Last Updated 07 Jul 2020

A Comparative Analysis of Community-Based Tourism in Uganda and Kenya

Category Community, Tourism
Essay type Analysis
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1. Introduction

As pointed out by Tasciet al (2013), the contribution made by tourism to the growth of the economy can be enormous. Given the great potential of the tourism sector, several models have been developed over the past few years. Community-based tourism, developed in the 1990’s by authors including Pearce (1992) has been suggested to provide for sustainability in the industry (Beeton 2006). Community-based tourism (CBT) can be defined as a bottom-up approach that ensures the involvement of the local communities in the planning process (Koster 2007).
Given the potential of CBT, many rural areas are increasingly relying on tourism as an alternative to economic development, replacing their former reliance on forestry, mining and agriculture (Lopez-Guzman et al. 2011). Rural areas are considered important tourist destinations as they appeal to many tourists (Butler et al. 1998). This paper conducts a comparative analysis of community based tourism between Uganda and Kenya. The paper will first define the concept and then explore the demographics and history of tourism in Kenya and Uganda, and finally examine the socio-economic and environmental impacts. A comparative analysis will be done between the two countries by highlighting similarities and differences.

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3. Community-Based Tourism Model: Overview
The notion of CBT can be traced back to the alternative approaches developed in the 1970s which were concerned with issues beyond the strictly economic (Tefler 2009). During this period, development in the tourism sector began to focus more on community-based initiatives and stressed more on the participation of the local individuals (Giampiccoli & Kalis 2012). The concept brought together issues of sustainability, local empowerment and self-reliance. CBT has come about due to the desire for a more inclusive approach to planning that incorporates local values (Koster 2007).
The concept of CBT has suffered from competing and ill-thought-out definitions. For example, Suansri (2003) and Ramsa & Mohd (2004) view CBT as a tourism venture wholly managed by the local communities. On the other hand, Scheyvens (2002) and Mearns (2003) are inclined to see it as involving a degree of participation or partnership with other stakeholders playing a part.

Perhaps the problem with defining the concept can be attributed to the fact that CBT may mean different things to different people. Despite debate over meanings, the CBT framework used in this paper is that initiated, planned, controlled, owned and managed by the local people with the aim of meeting the needs of the entire community. Private enterprises at the micro-level can be considered as part of the definition if the focus is on communal well-being rather than individual profit. The benefits should accrue to the local community and CBT should respect and preserve local culture.

2. Background to Tourism in Kenya and Uganda: Demographics, History, Socio-Economic Considerations and

Environmental Sustainability

Tourism plays an important role in Kenya, accounting for 10% of GDP and 9% of employment. It is also increasingly profitable with a 17.9% rise in earnings from the sector between 2009 and 2010 (Ndivo et al 2012). Amongst African countries, Kenya is currently ranked 5th for international tourist visits, with approximately 1.5 million international tourists in 2008 (Bunyere et al. 2009).
Because it has the potential to generate employment and prosperity, it has been given an increasingly important role in national socio-economic agendas, with a number of key policies and strategies created including the National Tourism Master Plan (Ministry of Tourism Kenya 2009), Tourism Policy (Government of Kenya 2010) and Tourism Bill 2005 (Ndivo et al 2012). Although there is potential to develop tourism around the country, historically interest has centred on the beaches of the south coast, national parks and game reserves (Ndivo et al 2012). According to a survey conducted by the EU, 63% of EU visitors in Kenya chose coastal areas as their tourist destination (Kibicho 2004). Wildlife is also a popular attraction, with70% of the tourism earnings in Kenya coming from wildlife-based tourism (Bunyere et al, 2009).
Given the critical importance of the tourism sector in Kenya, it is extremely vital to protect and conserve these significant resources. Indeed, conservation policies and collaborative schemes have been already been put in place. There is a large area of protected land, and 10% of Kenya’s land has been designated as national park and game reserve land (Akama et al., 2011). Critical biodiversity areas and the rich cultural coastal region form the flourishing tourism sector in Kenya.
Although measures to protect Kenya’s ecology have been put in place, there are concerns over sustainability, and the country continues to experience accelerated decline and destruction of critical biodiversity areas. There has been a decline in wildlife population in national parks and game reserves at rates similar to non-protected areas, indicating the state’s inability to protect critical biodiversity (Akama et al., 2011). Moreover, coastal tourism which has for decades dominated has experienced a rapid decline in the recent years owing to the tribal clashes that have erupted (Cheung 2012).
Kenya’s coastal tourism industry experienced a period of unprecedented dismal performance with 56% of the hotels closing in 2008 (Akama et al., 2011). Although much of the violence that occurred was tribal in nature, findings indicate that lack of community participation and involvement in tourism activities in the coast was a major factor contributing to these ethnic clashes. Had the local communities been involved in the tourism activities, such ethnic flare-ups would have been averted.
The ethnic flare-ups, land use conflict between local communities and wildlife managers, threats of extinction of species and the apparent inability of the state to protect critical biodiversity areas have led to a new realization of the importance of community based tourism in Kenya (Korir et al 2013). Considerable effort has now been made to provide support to CBT enterprises including donor funding. Further, a framework that gives impetus to successful and sustainable operations of CBT ventures has been linked into the overall national policy (Akama et al. 2011).
History of Ugandan tourism sector and socio-economic contributions
Tourism also has a role to play in the Ugandan economy. Similar to Kenya, main tourist products in Uganda are nature-based and are linked to wildlife game reserves, forest reserves and national parks. Other attractions include cultural heritage, community development, eco-tourism and faith-based tourism (Paul, 2004). The importance of involving the local communities in tourism activities is also evident in Uganda.
Conflicts between the locals and the government have largely been due to their lack of involvement in planning and development activities. For example, after the establishment of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1992, conflicts arose between the locals and the park. The conflicts that led to the burning up of 5% of the park by the local community was evidence enough that the park would not be protected without consent and local support (Mujuni et al. 2003). A collaborative management plan was however set up which promoted participation of the locals in park management and revenue sharing. As a result, conflict ended and the locals committed themselves to protecting and preserving the park. The experience showed the importance of local community involvement in tourism activities.
Uganda used to be a key leader in tourism in the past. In the early, 1960s Uganda used to be the main tourism destination in East Africa(Frederic, 2011). However, the unprecedented turmoil of the 1970’s and early 80’s led to a decline in the tourism industry (Paul, 2004). As a result, Uganda lost its position as a top tourist destination in East Africa to Kenya. However, the government that took over in the mid 80’s restored peace and stability (frederic, 2011). Since then, the sector has been steadily increasing despite lagging behind Kenya in terms of its contribution to GDP.
Unlike in Kenya where tourism contributes around 10% of the GDP, Ugandan tourism industry is estimated to contribute 4% of the total GDP(Sanchez-Canizares, 2013). Nonetheless, there has been an increasing trend in tourism with the number of international tourist visits increasing from 468,000 in 2005 to over 940,000 in 2010 (Paul, 2004). Given that both countries are still developing, it is worthwhile to examine some of the similarities and differences between the two countries.
Comparative analysis of community based tourism between Kenya and Uganda
Similarities

Socio-economic impact

The two countries share certain things in common starting with the embracement and recognition of community based tourism as an important tool for reducing poverty. Both countries have embraced and given emphasis to development of community based tourism as an important tool for poverty reduction (Sanchez-Canizares, 2013). There are several community based tourism projects in both Kenya and Uganda. Some of the popular community based tourism projects in Kenya are: the Kimana Community Wildlife Sanctuary, Mwaluganje, Sera Conservancy and Kalacha Bandas in Marsabit among many other(Tang, 2013)
Similarly, Ugandan ministry of tourism has laid emphasis on the importance of community based tourism in the country. The idea of community based conservation has become the focus of the industry. Perhaps this has been driven by the recognition of the benefits of involving the local community in tourism development including: poverty reduction, decline in conflicts with the ministry over land used and reduced poaching activities (frederic, 2011)
Some of the successful community based projects in Uganda include Lake Nkuruba Nature Sanctuary, Buhoma Community Restcamp, Mgahinga Community Campground, Busingiro and Kaniyo Pabidi community project, Ruboni Community Campground and Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary(Zeppel, 2006). Participation of the locals in these projects is high. For example, in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, the local people are involved in community-guided walks and bird watching tours (Zeppel 2006). Both countries seem to be embracing community tourism as an important tool for reducing poverty.
Another similarity can be seen with the funding of these projects. Most of these projects are donor funded. Kenya is heavily reliant on donor funding. In fact, almost 100% of community based tourism development activities in Kenya is donor funded. For example, funds from USAID and World Bank were used to set up an electric fence around the Kimana Community Wildlife Sanctuary (Jonathan et al. 2013). Mwaluganje, another community based tourism development activity, was established through donor funding. Sera Conservancy that was formed to empower the local Samburu communities in Kenya was established with funds from USAID.
The EU has also played a major role in funding community based tourism development in Kenya. In 2000, a massive grant of 5.5 million Euros was released by the EU which saw the establishment of 16 community based tourism developments in Kenya (Ruhiu 2007). Other key players funding CBT in Kenya include international bodies such as the UNDP, conservation based NGOs such as AWF, Pact Kenya and WWF; and national agencies such as Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) (Jonathan et al. 2013). It is clear that donor funding has played a major role in the development of community based tourism in Kenya. The government’s role has merely been the provision of an enabling environment such as security, programme coordination and policy formulation (Ruhiu 2007).
Similarly, Community Based Tourism Enterprises (CBTE’s) in Uganda rely predominantly on donor funding. The Mgahinga Bwindi community project was established with funds from the World BANK (Mujuni et al. 2003). Moreover, the two major associations Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA) and (NACOBTA) in charge of promoting community based tourism in Uganda by providing loans and training to the local communities are predominantly donor funded. NACOBTA is 99% donor funded whereas UCOTA is 44.8% donor funded (Elisa et al., 2001) UCOTA empowers the local Ugandan communities to improve their livelihood through participating in sustainable tourism development activities. The association helps the local communities by aiding in the sale of handcrafts, providing accommodation, and tour guiding.

Furthermore, both countries have witnessed improved livelihoods due to community based tourism activities. For example, the Mgahinga Bwindi Community Project in Uganda has improved the livelihoods of the locals living around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Many of the local population living nearby have been employed as park rangers and ‘porters’ (labourers). The community has also benefited through improved infrastructure including roads, education and health facilities. About 60% of the Mgahinga Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Conservation Trust has been devoted towards development of local community projects (Adams & Infield 2013).

The local communities in Kenya have also benefited from employment and improved livelihoods. The locals living near Mwaluganje, Sera Conservancy and Kalacha Bandas in Marsabit have benefited from schools, clinics and boreholes which have been built by these projects (Ruhiu 2007). Further, pro-poor tourism have assisted women with bead making through provision of platform for selling their products.
Whilst these benefits are encouraging, participation of the locals in both countries is still far from enough. Although some of the locals have managed to secure jobs and improve their livelihoods, most of them are paid low salaries, an equivalent of 30 pounds per month (Ruhiu 2007). This certainly doesn’t really improve their livelihood that much. In fact, critics have argued that community based tourism and tourism in general should not necessarily be relied on as a tool for poverty alleviation. According to them, tourism does not compete well with sectors such as agriculture which have higher potential of reducing poverty.

Environment impact

Also, community based tourism in both countries have led to positive impacts on the environment. For example, in Uganda, KAFRED has created awareness among the local communities bordering wetlands about the importance of protecting and preserving the environment (Adams & Infield 2013). This has led to a reduction in encroachment and eucalyptus planting in the wetlands. Further programs such as the National Wetlands Program and Semliki conservation project which have risen from CBT activities have established village by-laws governing the use of wetlands (Adams & Infield 2013). Environmental education has played a role in ensuring sustainability of tourism.
Similarly, in Kenya, involvement of the local people in tourism activities has led to reduction in wildlife poaching and destruction of forests. Community wildlife and conservation ventures in Kenya have played a major role towards protecting the environment and preserving wildlife (Jonathan et al. 2013). Environment degradation has reduced and conservation measures strengthened with the help of the locals who are employed as park ranges and ‘porters’. Community based tourism and eco-tourism have led the way towards responsible travel with important environmental benefits.

Differences

Having highlighted the similarities, it is important to identify some of the differences in community based tourism between the two countries. One particular difference relates to the extent to which community based tourism is promoted. CBT in Uganda is only limited to areas within or along the forest reserves and national parks. Almost all of the community projects are within or along the forest reserves and national parks. For example, the Buhoma Community Restcamp is within the impenetrable Bwindi Forest national park. The Mgahinga Community Campground project lies next to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Zeppel 2006).
Others including the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Busingiro and Kaniyo community project and the Ruboni community campground are located along or near national parks and forest reserves (Zeppel 2006). Community based tourism activities in Uganda continue to be limited to areas lying within or along the national parks and forest reserves. This has been echoed by Industry operators who have highlighted ‘limited efforts to promoting community tourism at the national level’ as one of the main concern of tourism development in Uganda.

In stark contrast, community based tourism is promoted at the national level as evident with the opening up of new areas of possibility such as sports tourism, eco tourism, adventure safaris, horse and camel safaris, walk tours, and cultural tourism among many others (Cobb 2006). Further, programs such as the Enterprise Development Program have been implemented across the country to build the local capacity and integrate communities into tourism development activities. Such programs ensure the mobilization of the community through seminars, debates, regional workshops and participatory trainings (Ruhiu 2007). Further the local communities are provided advisory services on product development and market access which helps strengthen growth of their enterprises (Cobb 2006). This has been driven by the realization of the potential of community based tourism to reduce poverty, and multiplier effects of the tourism sector as a whole in driving the economy.
Perhaps another difference that can be pointed between CBT in Kenya and Uganda relates to the coastal attraction. While community based ecotourism ventures along the coastal region form the flourishing tourism sector in Kenya, Uganda being a landlocked country does not have any coastal attractions (Mulinda & Wilbert 2009). Coastal attraction features provides Kenya with an edge over Uganda(Wilbert, 2009). Beaches, sun-basking, the aquatic life at the coast and rich culture that includes performances, dances and the contemporary ways of living of the coastal people make it a popular tourist destination.
Another difference is related to the marketing and promotion of CBT activities. Unlike Uganda, Kenya has invested more in marketing and promotion of tourism activities. For example, last year, Kenya budgeted $34 million dollars for tourism promotion and marketing. This is in stark contrast with Uganda’s budget of only $90,000 (UIA 2014). While this may be seen as impacting on development in the overall sector, community based enterprises are also affected in terms of the number of visits and revenues generated from sale of products. Uganda’s funding of the sector remains very low despite the potential of becoming a multi-billion sector. The slow pace of tourism in Uganda can be attributed to the lack of identity at the international level. While Kenya has promoted their visibility at the international level, Uganda is still lagging behind in terms of investing fully in promotion of tourism.

While CBT in Kenya has grown much faster than Uganda, it has not developed as expected owing to many factors including in adequate funds for marketing and promoting tourism, transparency and governance issues, lack of marketing skills and absence of a system for ensuring equitable sharing of the opportunities and benefits accruing from tourism activities. For example, while Kenya’s budget for promotion of tourism may be $34 million, the Kenya Tourism Board receives only $6 million.

Further, funding remains a major problem in both Kenya and Uganda. Given that these countries are still developing, there are very limited financial resources for supporting CBTEs. Even when these finances are incorporated in government budgets, they are often inadequate to support CBT developments (Ruhiu, 2007). As a result, community based tourism has often relied on foreign investment which may lead to the rise of neo-colonial structures discussed above as foreign investors seek control of tourism resources.

Whereas Kenya may be ahead of Uganda in terms of pro-tourism development, it is still far from being developed as it is still prone to failures resulting from limited funding, poor infrastructure development, lack of formal education, political influences and inadequate representation of the locals. CBT in Kenya still remains very low with lack of local representation in the workforce. While the industry may boast of over 500,000 jobs, the employment opportunities remain inequitably distributed (Cheung 2012). Most of the local communities are missing out on employment opportunities as these are being taken over by the outside workforce. According to a survey conducted by Bruyere et al. (2009), 64% of the local community members found the employment opportunities to be insufficient. Kenya’s community based approach to tourism development is still largely skewed to the interest of tourism (hotels, hospitality and service) with limited representation of the locals.
There are also political considerations to take into account. For example, a neo-colonial structure has emerged within the industry as some foreign investors seek control of tourism resources. (Cheung 2012). This has resulted in social and political disempowerment of the locals as neo-colonial structures have made it increasingly difficult for them to participate in the planning and decision making process. Although there exist more opportunities for local entrepreneurs to invest in the industry compared to Uganda especially given the ongoing development agenda that encourages of the growth SMEs, a divide of power continues to disengage and disempower the local communities. The majority of Kenyans continue to live below the poverty line with the highest incidence of poverty occurring in tourist destination areas.

5. Conclusion

The above has looked at the notion of CBT with particular reference to the situation in Kenya and Uganda. From the analysis, both countries seem to share certain commonalities and differences as well. For example, community based tourism is embraced in both countries and recognized as an important tool for reducing poverty. Also, both countries are heavily reliant on donor funding. Moreover, the locals in both countries have experienced improvement in their livelihoods through employment opportunities, and access to school and health facilities. Further, Pro-poor tourism has assisted women with bead making through provision of platform for selling products.
Both countries have also seen improvement in their environments which has resulted due to community development projects and conservation ventures. In Uganda, programs such as the National Wetlands Program and Semliki conservation project have established village by-laws governing the use of wetlands. Community wildlife and conservation ventures in Kenya have played a major role towards protecting the environment and preserving wildlife.
There are also sharp differences in CBT developments in both countries. For example, community based tourism activities in Uganda are limited to areas lying within or along the national parks and forest reserves. In stark contrast, community based tourism in Kenya is promoted at the national level as evident with the opening up of new areas of possibility such as sports tourism, eco tourism, adventure safaris, horse and camel safaris, walk tours, and cultural tourism.
Another difference is that Uganda being a landlocked country does not have coastal attractions. On the other hand, beaches, sun-basking, the aquatic life at the Kenyan coast and rich culture that includes performances, dances and the contemporary ways of living of the coastal people make it a popular tourist destination. Additionally, Kenya has invested more in marketing and promotion of tourism activities compared to Uganda. While Kenya has promoted their visibility at the international level, Uganda is still lagging behind in terms of investing fully in promotion of tourism.
While CBT in Kenya has grown much faster than Uganda, it has not developed as expected owing to many factors including in adequate funds for marketing and promoting tourism, transparency and governance issues, lack of marketing skills and absence of a system for ensuring equitable sharing of the opportunities and benefits accruing from tourism activities. Nonetheless, the future of tourism in both these two countries lies in community based tourism. The potential of CBT to reduce poverty and make the sector sustainable is enormous. Not only can CBT help in enhancing biodiversity conservation but it can also generate income and bring economic growth to the local communities.

6. References

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