The Contribution of Geotourism to Social Sustainability

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The concept of sustainable development has been widely adopted as a mechanism for job creation and poverty alleviation. Whilst the economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development have received much attention, especially the former, the social sustainability pillar has been largely neglected. For this article, the theory of social sustainability is complemented by stakeholder theory since it helps to identify and understand the perceptions of stakeholders toward achieving sustainable development goals. To understand the importance of social sustainability and stakeholder theory, this article uses empirical investigation reports in a case study concerning the contribution of geotourism towards social sustainability, especially for local communities abutting the northern part of the Kruger National Park (KNP) in South Africa. Geotourism offers key opportunities for social sustainability and solves the challenges of high unemployment and poverty while strengthening the linkage between environmental protection and economic growth. Qualitative data was collected from January to April 2019 from sixteen key participants from seven different stakeholder groups. The theoretical supplement of this article is that geotourism can support social sustainability, especially that of local communities and effective stakeholder engagement. Fundamentally, this article shows that previous social sustainability literature lacks focus and has been limited to integrating local culture into social sustainability frameworks. As such, this case study suggests that stakeholder theory and geotourism can be used as tools to reintegrate local culture as well as understanding and fostering social sustainability. This article reinforces the theory of social sustainability, stakeholder theory and geotourism by revealing that the local communities and other stakeholders could potentially gain socio-economic benefits (income/employment, community well-being, cultural and shareholding benefits, tour operating, tour guiding, economic growth, supply of goods and services, accommodation and retail businesses), educational benefits (upskilling of tour guides, training of local communities and creating awareness among different stakeholders) and environmental benefits emanating from geotourism development at the KNP. The article has thus highlighted the potential of geotourism to contribute to social sustainability at the KNP and other areas since the findings show that collaborative stakeholder participation in geotourism development can reduce the unemployment rate and alleviate poverty.