Tourism, Development, and Poverty Reduction: A Case Study from Nkhata Bay, Malawi
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Development agencies and policymakers are increasingly advocating tourism as a viable and legitimate poverty reduction strategy in least-developed countries (LDCs). However, the rhetoric surrounding tourism development mechanisms in the context of LDCs far outweighs the empirical evidence. Much of the tourism literature has examined impacts of tourism in LDCs, but little research has examined development processes and their impacts on poverty, comprehensively defined. This study examines the development processes by which tourism affects poverty, analyses the effects of tourism employment on poverty conditions, and explores ways that tourism can contribute to poverty reduction. These objectives are addressed using a multi-methods research approach and case study situated in Nkhata Bay, Malawi. The research findings demonstrated that tourism development mechanisms of employment, local sourcing, and philanthropy were most prevalent in Nkhata Bay, while mechanisms such as direct sales, the establishment of small enterprises, taxes, and infrastructure were less apparent. Further analysis revealed that while tourism employment had positive effects on monetary and employment conditions of tourism employees, these effects did not reflect improvements in other facets of poverty. The main conclusions of the study are that tourism is not an indelible force for poverty alleviation, as it can have alleviating, perpetuating, and exacerbating effects on poverty. However, while tourism offers limited poverty reduction potential as a national economic development strategy, tourism facilitates alternative sources of development finance, such as philanthropy, which can support alternative development processes on a local level, and may be more effective in harnessing the potential of tourism to deliver poverty reduction objectives.