Potential of Selected Cultural Resources for Sustainable Tourism Development in Machakos County, Kenya
Kibiro, Eunice Gathoni
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Kenya’s tourism and in particular cultural tourism plays a vital role both in rural areas as well as in urban areas in ensuring sustainability of resources in a number of ways that include socio-cultural, economic as well as environmental. However, the creative cultural economy, especially when it relates to community creativity both inherited and current, has not been officially recognized and accounted for as such and neither has it been supported and promoted as having any potential for foreign exchange earnings, creating jobs and engineering economic growth. This study explores the potential of cultural resources particularly the handicrafts for sustainable cultural tourism development as an alternative form of tourism product for diversification in Machakos County. The study was guided by the following specific objectives: - to identify cultural resources in Machakos County, to establish the roles and benefits of cultural resources in Machakos County, to find out possible drawbacks faced during cultural tourism development in Machakos County, to explore strategies needed to unlock full potential in developing sustainable cultural tourism in Machakos County and to find out potential indicators of sustainable cultural tourism development in Machakos County. The study was undertaken in Machakos County home to Kenya’s oldest and biggest craft industry with the highest concentration of woodcarvers and basket weavers. The study utilized an exploratory research design using qualitative research approach. The sample size of the study was one hundred and seven respondents who were considered adequate for this study. Purposive sampling as well as extreme case sampling was used to collect information from Akamba community particularly the handicraft practitioners both the wood carvers and basket weavers in Katangi location in Yatta Constituency and also in Wamunyu location of Mwala Constituency. In-depth interview guides were administered to co-operative officials, focus group discussions were done to both members of woodcarvers and basket weavers. Observation and photography were also used in collecting of data which revealed certain significant aspects of the handicraft industry. The qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data. The findings of the research revealed that the study area has cultural resources which are utilized for income generation as well as for cultural preservation purposes. On the other hand the study found that the practitioners did not have any form of professional training and therefore recommend that in order to produce quality products and services which can compete in the global market they should be trained in art work. At the same time the study also calls for higher tourist’s services as well as promotion of other elements of cultural tourism like food, dances and ceremonies to compliment the already established but limited elements. The findings revealed that while the local community has played a major role in shaping development of sustainable cultural tourism development at the same time the Government has failed to play its role hence at present there are many drawbacks that need to be addressed. The study therefore, recommends that both the National and Local Government should collaborate with the local community in development and planning of cultural resources so as to ensure sustainability of cultural resources in the industry. This thesis therefore contributes new knowledge to the field of cultural tourism in Machakos County as it serves as a starting point for researchers interested in this area. Furthermore the results of the findings are expected to be useful for guiding policy actions in future.