The contribution of soapstone handicraft industry to community tourism in Tabaka, Kisii County, Kenya
Ogembo, Josephine Bonareri
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Many countries in developing world have turned to tourism as a tool for sustainable development. Community participation is a crucial element to the success of tourism development. The level of success of tourism within a community is dependent upon the degree of resident‟s involvement and participation. The purpose of this study was to assess the contribution of soapstone handicraft tourism industry in Tabaka in Kisii County. The objective of the study was to investigate the contribution of soapstone handicraft industry to the growth of tourism activities in Tabaka sub-location in Kisii County; the study employed a descriptive research design targeting soapstone operators and their leaders in Tabaka Sub-location. The sample for this study comprised of five group leaders purposively selected and 85 soapstone operators selected using stratified random sampling method from five soapstone self-help groups in Tabaka sub-location. Data were collected using a structured questionnaire and an interview schedule. Both quantitative and qualitative data were analysed separately and synchronized. Quantitative data was analysed using SPSS software. Qualitative data was analysed using thematic data analysis method then incorporated with quantitative data in presentations and discussions. The results of this study were presented using descriptive statistics such as frequency tables, figures and graphs while emerging themes were reported as reflected in the analysis. The response rate of 94% was achieved and deemed to be very good. The findings indicated that there was minimal tourism in Tabaka though majority of Tabaka residents were involved in making soapstone handicraft products largely consumed by tourists at different destinations in Kenya as souvenirs to carry home. Stakeholders played various roles where the government engaged in planning and policy development coordinated both private and public sectors but needed to do more especially in marketing and building of appropriate infrastructure. The industry faced challenges that arose from limited education of operators, limited funding, lack of infrastructure and exploitation by middlemen. However suggestions of strategies to overcome the challenges community residents faced were made as the need for the government involvement in creating awareness, to facilitate the acquiring of potential entrepreneurial skills, lack of modern tools and limited marketing knowledge of members, encouragement of stakeholder participation in providing the needed support, government commitment to the building of infrastructure and supper- structure and enhancing of marketing of Tabaka as a destination of choice. The study recommended a further research to explore the role of tour planners in promoting Tabaka soapstone handicraft as one of cultural tourism products in western Kenya tourism circuit.