Tourism and poverty in rural South Africa: A revisit




pro-poor debate, community wealth/poverty, power laws, enterprise dynamics, enterprise dependency index


Debates about the value of pro-poor tourism indicated a need to revisit the links between the dynamics of tourism and hospitality enterprises and community poverty in rural South African towns. The numbers of tourism and hospitality enterprises in these towns are related to population numbers by a power law with a sub-linear exponent. The residents of smaller South African towns are more dependent on the tourism and hospitality sector than are the residents of larger towns. Measurement of the enterprise dependency indices (EDIs) of these towns provides a valid measurement of their wealth/poverty states. Their EDIs are directly and negatively associated with the strength of their tourism and hospitality sectors. Communities in towns with more tourist and hospitality enterprises are overall wealthier, and vice versa. This finding contrasts with a previous view about tourism and poverty reduction in South Africa. Debates about the benefits of pro-poor tourism should include information about the impact of tourism on community wealth/poverty. The EDI is a simple, yet powerful, measure to provide poverty information. Expressing the number of tourism and hospitality enterprises per 1000 residents of towns enables comparisons of towns of different population sizes. Based on ideas of the ‘new geography of jobs’, it is clear that tourism is part of what is called the traded sector and results in inflows of external money into local economies. Tourism is a driver of prosperity and a reducer of poverty in South African towns.



  • The application of different quantitative techniques demonstrates enterprise orderliness in the tourism and hospitality sector of towns in semi-arid South Africa.
  • Smaller towns are particularly dependent on the tourism sector. Analyses indicate that tourism strength decreases overall community poverty.
  • Leadership provided by individuals and location of towns can contribute to tourism success and poverty reduction.
  • Community wealth/poverty should form part of the pro-poor tourism debate.


Metrics Loading ...



How to Cite

Toerien, D. (2020). Tourism and poverty in rural South Africa: A revisit. South African Journal of Science, 116(1/2).



Research Article