Development of a tourism management framework for Mapungubwe National Park
Hermann, Uwe Peter
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MNP is one of the smallest and youngest national parks in the portfolio of South African National Parks (SANParks). The park is also a World Heritage Site because it contains the remnants of the ancient Kingdom of Mapungubwe, which was one of the first sophisticated southern African societies. The park currently faces challenges associated with mining in the area, the development of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area, the presence of private and agricultural lands that split the park into two parts as well as management issues. The management of national parks in South Africa is guided by a number of principles, one of which is strategic adaptive management, which is used by South African National Parks (SANParks) as the foundation of all the organisation’s management plans. In addition, guidelines and legislation set by various international organisations and national government departments provide structures according to which protected areas, World Heritage Sites and national parks should function. Sustainable tourism is the desired state for tourism. This means that tourism services should be managed towards achieving sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism is considered a form of tourism that is strategic and that promotes the long-term integrity of natural and cultural resources, so that these resources are maintained as durable, permanent landscapes for future generations. Sustainable tourism strives to achieve economic viability without compromising the integrity of socio-cultural and natural environments. Therefore, sustainable tourism rests on three main pillars, namely socio-cultural integrity, economic integrity and environmental integrity. The primary objective of this study was to develop a tourism management framework for the Mapungubwe National Park (MNP). It is a young national park that faces a unique set of management challenges. Currently the tourism management plan of the park is contained within the overall management plan of the park and it does not address the major management challenges of the park. For this reason it is imperative to develop a management framework in this regard that takes into account the management challenges that face the park in order to ensure that sustainable tourism is achieved. The research approach used in this study included both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. An explorative research approach was followed through a self-administered online questionnaire with the aim of determining the perceptions of visitors about the importance of various management and sustainable tourism tasks and how effectively they perceived those tasks to be executed at MNP. Fifty-four constructs pertaining to aspects of park management and sustainable tourism were measured on a five-point Likert scale. These constructs were determined through a literature review. The sources consulted included the following: Saayman (2009), Swarbrooke (2002), George (2007), Mancini (2013), SANParks (2010), Keyser, (2002:351), Coetzee (2004:184), Himbira, Saarinen, Atlhopheng and Manwa (2010:278), Borges, Carbone, Bushell, and Jäger (2011:8), Sebele (2010:146), Vanhove, (2011:223), Logar (2010:130) and Pedersen (2002:34). The questionnaire was distributed electronically to a database of visitors who had stayed at MNP over a period of 12 months. The researcher also distributed questionnaires manually at the park. Data collection took place during March and April 2013. A total of 486 responses were received during the period of data collection. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the management of MNP and with surrounding land owners in the data-collection period. The results of the empirical quantitative data were processed at the Statistical Consultation Services at the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University. The data was analysed using version 21 of SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) software. The statistical methods utilised included descriptive statistics through frequencies and means, exploratory factor analysis and t-tests. The interviews conducted were transcribed using F4 software and analysed by means of the ATLAS.ti software package. Data analysis included the use of data coding in order to identify underlying themes in the data. The results of the descriptive data indicated that the following five management constructs were seen as most important from a visitor perspective: the cleanliness of ablution facilities, the cleanliness of accommodation facilities, the reintroduction of indigenous game species, the control of domestic animals in the park, and the professionalism of reception staff. In terms of the management effectiveness, the following five constructs were rated the highest: the cleanliness of ablution facilities, the performance of housekeeping staff, hours of operation of park reception, the value for money of accommodation at MNP, and the professional operation of tours to Mapungubwe Hill. The exploratory factor analysis identified 11 factors related to management and sustainable tourism, namely (1) information and accessibility, (2) accommodation and ablution facilities, (3) food and beverages, (4) leisure facilities, (5) professionalism of tours, (6) conservation, (7) concessions, (8) human resources, (9) regulations and marketing, (10) socio-economic impacts and (11) environmental impacts. These factors were compared through a t-test and gaps in management effectiveness were identified in all factors with the exception of concessions. Qualitative data analysis of the interviews with local land owners revealed a number of themes that highlighted the concerns experienced by these stakeholders. These themes were local land owner issues, mining issues, management issues, transfrontier conservation area issues and world heritage issues. The main themes arising from interviews with management included local land owner issues, mining issues, MNP management issues, transfrontier conservation area issues, tourism issues and world heritage issues. This research made the following contributions to the field of sustainable tourism management in protected areas: * This study contributed a critical assessment of literature based on park and protected area management frameworks. These frameworks were presented in chronological order and provide a theoretical basis for the future development of management frameworks for parks and protected areas. * This study proved that tourism management frameworks should be park specific and not generic in nature as all national parks have their own unique set of environmental conditions. * This study developed the first integrated framework for the management of tourism services at MNP. * This study has proved that SANParks has to manage all three spheres of management, namely conservation, ecotourism and constituency building, effectively in order to bring about the effective management of national parks in South Africa. In the case of MNP, management does not engage successfully with visitors (tourists) and the local community (local land owners), which has led to a mutual aversion and to misunderstandings between the parties. This highlights the necessity of involving all stakeholders in park management in order to stimulate greater cooperation and mutual understanding between all parties. * This study is the first to analyse the management effectiveness of tourism service provision at MNP and in the northern region of SANParks. This fulfils a gap, which may lead to future linear studies at other national parks in the region. * The results of this research will provide much needed input towards the overall strategic management of tourism services at MNP and SANParks by identifying ten gaps in management effectiveness. * This study is the first study to analyse the perceptions of the management of tourism in a World Heritage Site inside a national park in South Africa. * The findings of this study have been presented at various forums, including The Greater Mapungubwe Network (Musina, 26 July 2013) and the Southern Africa Institute for Management Scientists Conference (Potchefstroom, 15-17 September 2013). * Finally, this study contributed to the database of research concerning national parks, heritage management and protected area management in terms of tourism management.