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Local Economic Development


University of Venda


The main objective of this study was to determine how event tourism can be used to promote local economic development in South Africa by drawing lessons from case studies on events taking place in the Limpopo Province. Tourism sector development is regarded as a key ingredient for local economic development (LED) by both the National Development Plan (NDP) and the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS). Event tourism is concerned with the roles that festivals and special events can play in destination development and the maximisation of an event’s attractiveness to tourists. Destinations hosting events of cultural significance such as religious gatherings have the potential to adopt event tourism as a development strategy. As events grow in scope and scale they tend to attract more attention in terms of tourism, the media, infrastructure development and economic investment which in turn contribute to employment and income generation at national, provincial and municipal levels. Over the past three years, the University of Venda (Univen) research team has studied two types of events: a sporting event and two religious events. Based on the experience of studying these events, the National Department of Tourism (NDT) tasked the Univen team to identify key success factors in hosting of events, and make recommendations on how events can be used as a broader strategy for municipalities to develop local economies. The study was designed to capture Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in event organisation and management, within the framework of sustainable local economic development proposed by Forum for the Future (1998). In line with this study design, a compilation of nearly all private and public events taking place in the five districts of the Limpopo Province was undertaken to develop a database. Data used for the analysis in this study therefore included data on the events (religious and sporting) that have already been researched by the Univen team, as well as data collected on selected private and public events from the developed database which included; the annual Kremetart Cycling race in Louis Trichardt (private), the annual Makhado municipality Agricultural show (public), the annual Waterberg District tourism summit, career expos and tourism road show (public),and the annual Tzaneen municipality Agricultural Expo (public). Interviews were held with organisers of these events as well as with local municipal officers, who are responsible in providing support structures or take advantage of the private events so that the local jurisdiction could benefit. The findings of the study begins with a summary of the local economic development lessons identified in the three previous studies that were done by Univen. We then follow this up by presenting a combination of results from different interviews held with event organisers and/or municipal officials responsible for events. Five propositions emanating from the findings were developed and together were used by the authors to devise and propose a strategy for using events for local economic development. The major lessons drawn for other municipalities are that:

  1. there are advantages of planning very well for events;
  2. events should be advertised and promoted;
  3. events should be evaluated to provide information on how to improve participants’ experiences;
  4. a deliberate attempt to integrate events to Local Economic Development should be made;
  5. events, in addition to natural landmarks, must be recognized as a tourist attraction source; and
  6. the stakeholder participation is important.