The Role of Local Communities in Enhancing Sustainable Community-Based Heritage Tourism, in Mount Kenya Region, Kenya.
Mburu, Festus Maina
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In the recent past, sustainable tourism is a developing alternative type of tourism; this has led sustainable tourism to gain recognition by tourism developers and stakeholders. Nonetheless, tourism encounters various challenges such as people displacement, commercialization of culture, organic dilapidation, and economic dependency trough social economic development. However, sustainable tourism has gained recognition through providing alternative tourism development that is economically friendly, socially acceptable, and environmentally conducive. Sustainable tourism has led to better policing of eco-friendly practices. In Kenya, unsustainable practices such as mass tourism and stakeholders disagreements has for a long period challenged the economic, environmental and cultural development. However, Kenya has started to embraced sustainable goals in tourism development by realizing unsustainable practices negatively impact environmental and social economic development. Therefore, there is need to obtain a sustainable balance in development of social cultural practices in tourism development. These practices include stakeholders’ participation, collaboration, and local community heritage interpretation on community sustainable tourism. Sustainable community heritage tourism involves people and place that is shared for decades hence the reason to sustainably protect the values for tourists experiences and the coming generations. Sustainable community challenges can be solved by understanding research objectives and gaps that focus on aspects that influence community based heritage tourism. Such gaps and objectives in this study include identifying the role of local communities in enhancing sustainable community based heritage tourism in Mt. Kenya region. The main objectives include identifying community interpretation of heritage, examining the role of stakeholders’ participation, identifying stakeholders’ collaborations and the impacts on sustainable community based heritage tourism. The study area covered Mt. Kenya region counties targeting the local communities and the park management. The targeted Mount Kenya region counties include Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, and Embu. The research applied descriptive survey research design to allow comparison of findings of different respondents in different counties. Research questions and interview were used to collect the data which resulted to 85% questionnaire and 100% interview response rate of the total targeted 384 sample size. Demographics such as gender, age, marital status, and level of education were evident as key determining factors that influence local community roles in enhancing sustainability of community based heritage tourism in Mt. Kenya region. Male gender dominate in participating in sustainability of community based heritage tourism while age and marital status influence people availability based on commitments to family chores, roles and educational engagement of the young people. Similarly, level of education is a significant factor that determines knowledge of promoting sustainable practices in the region. The respondents indicated to have knowledge on heritage, value Mt. Kenya as a natural heritage site and can interpret heritage based on the availability of community forums and CBO in the region. The respondents indicated to be moderately involve in participating in CBT but highly indicated the desire to be included in Mt. Kenya heritage decision making and the need to have more stakeholders. The respondents indicated availability of local and international stakeholders’ collaborations that promote sustainable tourism. Collaboration are importance in the region as a key factor in promoting sustainable inclusion of various stakeholders to promote sustainable community based heritage tourism in Mt. Kenya region. In recommendation, communities should be appropriately engaged without undermining their roles to enhance local people interpretation, create awareness, make informed decisions, and sustainability promote heritage. Moreover, policy makers should develop stakeholders’ partnerships and collaborations policies for engagement.