Rural tourism routes have the potential to contribute to poverty alleviation by
channelling tourism to poor rural areas. Although tourism is essentially a private
sector economic activity, the public sector is a key influence in the economic
sustainability of rural tourism routes. This exploratory study examines the role of
the public sector in the provincial, district and local government spheres in rural
tourism route development and marketing. Semi-structured in-depth interviews
were conducted with stakeholders in two rural tourism routes that traverse very
poor rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal, a province of South Africa. The study revealed
inadequate support for tourism, and rural routes in particular, especially in the
district and local municipalities. Tourism and the potential benefits of tourism
route development is, by all indications, poorly understood, hence the required
infrastructure, funding and marketing support are in many instances still lacking.
The study concludes that for rural route tourism to deliver benefits to poor rural
areas in a sustainable manner, greater co-operation across municipal boundaries
and support for rural tourism routes by the public sector will be required in the
provincial and local government spheres.