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Not only is the Qwaqwa Campus situated in a beautiful region – its researchers also contribute to keeping the area pristine. Recent research by Prof Geofrey Mukwada and his PhD student, Dr Sarudzai Mutana, focused on indicators monitoring sustainable tourism development in the Drakensberg region.

Dr Mukwada is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography on the University of the Free State (UFS) Qwaqwa Campus.

Many people enjoy spending time in the mountainous Drakensberg region – either as adventure seekers exploring the many trails, or just relaxing and reconnecting with nature. Prof Mukwada’s involvement with the UFS Afromontane Research Unit (ARU) sparked an interest in sustainable tourism in the area. “Mountains are fragile but attractive environments which continue to attract tourists,” he said. “Tourism is one of the major business sectors in the Drakensberg region, with promising growth opportunities and proving to be an anchor of green economy in the future – if practiced correctly.” Unfortunately, the issue of monitoring sustainable tourism has not been widely researched in African mountains.

“We specifically looked at the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC), which is an international best-practice framework to help destinations monitor and ensure that tourism is developed in a responsible manner,” Prof Mukwada explained. “South Africa’s Manual for Responsible Tourism was designed according to some of the recommendations of the GSTC. But we found that, while the tourism and hospitality operators in the Drakensberg region appreciates the need to monitor and ensure sustainable tourism in the area, there is limited use of indicators as a tool for monitoring.”

 There are competing demands between land-use and development practices and alternatives in the region – unless the focus shifts to sustainable practices, the short-term gains could be followed by dire consequences. “We suggest an integrated monitoring of tourism development, with a pro-poor focus that involves more local community leaders. Going forward, we would like to see the industry adopt the indicators proposed in our study.”

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