Game farms as sustainable ecotourism attractions
Van der Merwe, Petrus
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It is clear that tourism, especially ecotourism, in South Africa is growing at a rapid pace. Each year more and more tourists travel to South Africa with their main aim to visit places that are based on the natural environment. Tourists want to interact with nature and learn about the environment that they are visiting. The main goal of the thesis was to determine aspects that will contribute to the sustainable ecotourism development of game farms. The method of research consisted firstly of a literature study which included theses, articles and sources on wildlife, hunting, ecotourism-related literature and sustainable development-related literature. Secondly, an empirical research of which the survey sample, consisting of all the active members of the South African Game Farmers Organisation. This adds up to a total of 1244 members of whom 50% (N = 622) were randomly sampled for the research. A questionnaire was sent to each of the selected respondents via e-mail, fax or by postage. Some of the selected members were also visited in person during various workshops that were held by the South African Game Farmers Organisation. The main conclusion of the research was that the majority of game farms in South Africa that formed part of the survey are developed as sustainable ecotourism attractions when looking at the natural/conservational/environmental side as well implementing cultural aspects such as learning local languages. This included aspects such as: respect for and acknowledgement of the dignity of people in the development, marketing and promotion of tourism; to promote a sound and proud service ethic among all participants; to avoid damaging the environmental quality; to minimise environmental impact and to reduce energy requirements for lighting and to educate tourists to learn about and respect the local culture. When considering the community/stakeholders relationship one tends to find that these aspects of sustainable development are not completely met. These are aspects such as working closely with the local community to develop new products; developing partnerships and joint ventures in which the community has a significant stake; fostering the development of community-based tourism products by providing marketing and mentoring support and considering using local entrepreneurs in developing community initiatives. The contribution of this research into game farm tourism is firstly that a criterion for sustainable ecotourism development was compiled that will assist game farm owners in developing their game farms sustainably from an ecotourism point of view. Secondly, this research was one of the first in South Africa that to study sustainable ecotourism development of game farms; therefore, through these results a theoretical model has been developed to indicate the role of game farms as part of ecotourism. Thirdly, the statistical analysis of the results of the study has also indicated and weighed the most important aspects of sustainable ecotourism development. Fourthly, aspects that still need attention and are neglected by game farm owners were also identified.