Religious Tourism: A Tourism Prototype for Rural Community Development; the Case of Lalibela Area, Ethiopia
AbstractAbstract The main objective of this paper was identifying participatory religious tourism as an alternative tourism model for community advancement, heritage conservation, poverty alleviation, and overall sustainable development in rural areas. Consequently, the paper attempted to assess the awareness, participation level, and benefit-sharing trends of the local community and its impacts on religious tourism development by using primary data collected from 130 residents of Lalibela, Ethiopia, and other stakeholders. By its very nature, tourism development demands the full participation of the local community. However, the data collected from residents, key informants, experts, and the researcher’s observation revealed that the local community has limited awareness about religious tourism and tourism at large. Consequently, there is inadequate participation, and poor benefit-sharing from its development. In contrast, though the local community is the main guardians of the heritage, their limited awareness and benefit-sharing influenced their interest. Connected to this, the insufficient participation of the local community in religious tourism activities was generated and aggravated by limited awareness, lack of initial capital, and the absence of government support.
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