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Assess the socio-economic impacts of tourism in East Africa (15)

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Introduction

Assess the socio-economic impacts of tourism in East Africa (15) Kenya attracts about 780,000 tourists per annum because of its prolific wildlife, white sandy beaches and hot climate. Tourism in Kenya is worth an estimated $500 million a year, Kenya's principal tourist resources are the wildlife rich savannah grasslands and its beautiful beaches and coral reefs. Tourism really started to grow in the 1980s with the development of mass transit such as the Boeing 707. Tourists also flock to sample a culture which is perceived as completely different from Western culture, however the socio-economic gains of tourism are not without their cost. By the late 1980s tourism was Kenya's main earner, worth 43% of its income in 1990. There are two sides to the coin regarding tourism, its detractors describe it as a form of economic colonialism, while its promoters claim that it raises the standard of living for people and puts money back into the communities. In Kenya its main primary resources are its huge number of national parks (there are more than 50) which are intended both to promote tourism and to manage and maintain the existing environment. The parks help to protect the animals and fragile ecosystems from being totally over run by tourists and poachers, today no one is allowed to kill any of the animals in the park, however the welfare of the animals is still be affected indirectly by tourism.

Middle

A large percentage of the income generated by tourism will also be taken out of the country as international companies make most of the money on tours, e.g. tour operators, travel agents, air companies etc. This means that often the people at the bottom of society do not see any benefits for a long time, it is only relatively recently in Kenya that the government has started to put money back into the very communities that generated it in the first place. Tourism needs to be carefully managed by governments otherwise they risk destroying their valuable resources that cannot be replaced. Tourism in Kenya is also popular in the beach resorts of Mombassa and other smaller towns or cities along the Indian Ocean coast. Large numbers of western tourists have resulted in a huge growth in the numbers of hotels and resorts, benefiting the local economy more immediately and obviously than in rural areas. The local people find work in the new industries associated with tourism and the wealth of an area will increase. These jobs though are often only seasonal and often badly paid and exploitative. Local traditional shops may close or be affected by some tourists demands for western foods and goods, such as traditional restaurants starting to serve pizza instead of local food. Many tourists do not want to see or experience the real Kenya, but instead merely want a hot climate, nice beach and things to be like they are at home.

Conclusion

This is yet another example of tourist and government helping to destroy the areas natural resources. Fear of crime and a sleazy image will help to dissuade tourists from visiting Kenya and as such a large amount of economy is dependent upon tourism, will cause widespread economic problems, and probably social ones as well as unemployment rises. The large number of tourists at coastal resorts is also causing permanent damage to the coral reefs that surround the shores, with large numbers of tourists walking upon, and destroying the coral. At one place there may be up to 20 boats a day, all dropping their anchors on the choral and all the tourists showing scant regard for the delicate ecosystems below their feet. If this carries on then eventually there will be no coral left. Tourism is a double edged sword to developing countries, it can provide enormous economic benefits to the government, however these are rarely distributed to the people at the bottom which the tourist industry is usually based on exploiting in some shape or form, eg the Maasai in Kenya. Careful management is needed of natural resources and more care must be taken to preserve local traditions and cultures, without reducing them to the status of purely tourist exhibits. It is easy to say the "traditional" societies are being destroyed, however the local people may often prefer to have the material gains associated with the western lifestyle.

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