Assessment of Indigenous Forests as a Tool for Product Diversification in Sustainable Tourism Development in Taita-Taveta County, Kenya
Mwamburi, Esther Mgoi
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The Kenyan tourism sector has over the years depended on beach and safari tourists visiting the country’s coastline and some selected wildlife conservation reserves respectively. This has exerted a lot of pressure on these resources resulting in bad environmental and social impacts. To deal with the negative impacts, there have been attempts to create and market alternative destinations such as forests. The purpose of this study was to assess forests and tourism product diversification for sustainability in Taita-Taveta County, Kenya. The study sought to identify the potential of indigenous forest as a tourism products that influence sustainability in Taita-Taveta County, to assess the influence of cultural tourism products associated with tourism sustainability in Taita-Taveta County, to identify the stakeholders involved in forest tourism development and establish their influence on tourism sustainability and to establish the challenges associated with forest tourism products diversification and their impact on sustainability in Taita-Taveta County. The study employed descriptive cross-sectional descriptive survey design. The target population for the study was 35 destination operators and 57 tourists visiting the forests. Purposive sampling was employed to choose 10 destination operators while census sampling approach was used to obtain 50 tourists visiting the forests. Tourists filled the questionnaires while destination operators participated in the interview session. Quantitative data was gathered using questionnaire while qualitative data was gathered using interview guide. Quantitative data collected using questionnaire was analyzed employing descriptive statistics and inferential statistics while content analysis technique was employed to analyze qualitative data gathered using interview guide. The study found out that forest tourism product, alternative cultural practices, stakeholders’ involvement in forest tourism development explained 43.2% of the variations in tourism sustainability. Results revealed that forest tourism product were related with tourism sustainability as supported by (r=0.258, p=0.001). Likewise, the results revealed that alternative cultural practices were positively and significantly related to tourism sustainability as supported by (r=0.334, p=0.001). Moreover, findings showed that tourism stakeholders’ involvement in forest tourism development had positive and significant relationship with tourism sustainability as supported by (r=0.193, p=0.046). Basing on the results of the study, it was concluded that forest tourism products, alternative cultural practices/activities and stakeholders’ involvement in tourism were related to tourism sustainability. The study recommends that Taita-Taveta County needs to take an inventory of the diverse forest tourism products identified. It also recommends that it should be fully profiled and funds for its full establishment be allocated. The investment on the cultural practices should be prioritized in terms of preferences by the tourists.