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Tourism and Poverty Alleviation: The Case for Indigenous Enterprise Development in Kenya

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The World Tourism Organization (WTO) asserts tourism as a vehicle for economic development and poverty alleviation (EDPA) in developing countries. Among EDPA strategies, WTO highlights small enterprise development, stressing government support in such development. Tourism in Kenya is foreign owned, so economic benefits leak from the local economy. It emphasizes safari/coastal products and exploits the southern and coastal regions in an anachronistic and colonial model of tourism development. A new, postcolonial model of tourism development involving small indigenous enterprises and promoting cultural products to new markets would seem an obvious vehicle for EDPA in Kenya. Thus, Kenya's capacity to promote the development of indigenous enterprises is of interest. This study of 12 indigenously owned Kenyan tourism enterprises and six support organizations explores the challenges to tourism entrepreneurship in Kenya. The 12 enterprises fall into three categories: community-based enterprises (CBEs), and formal and informal individually owned enterprises (IOEs). Formal IOE managers had independent means and were well educated and appropriately experienced through public sector careers to deal with bureaucracy. CBEs (community initiatives offering products/services based on the natural environment) employed competent managers to address skills gaps. CBEs provide paths for skills development while raising community tourism awareness. However, community tourism development is externally driven, often by nongovernmental organizations, and can be regarded as a form of neocolonialism. Kenya's draft National Tourism Policy favors the development of CBEs as a way to enhance linkage. This article concludes that formalizing tourism enterprises in Kenya would require significant government investment in support mechanisms to provide sustainable tourism development opportunities for Kenyan communities.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2006-03-01

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  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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