Tourism, Conservation and Sustainable Development: Case studies from Asia and Africa
International tourism is expected to increase well into the next century, with a growing focus on destinations in the developing world. As the industry expands into new areas, it presents new opportunities and risks for host communities and natural environments. In response to new market opportunities, tourism has emerged as part of national and regional strategies to maximise foreign exchange earnings, increase employment and provide financial resources to preserve natural and cultural heritage. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the process of tourism development at the local destination level. ~This report draws together the main findings from a three-year research project, funded by DFID, comparing the phenomenon of nature-based tourism at sites in India, Indonesia and Zimbabwe. It explores the complex relationship, at a local level, between tourists, 'host' communities, the tourism industry and the nature reserves and national parks where the wildlife tourism takes place. The research reveals that local stakeholders have little control over the form or magnitude of tourism development occuring around them, and remain vulnerable to external events and decision-making. Furthermore, local communities and protected areas are realising few benefits from international tourism, whilst deficiencies in monitoring and managing tourism development threaten to undermine the resource base upon which the industry relies. The challenges facing the various stakeholders are clearly defined, and only through partnership between the tourism industry, national and local authorities, investors, NGOs and the host communities will the sustainable solutions be realised.