Socioeconomic impacts of tourism on the local community

Nkhata Bay district, Malawi

Authored by: Grace Kamanga , Eugenio Njoloma

The Routledge Handbook of Tourism Impacts

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138494961
eBook ISBN: 9781351025102
Adobe ISBN:


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Tourism has been one of the fastest growing industries in the world and it has emerged as a powerful change agent in terms of its economic contributions to local communities. However, there is growing evidence suggesting that the industry tends to push local communities to the margins of its benefits. This chapter aims at understanding how the tourism industry has benefitted local communities in Nkhata Bay district in Malawi. As one of the three lakeshore tourist ‘hot spots’ in the country, the significance of tourism to this area has not been adequately addressed. The chapter employs social exchange theory (SET), which helps to demonstrate the link between the tourism industry and the local community. This is based on the idea that the locals’ perceptions of impacts of tourism depend on a prevailing chain of exchanges between them and the tourism industry. Field data were collected through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with a purposively sampled key segment of the Nkhata Bay population. Contrary to the prevailing trend, it has emerged that tourism has contributed to infrastructure development as well as to employment and business opportunities for a significant segment of the people of the district. Nonetheless, the absence of meaningful corporate social responsibility initiatives and the industry’s role in shifting cultural attitudes are the most highlighted repercussions. For optimal benefits from the industry, it is suggested that the local communities be placed at the forefront of the tourism development process because they are the ones more affected by the impacts of tourism.

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