Tourism and poverty in rural South Africa: A revisit

Toerien, Daan
January 2020
South African Journal of Science;Jan/Feb2020, Vol. 116 Issue 1, p72
Academic Journal
Debates about the value of pro-poor tourism indicated a need to revisit the links between the dynamics of tourism and hospitality enterprises and community poverty in rural South African towns. The numbers of tourism and hospitality enterprises in these towns are related to population numbers by a power law with a sub-linear exponent. The residents of smaller South African towns are more dependent on the tourism and hospitality sector than are the residents of larger towns. Measurement of the enterprise dependency indices (EDIs) of these towns provides a valid measurement of their wealth/poverty states. Their EDIs are directly and negatively associated with the strength of their tourism and hospitality sectors. Communities in towns with more tourist and hospitality enterprises are overall wealthier, and vice versa. This finding contrasts with a previous view about tourism and poverty reduction in South Africa. Debates about the benefits of pro-poor tourism should include information about the impact of tourism on community wealth/poverty. The EDI is a simple, yet powerful, measure to provide poverty information. Expressing the number of tourism and hospitality enterprises per 1000 residents of towns enables comparisons of towns of different population sizes. Based on ideas of the ‘new geography of jobs’, it is clear that tourism is part of what is called the traded sector and results in inflows of external money into local economies. Tourism is a driver of prosperity and a reducer of poverty in South African towns.


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