A strategic management plan for the sustainable development of geotourism in South Africa
Schutte, Ignatius Christian
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South Africa has some of the world's most representative and well-studied, quite spectacular examples of geological phenomena. These examples span almost the entire range of Earth's history and yet, so they have received little recognition. The geological wonders of the country have not been presented to the public and the tourism industry because the marketing of the country is, to a great extent, focussed on wild life's "Big Five". Conservation is nevertheless critical to protect these geological treasures that have the potential to draw millions of tourists annually, from home and abroad. Internationally, the appreciation for geological and mining heritage has advanced much further since the 19th century than it has in South Africa. World famous nature, and National, Parks in the USA include Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Wind Cave and the Hawaii Volcanic Park and these are entirely nature-based tourism destinations. Geotourism, a new concept coined in Digne-les-Bains, France, in 1991 is used for educational, environmental and social-economic purposes to make geology more accessible to the public in Europe and in Cbina where geoparks have been created. Geotourism consists of geology, mineralogy, palaeontology, geosites, operating and defunct mines, caves, and collections of geological specimens in museums. Some geosites have been declared World Heritage Sites because of their universal value. In South Africa World Heritage Sites with natural properties that have been declared are: 1. The Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park (iSimangaliso) (1999) 2. Cape Floral Protected Region Areas (2004) (a serial site) 3. The Vredefort Dome (2005). This area is in essence ecotourism with an additional 'sub'-theme (mining and industrial). It is to a certain extend part ecotourism which is ecologically sustainable tourism that has an added focus on natural areas. To seek the best use of these resources, a study was undertaken to develop a strategic management plan for the sustainable development of geotourism in South Africa. The study was necessary to plan for the sustainable development of geotourism in South Africa. The method of research consisted of a literature study, an analysis of geotourism practices oversees, field visits and discussions with various stakeholders in the case study areas, an evaluation of theoretical and field observations, and the proposed implementation of the findings. The focus of the study centred on the management process of planning, development, management, marketing and the implementation thereof, as far as geotourism was concerned. Seven research objectives were formulated focussed on: 1) The theoretical foundations of sustain ability and their applicability to geotourism, 2) Evaluation of international concepts and guidelines for geotourism and geoconservation, 3) Evaluation of the development of geotourism, site and visitor management and how the various approaches and tools for the management of geotourism could be applied, and 4) Criteria for the implementation of a strategic management plan for geotourism in South Africa. The sustainable tourism management plan of Gebhard, Meyer and Roth (2007(b):1-66) was used as a basis to develop a geotourism management plan. Aspects that were considered the formulation of the strategic plan included why geotourism management plans should be developed, the procedure for plan development, guidance on stakeholder involvement, review and monitoring, and a detailed template for the compilation of a geotourism management plan in protected areas. Based on the literature and Internet research, conclusions were drawn. Visits to European International conferences, geosites and geoparks visited laid the foundation for this study when an examination of existing geotourism projects was made. Subsequently, six case studies were undertaken to get an overview of current geotourism practise in the country. The studies were completed at: L Kruger National (KNP) 2. Pilgrim's Rest 3. Kromdraai Visitor Mine 4. The diamond industry of Kimberley 5. The Cradle of Humankind (COB), and Geoscience Museum, Pretoria. The geosites project in the.KNP served as a very practical example of how geotourism could be applied in the future. The contributions made by this study were: 1. The strategic plan that was developed could serve as basis for development of geotourism in South Africa 2. The guidelines developed by this research could be considered a useful tool measuring and achieving sustainability 3. The results of the thesis could assist entrepreneurs/developers in the establishment of future geosites, geo-areas and geoparks 4. The study made a significant contribution in the expansion ofliterature in the area of geotourism 5. This was the study of this kind in South Africa 6. One of the case studies of the thesis formed the base for three presentations at two international conferences and for a further one at a geotourism workshop in South Africa, and 7. One of the case studies of the thesis also formed the basis of three international conference papers. The main findings from the case studies were: 1. There exists little or no knowledge of geotourism as a product, and it seeks to explain the beauty of the origins of the Earth (Coenraads and Koivula, 2007) 2. was neither a policy nor strategic geotourism development plan 3. Little planning, management and marketing have been done . The Cradle of Humankind (COH) is an exception as extensive research was done from 1997 before application for a World Heritage Site was submitted. Currently, it is an excellent visitor destination 4. Very little financial support has been received either from the Government, local municipalities, or mining/financial companies Under-funding was a problem for all the case studies 6. No geoconservation legislation exists, and 7. Protection was provided to four of the case studies because they were located in protected areas. Two of the cases were located in an area or building that themselves were protected because of specific visiting hours.