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Title: Stakeholder collaboration for sustainable ecotourism development in Southern Ethiopia
Authors: Wondirad, Amare Nega
Degree: Ph.D.
Issue Date: 2018
Abstract: Ensuring sustainable natural resource management, economic and social development as well as cultural and historical revitalisation is a pressing challenge for contemporary tourism development. Tourism development in the developing world often focuses on the potential contribution of tourism to the economy. Thus, success of tourism development is predominantly measured by means of number of visitor arrivals and gross tourism income. Widespread poverty, low political commitment and pervasive systemic corruption place an increasing pressure on the natural ecosystems and destinations' life-support of developing countries. As a result, boosting economic benefits from tourism while conserving natural resources, improving social attributes and protecting cultural heritage remains a chronic challenge. Several types of tourism development options have been suggested to overcome this challenge. The perceptible negative impacts of mass tourism from as early as 1960s, gave the impetus to the emergence of various tourism development options. Amongst them, ecotourism draws the attention of both academics and practitioners despite ongoing criticism. Ecotourism combines conservation, communities and responsible travel to ensure a tourism development which is environmentally friendly, economically viable and socio-culturally responsible. Having crucial core values including community participation, reduction in exploitation of natural environment and ecological sensitiveness, ecotourism emerges to become a function of sustainable tourism development for less accessible destinations with substantial economic and environmental impacts. Unlike other kinds of tourism, ecotourism has clear-cut principles and ideals, which stakeholders of the sector should adhere to. The underlying notions of ecotourism focus on balancing the economic, environmental and socio-cultural facets of tourism. However, the existence of multiple stakeholders with competing interests poses a critical challenge to destinations in their efforts to operationalise ecotourism. Therefore, examining how such competing interests of ecotourism actors can be properly addressed plays a critical role in the efforts of attaining the fundamental objectives of ecotourism. Informed by exploratory research design and by the adoption of a constructivist paradigm, this study examines how the competing interests and divergent views of ecotourism stakeholders can be negotiated by working collaboratively to facilitate the sustainable development of ecotourism. This study adopts and integrates stakeholder theory, collaboration theory and the concept of triple bottom-line into a single framework to better understand and properly address research objectives. Data were collected in three major tourist destinations of Southern Ethiopia (Hawassa, Arbaminch and Konso) and Addis Ababa. In total 25 face-to-face in-depth interviews and 3 focus group discussions were conducted with a range of interviewees from public, private and non-profit sectors. The concept of theoretical saturation is considered to ensure data richness and adequacy. To assure trustworthiness of the research findings, the study employs various strategies including pilot test, method triangulation, member checks, confirmability audit and thick description. Furthermore, the researcher executes all the data collection, transcription and translation to maintain consistency. Content analysis was the data analysis technique used in an inductive manner assisted with QDA Miner qualitative data analysis software version 4.1.32. Research findings suggest that the ecotourism sector in Southern Ethiopia is currently in its infancy, yet both natural and cultural ecotourism resources are already disappearing. The ecotourism sector is not well integrated into existing local economic activities such as agriculture. The government has adopted a growth driven development model that largely neglects the principles of triple bottom-line as findings demonstrate. Instilling the required level of stakeholder awareness about the concept of sustainable development in the ecotourism sector is indispensable. However, in Southern Ethiopia currently the ecotourism sector is controlled by the private sector (large and medium size ecotourism enterprises) and the federal and regional governments while grassroot community participation is minimal.
Given nature is an essential domain where all economic activities take place (Laine, 2010) and a vital component of the business environment (Starik, 1995), it is crucial to consider nature as an important stakeholder and make it visible in the stakeholder model. Different environmental groups, both governmental and non-governmental institutions, civic societies and community organisations should represent nature as one of the salient stakeholders (Starik, 1995). However, findings reveal that in Southern Ethiopia, the ecosystem has been ignored and has never been recognised as a stakeholder. Due to the exposure of the natural environment to various threats from different actors including private sector's poor environmental attitude, pressure from surrounding communities, and poorly planned government projects, the ecological diversity and richness are deteriorating. Existing stakeholder interactions, interrelationships and collaboration are irregular, hostile and lack transparency. There is a lack of stakeholder collaboration on issues relevant to sustainable ecotourism development such as environmental conservation, community well-being and economic development. Raising awareness, building stakeholders' capacity to enhance their participation and ensuring good governance are tasks that should be executed prior to the formulation of ecotourism stakeholder collaboration platform as findings reveal. Integrating the ecotourism sector into existing economic activities is proposed as a means of boosting the trickle-down effects of ecotourism and of ameliorating stakeholder interactions. Lack of mutual understanding and trust and low economic return of the ecotourism sector were among the hurdles for stakeholder collaboration in Southern Ethiopia. Therefore, improved stakeholder interactions and increased economic impacts could, pave the way for the establishment of long-term stakeholder collaborations and partnerships. Based on the findings of the study, an integrated stakeholder collaboration framework is suggested to facilitate and boost sustainable ecotourism development in a developing country context. The framework, which blends stakeholder and collaboration theories with the triple bottom-line principles (Figure 7.16), is the ultimate objective of the current study and one of its various contributions to theory. The researcher indicates relevant ecotourism stakeholders and their respective roles and tasks to achieve the establishment of an effective stakeholder collaboration. The framework also suggests ways of reaching consensus on issues of mutual concern. Furthermore, the framework extends the stages of stakeholder collaboration theory from three (problem setting, direction setting and implementation) to four. This is done by including monitoring and evaluation as another important milestone which is especially critical in a developing country setting. Finally, limitations of the study and future research directions are pointed out.
Subjects: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Ecotourism -- Ethiopia
Sustainable tourism -- Ethiopia
Pages: xvi, 442 pages : color illustrations
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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