September is Tourism Month in this year we will again be making a number of posts linking our research to the challenges and opportunities in this sector:
The 2010 FIFA World Cup, which took place in South Africa, generated great excitement and pride for the country’s residents. This created an overwhelming support for the tourism industry as a whole, even though the majority of South Africans did not receive tangible benefits such as economic gain from this event. Why was this the case? The World Cup is also not the only example of communities supporting tourism regardless of financial gain. This leads one to think that the intangible social impacts of tourism also play a large role in creating community support. Research has shown that the tangible benefits of tourism rarely sift down to the community members where it takes place. This is furthermore emphasised by the fact that South Africa is an upper middle-income, developing country in per capita terms, but ironically has one of the most unequal distributions of income in the world. Seeing as communities’ support towards the tourism industry is of vital importance, it was decided that qualitative research should be undertaken to determine the importance of the tangible (such as economic gain) and intangible (such as community pride) social impacts for the tourist-rich communities of Clarens, Soweto and Jeffreys Bay.
It was found that intangible aspects such as “My community has become well known”, “I am proud to stay in my community”, “My community has a positive image”, as well as “I developed respect and understanding for visitors” together obtained the highest mean values, much higher than that of the tangible impacts such as economic improvement. It is clear that the intangible social impacts of tourism play a much larger role in creating and maintaining community support than was previously believed. Tourism managers and marketers should for this reason place more emphasis on creating community pride and participation, especially in a developing country such as South Africa. This warrants further research in other communities in South Africa, as well as other developing countries, as communities cannot be seen as homogeneous, meaning that the social impacts may differ according to demographics.
In the end, it is not all about the money after all.