On-line version ISSN 2071-0771
STRICKLAND-MUNRO, Jennifer and MOORE, Susan. Exploring the impacts of protected area tourism on local communities using a resilience approach. Koedoe [online]. 2014, vol.56, n.2, pp. 1-10. ISSN 2071-0771.
As the protected area mandate expands to include social equity, the impacts of parks and their tourism on neighbouring indigenous and local communities is receiving growing practical and theoretical interest. This article reported on one such study, which explored the impacts of protected area tourism on communities bordering the iconic Kruger National Park in South Africa and Purnululu National Park in Australia. The study drew on interviews with park staff, tourism operators and community members. Guided by a conceptual framework grounded in resilience thinking, interactions amongst the parks, tourism and local communities were revealed as complex, contested and multi-scalar. Underlying drivers included cultural norms and values based on nature, entrenched poverty, poor Western education and economic opportunities associated with tourism. Park tourism offered intrinsic opportunities and benefits from nature conservation and associated intangible cultural values. More tangible benefits arose through employment. Damage-causing animals and visitation difficulties were negative impacts. Interaction with tourists was limited, with a sense of disconnect evident. Findings indicated the need for multifaceted, carefully considered policy responses if social equity and benefits for local communities are to be achieved. Framing the impacts of protected area tourism through the resilience framework provided a useful way to access local community perceptions whilst retaining awareness of the broader multi-scalar context in which interactions occur. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Perceptions of separation and lack of education to engage in economic opportunities are major issues. Intrinsic appreciation of parks is an important platform for building future opportunities. Accrual of future benefits for local communities from park tourism depends on developing diverse economic opportunities, building community capacity and managing expectations and addressing economic disadvantage.