This study falls within the field of ecotourism. Ecotourism brings together natural resource conservation, community participation and sustainable development. To achieve this, there is a need for cooperation between the different actors. Generally the actors involved are government agencies, Non-governmental organizations, tourists, tourism firms and the local community. Cooperation can only be successful when each of the actors involved has to have clear interests and benefits.
Hence, the aim of this study was to understand ecotourism by identifying and examining the actors in the ecotourism industry in terms of their values, expectations, and role fulfillment so as to contribute towards the equitable and transparent management of ecotourism destinations. The Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya was selected as the study area. Data was collected by key informant interviews, group discussions and observations. Secondary data was obtained from literature reviews. The main actors identified in the study area were the government, private sector, local community and Non-Governmental Organizations. The study revealed that a lack of communication amongst actors, lack of knowledge and illiteracy among the local community, differences in values, perceptions, expectations and interests among various actors, were major hindrances to sustainable ecotourism.
Land tenure in the Maasai Mara is either private or communal. The reserve is communally owned by the local people and managed on their behalf by Narok County Council. The local people live on the fringes of the reserve called buffer zones. The pieces of land in the buffer zones have been amalgamated to form conservancies. The lease of these conservancies provides the local people with an income. The down side of this is the restriction of the locals from accessing certain culturally important areas, such as shrines where they traditionally used to bring sacrifices.
Community involvement is an important principle for sustainable tourism. This study found that although there were attempts to involve the local community in the various activities, illiteracy was a major impediment. Women were also side lined largely due to cultural factors. However, it was established that some women earned a living by selling curious whereas some were in managerial positions. There is, however, a general need to empower more women in this community.
Despite all the problems regarding the formation of effective partnerships, it is also true that a few significant partnerships and collaborations do exist between actors who have the same interests coming together to promote sustainable tourism. The collaborations have helped in the improvement of infrastructure and livelihoods of the local community.
Dissertation (MHCS)--University of Pretoria, 2015.