Critical Reflections on Pro-Poor Tourism and Local Communities` Participation at Grass-Roots Level: The Case of Chimanimani District, Zimbabwe

Critical Reflections on Pro-Poor Tourism and Local Communities` Participation at Grass-Roots Level: The Case of Chimanimani District, Zimbabwe

Zibanai Zhou (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1302-6.ch013
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This chapter investigated the extent to which pro-poor tourism benefits are trickling down to the most deserving people in Chimanimani district, Zimbabwe. This chapter critically reflects on pro-poor tourism construct, community tourism development models, community participation and involvement, tourism benefit sharing scheme, and community livelihood in the context of a rural community. A questionnaire survey and focus group discussions were used to collect data. Embedded in the neoliberal and post-modernist perspectives, the chapter established huge potential for the Chimanimani community to benefit from pro-poor tourism. There is even more scope to enhance tourism benefits if the community`s tourism model, extent of participation, empowerment, and tourism benefits sharing scheme are recalibrated.
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This chapter investigates local communities` participation in pro-poor tourism at grass root level using a case study of Chimanimani District in Zimbabwe. At the turn of the century, pro-poor tourism (PPT) emerged as an analytical concept aimed at evaluating the impacts of tourism at community level (Ambroz, 2008; Ashley & Roe, 2002; Ashley, et al., 2000). Aref and Gill (2017) praised the PPT analytic framework`s ability to transform power relations and end social exclusion by breaking down social structures and systems which marginalize and impoverish local communities. As a direct consequence, PPT was embraced globally as one of the principal vectors through which endemic poverty could be eradicated in synch with the United Nation`s (UN) 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Harrison (1992); de Kadt (1979); Beeton (2006); Sakata & Prideaux (2003) and Mitchell & Ashley (2010) view the PPT concept as an extension of the theory of development which recognize participation of local communities in tourism as key to ensure that a greater percentage of tourist expenditure find its way directly into the hands of the economically disadvantaged. PPT emphasises that lack of control and participation of local communities in tourism developmental projects implies that any hope for the socio-economically disadvantaged to benefit from tourism would remain an elusive dream (Zapata, et al., 2011; Salazar, 2012; Okazaki, 2008). To exacerbate the gravity of the matter, Scheyvens and Biddulph (2017) observed that in the Global South, the inclusion and participation of local communities in the tourism value chain is a struggle that has no immediate solution in the medium to long term. Scheyvens and Biddulph (2017) `s uninspiring observation was the basis upon which this chapter was informed. Widening local communities` participation in tourism decision making as well as specifying who controls and makes decisions about tourism development have a big influence on whether tourism impacts positively on communities` livelihoods or would remain a façade. This chapter is grounded in the emerging narrative which supports citizen`s active participation in tourism decision-making as well as the prioritization of local communities` social and economic needs as the only solid ways through which communities can have genuine empowerment from pro-poor tourism development processes. Dodds (2012) and Djou, et al., (2017) lend credence to this premise stressing that decentralizing decision-making power by empowering ‘people locally on the ground can lead to more effective development outcomes’. In light of this, strong community control on tourism as opposed to tourism superintended over by an outsider is argued as the missing link in most tourism development projects, and that deserve interrogation irrespective of geographical setting.

Tourism has been frowned upon because of its tendency to objectify and exoticise the ‘other’ among a host of other reasons. MacConnell (2008, p. 1992); Jackson (2010); Li (2009) observed that when tourists search for ‘authentic touristic experience’ in their droves, such experiences and interactions eventually become commercialized and commoditised, with superficial benefits to host communities.

It is against this backdrop that despite the presence of multi-actors like tour operators, chain hotels in the tourism space in various local communities, inequalities, poverty, and marginalization are far from being eradicated. This buttresses claims made in extant tourism discourses that tourism in many instances has not meaningfully empowered the socially and economically marginalized. Tourism has been short on delivering the much vaunted socio-economic developmental goals desperately needed by communities. In contrast, international capital organizations as principal actors in the tourism development processes have been accused of unashamedly reporting super profits, repatriating profits back to their home countries and yet poverty levels in the communities they operate in are increasing at an alarming rate (Manyara and Jones, 2007; Tasci, et al., 2013).

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