Participation as motif in community-based tourism: A practice perspective

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Community-based tourism (CBT) is a diversely interpreted term, which has presented understanding and practice contests. These contests highlight the centrality (or not) of participation in CBT, and even its developmental failure. We attempt to move the conversation away from whether and how much participation exists to focus on emic interpretations of how CBT is experienced. As such, our focus is on how and why communities participate in CBTs, as informed by practice theory. We examine how participation might be understood and explained across three cases from Kenya, namely Il Ngwesi, Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary and Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. The data were obtained through in-depth interviews, participant observation and documented sources. The findings highlighted that CBT was a response to contextual challenges, led by the community elders. Community participation was often through representation, which is interpreted in relation to local practices. Case narratives and thematic analysis demonstrated that community participation appeared across the cases as a recurrent practice, or motif, its different forms influenced by local sociocultural, economic and sometimes political tensions in each case environment. Understanding how community participation takes place in different settings informs possibilities for realizing and enhancing tourism-led community development strategies, freeing participation from apparent Western standards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-432
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Community development
  • Kenya
  • practice theory
  • tourism-led development
  • traditional governance
  • trust relationships

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