An evaluation framework for rural tourism projects : a respondent perspective
This study formulates a proposed framework for the evaluation of rural tourism projects. Specifically it attempts to establish the role of the public sector in the governance and management of rural tourism; to develop an index of criteria against which rural tourism projects can be evaluated; to suggest how such evaluation could be implemented; and to establish with whom the responsibility for the management of the evaluation process should rest. A Delphi Survey comprising 60 panellists from Britain and South Africa, a focus group held in South Africa and eighteen semi-structured interviews conducted in South Africa and Britain were utilised in developing the evaluation framework. A panel of experts, drawn from the academic, public, consultant and operational sectors, have consensually developed an index comprising criteria pertaining both to the macro-impact of rural tourism projects on the host environment and to micro issues impacting the commercial success of individual tourism projects. Respondents indicate that the public sector has a pivotal role in guiding and supporting the creation of an environment conducive to the development of the rural tourism sector. This role is envisaged as most compelling at local government level. Although the onus for the evaluation of rural tourism projects is perceived to rest with local authorities, lack of capacity at this level was identified as a major constraint. There is evidence that rural tourism operators generally lack business and operational capacity and that training is a vital element in ensuring the commercial success of the sector. In recognising the value of the concept of utilisation-focused evaluation as a tool for building capacity and generating information for utilisation by project operators and local authorities alike, the study suggests its adoption at the individual project level as an integral element of the rural tourism development process.