The inclusiveness of tourism development is coming under close academic and policy scrutiny, including in policy debates within the Indian Ocean region through the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Coastal and marine tourism is recognised as a vital Blue Economy sector by IORA countries . The core focus of this study is to investigate the potential for expanded economic inclusion through promoting the participation of local entrepreneurs as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the coastal and marine tourism sector in IORA states, thereby contributing to an equitable and sustainable Blue Economy in the region. The study involved desk-top research on coastal and marine tourism, with a particular focus on economic inclusion and SME development aligned with international ‘good practice’ in coastal tourism. The results were triangulated with a series of expert consultations with key stakeholders in South Africa and Kenya, the two countries used as case studies. This discussion paper emphasises the need for improved data to monitor economic inclusion in coastal communities and strengthened research capacity to provide evidence-based analysis supporting improved planning for economic inclusion targeting marginalised groups. South Africa, in partnership with other IORA members, should encourage engagement on the issue of inclusive coastal and marine tourism within IORA structures and programmes, including the IORA Academic Group, the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum and the Working Group on Trade & Investment.