Insights into perceptions on threats to the sustainability of ecotourism: A study of Mpumalanga-based ecotourism managers

Mokoena, Mandla
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In an age where accountability can no longer be evaded, sustainability is fast becoming a global standard. Contemplations beyond the bottom line have taken on increased significance with the assimilation of social and environmental considerations of the business concern. In the face of these developments ecotourism has emerged as a form of sustainable tourism within the sustainability paradigm and is anticipated; to boost conservation efforts, economic development and to significantly improve the standards of living of the residents of surrounding communities in developing countries. Notwithstanding marked progress and developments following the country’s political dispensation, South Africa is still plagued with the notorious trifecta; poverty, unemployment and inequality. If ecotourism is to be successful in its attempts to significantly alleviate these, factors that inhibit it progress need to be firstly identified then conscientiously evaluated. It is worthwhile to assess these from the vantage point of the managers of ecotourism businesses; who as a consequence of their occupations contend with these on a daily basis and as such a have accumulated a wealth of knowledge through their experience in the industry. This research set out to investigate what ecotourism managers as the vanguards of the sustainability movement within the tourism industry; perceive as threats to the sector and to evaluate their efficacy in responding to these. This study additionally reviews the managers’ perceptions at a meso-level; in an attempt to garner their personal dispositions towards sustainability and ecotourism and the nexus between these, in order to explore possible solutions. The study identified a number of domestic threats to the sustainability of ecotourism; classified as either internal or external to the ecotourism business concern. The effective management of these requires a number of different interventions depending on the imminence of the risks themselves and the scope of the risks to the affected organisation. Suffice to say adequate financial and organisational backing as well as support from key stakeholders is vital to the successful implementation of sustainable tourism business practices within ecotourism.