An Insight into Community-based Ecotourism in Eswatini: Theory versus Practice
The study provides a baseline of the performance of Community-based Ecotourism (CBET) ventures in Eswatini using primary data collected from 186 participants. The data was collected through face-to-face interviews amongst across five CBET sites. Descriptive and thematic analysis were used to identify; the benefits of CBET accrued to host communities, challenges communities experience in providing goods and services to CBET ventures, and the factors preventing broad based participation. Frequencies of responses were used to determine the perceptions and attitudes of host communities towards CBET. The study finds that many of the promises of CBET have not been fully met in Eswatini. Economic benefits have not been widespread and remain minimal, with approximately 42 jobs in total. Participants receive an average monthly income of E1457.40 ± 933.80, an indication of high disparities in monetary incentives amongst participants. The study finds that CBET has been a catalyst for infrastructural development within rural landscapes and provides participants with additional intangible benefits such as a sense of empowerment and belonging. Poor infrastructural maintenance, inadequate marketing and declining tourist visitations are major threats to the sustainability of CBET ventures. Efforts to augment the performance of CBET in Eswatini should focus on investment in research and monitoring of present and potential new CBET ventures. The study recommends integrated and inclusive policies that will promote and allow for expanded local production in the tourism supply chain, partnerships between host communities and industry experts, and local capacity enhancement to reignite CBET within the tourism sector as a serious contender for economic growth.