of sustainability issues and their associated indicators. The evaluation framework was then tested for its applicability to investigate the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the six case studies. Thereafter a cross-case analysis was undertaken to compare the results and to obtain baseline data for future comparison. The utility of the constructed evaluation framework was subsequently commented on and changes were recommended.
The study provided a time- and cost-effective evaluation framework for monitoring the sustainability performance of community-based ecotourism ventures. The constructed framework also makes an important contribution as a departure point in the adaptive learning cycle for the development and implementation of sustainable tourism indicators for community-based ecotourism ventures. Case study specific recommendations were made in order to improve the sustainability performance of the investigated case studies. The results of this study serve as a benchmark against which future investigations into the sustainability of community-based ecotourism ventures in southern Africa may be compared. Conclusions relating to the sustainability of community-based ecotourism ventures in southern Africa are drawn, and a number of recommendations for further research are made.
Date of AwardJun 2010
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorVictoria Edwards (Supervisor)

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