The Empowerment Paradox: Hope and Helplessness in a Tanzanian Community-Based Cultural Tourism Initiative

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Community-based tourism (CBT) has been conceived by its supporters as a pro-poor community development and empowerment strategy. One such initiative is the Longido Cultural Tourism Enterprise, which was established by a Dutch NGO to promote socio-economic development in a Maasai community in northern Tanzania. The enterprise has created opportunities for local participants to build economic and social capital, especially women who do not have many options to earn or control income outside of tourism. However, the promises of tourism are limited by the "tourism gatekeepers" who control access to tourists and the opportunities that they represent. This research explores the paradox of empowerment by investigating the ways that tourism engagement encourages both independence and dependence in Longido, and how conflicting ideas concerning definitions of CBT and its goals affect the residents whose livelihoods have come to depend on tourism. Ethnographic research was conducted in Longido over a period of nine months, and involved participant observation, semi-structured interviews with key informants and Longido residents, a tourist questionnaire, and comparative site visits to other cultural tourism enterprises in Tanzania. This research found that the potential that the Longido enterprise has for transforming relationships of power, particularly between women and men, is limited by the very nature of the community-based tourism (CBT) model employed to achieve this goal. CBT enterprises such as the one in Longido cannot achieve transformative change that leads to the self-determination of its participants when the tourism industry necessitates continued dependence on foreign markets and intermediaries and local people lack market access and knowledge. Attempting to accomplish both development and business goals when they are in direct conflict with one another has led to a failure to fully achieve either. This dissertation concludes that if the Longido enterprise has transformative development as its goal, the CBT model might be the wrong tool. Most significantly, the approach taken in developing and conducting tourism in Longido must consider the diverse priorities and motivations of participants, as well as the touristic relationships of power which limit the agency of local participants in achieving the realization of their own goals in tourism engagement.