This article describes how rural cultural tourism can positively impact ethnic communities in East Africa on multiple levels. It involves building relationships between African tour operator owners, their travel guest, rural communities and Western entrepreneurs.
The goals are twofold : 1. Generating economic self-sufficiency and empowerment for rural peoples 2. Meeting the intellectual and emotional needs of Western travelers. Because cultural survival is intrinsically connected to economic security, cultural tourism should help rural ethnic peoples gain economic control over their lives while strengthening their cultural identity.
Problems Land Dependent Rural Ethnic Peoples Face in East Africa
Rural peoples are land dependent. To survive as traditional peoples they need land and their land needs to be productive. Currently, their historic lands are shrinking due to being sold off to outsiders and becoming less productive as a result of global warming. This effects the three primary land dependent economies in East Africa: agriculture, herding and hunting and gathering.
Agriculturalists require powerful pumps to irrigate their crops. They use wide tilling technologies that causes the erosion of Cattletheir soil during periods of severe drought. Pastoralists over-grazed their lands. This affects the Maasai animal herders in the Serengeti, Samburu and Turkana living on Kenya's northern frontier and other pastoralist peoples living in or near the Rift Valley. The Hadzabe hunter and gatherer bushmen who live in Tanzania’s Rift Valley have less game to hunt and they must contend with local encroachment. The sound of the pastoralist herders’ animals and the noise of loud pumps used by agriculturalists' to irrigate their lands scares away game. This has caused the bushmen to suffer from malnutrition, making their children more susceptible to malaria from mosquitoes breeding in the low lying warm area where they live near Lake Eyasi. As a result, they have one of the highest infant mortality rates in Africa.
Many ethnic rural cultures in East Africa are polygamous. Birth control is foreign to their traditionalist beliefs. Population growth exceeds their ability to support their large families. Maasai men with seven wives have three generation families that can exceed seventy-five people. Grazing cattle is fundamental to their traditional culture. Unless they integrate another form of income with herding, they will die of starvation. They view the government tourism ministry with cynicism. They see it using them to promote a multi-million dollar tourism industry, but not compensating them adequately to remain living according to their heritage. The Maasai historic lands in the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara in Kenya are being sold off to outsiders without their input. Their land rights are being violated and they do not have the literacy to defend themselves in municipal courts.
Connecting the Travel Interests of Baby Boomers to Rural Peoples in East Africa
Westerners often want to know the challenges facing rural peoples and observe how they adapt to their harsh natural Baby Bommersenvironment. Today's Western tourists have greater disposable income to travel than in previous generations. This has fueled a tourism industry boom. The aging baby boomer market generally has both disposable income and time. Many have already traveled to the European capitals and are looking for new kinds of experiences. They are selective and want choice. They seek the mystery of direct experience and interactive encounters that evoke stimulating growth experiences. The 60’s movement influenced their fascination with primal man being more original and true.
According to the cultural anthropologist Amanda Stonza "The desire for authentic experiences is a reflection of modern tourists' desire to reconnect with the pristine, the primitive, the natural, that which is as yet untouched by modernity.” Robert Shephard, notes there is a quest for authenticity and the genuineness of the Other. Baby boomers are educated, culturally curious and active. They tend to be socially conscious and altruistic. This sets their sights on sub-Saharan Africa that has extraordinary wildlife, pristine landscapes and colorful and exotic traditional rural peoples. When visiting Africa and confronting the disadvantages of its people, they wonder "How can I help them?"
Creating Travel Itineraries That Engage Western Travelers Based on Social Theories
Culture-tourists 5Long bush drives in the sub-Saharan heat can get monotonous, causing travelers to tune out. Drawing on a study from industrial psychology, referred to as the Hawthorne Effect, people doing routine tasks stay more engaged and perform at higher levels when there are changes in their environment. Lev Vygotsky developed an educational theory that environments that are more conducive for learning have greater impact on the the recipients of the learning than the subject content. This can be applied to travel psychology. Constructing itineraries that rotate to diverse activities during long game drives such as cultural visits to local peoples and recreational activities, keeps travelers continuously alert and engaged.
The educational philosopher John Dewey concluded people learn through experience. Applying Dewey’s experiential learning theory to travel psychology, cultural immersion involving hands-on interactive activities during travel generates high impact growth experiences. To accomplish this, when travel guests visit a host culture they join in whatever the host community is doing when they arrive. According to David Zurick, culturally sensitive and well designed but unscripted non-choreographed spontaneous interactions with the local rural peoples enriches the visitors and affirms the host culture "as it is.” This meets the needs of culturally curious visitors such as baby boomers seeking authenticity. This stimulates self-growth, self-awareness, cross-cultural cultural understandings. This also contributes to the local economy by stimulating economic growth.
Designing Quality Cultural Meetings Between Guests and Hosts
For understandings and trust to develop, power relationships need to be equalized to create a conducive environment for Traditional dreeseed older woman guests and hosts to meet. Fear factors need to be reduced to bridge the gap of strangeness between them. Westerners must realize they look as strange to the Other as the Other looks to them. It is up to the Westerner to become "less strange" when entering the space of the Other. This can be done in a variety of non-verbal ways.
To facilitate this, guests are instructed not to show their cameras or take pictures until a relationship has been established. When guests sit on the ground with their hosts and their eyes meet on the same level, it engenders trust. When speaking to hosts using dramatic non-verbals to express themselves using facial expressions, hand gestures, a wide vocal range and body movements, guests can more quickly form personal relationships with their hosts and not rely solely on their interpreter to communicate for them.
Cultural Tourism Can Impact Rural Economies and Cultures
Cultural tourism inserts additional revenue sources into local economies. Visitors pay for the privilege of local hospitality and purchase traditional handmade crafts. This empowers them to purchase food, barter for goods and services, access higher quality health care and education. Culturally sensitive visits have the added value of bringing attention to the plight of indigenous peoples to the outside world by visitors broadcasting their needs through facebook, blog posts and pictures. This exposure puts their needs on the radar screen of human rights watch groups.
Cultural Tourism Can Impact the Regional Economy
There are practical ways Westerners can help meet the long term economic and cultural needs of rural peoples through tourism. The lucrative East African tourism industry is dominated by Western owned tour operators. African tour operator owners are oftentimes former mid-level managers of Western tour companies or senior tour guides with limited exposure to how a business develops from inception to execution. Sharon Gmelch notes, the lack of familiarity with computer technologies and how the internet can help manage and market tourism companies can limit their growth. African tour operators working with Western entrepreneurs providing consultative support can stimulate economic growth that helps both urban and rural sectors. Through creative partnerships, African tour operators can compete on a more even playing field with their Western tour operator competitors.
By Dr Ken Firestone