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The contribution of shark cage diving tourism to coastal economies: a case study of a coastal town in the Western Cape, South Africa
Mabaleka, Nolwazi Milliscent
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Coastal and Marine Tourism (CMT) is a sector which continues to draw visitors from different countries to South Africa. This is attributable to the long coastline and abundance of marine wildlife found in South African waters. Despite the strong interest in visiting South Africa’s marine environment, there is limited information on the economic contribution of CMT in South Africa. Shark cage diving offered in Gansbaai, Western Cape, South Africa draws a large number of visitors globally, thereby providing benefits to visiting tourists and socio-economic benefits to the area. This study focuses on determining the profile of visitors who engage in shark cage diving in Gansbaai and expenditure patterns related to shark cage diving in respect of the Gansbaai economy, as well as the role that shark cage diving plays in tourists’ (domestic and international) decisions to visit South Africa. The study applied a quantitative research approach, with self-administered survey questionnaires (face to face) distributed to visitors after a shark cage diving experience in Gansbaai. A proportionate sampling approach was adopted for the study; this sampling method was suited to this research as it excluded locals from the sampling, thus randomly selecting visitors from outside the Gansbaai region. In total, 378 survey questionnaires were collected, analysed and interpreted. In terms of profiling, the study revealed that the majority of visitors participating in shark cage diving in Gansbaai are international visitors, with a reasonable disposable income, as the activity proved costly. Of these international visitors, the majority were day visitors to Gansbaai, thus restricting spending in the area. With regard to expenditure patterns, the relatively few overnight visits to Gansbaai make it difficult to exploit the maximum socio-economic benefits associated with shark cage diving, as the local economy is heavily dependent on this activity. Furthermore, the study also revealed that shark cage diving in Gansbaai was a factor in international visitors’ decisions to visit South Africa, with the activity not holding as much attraction for South Africans. As the study uncovered an interest in marine-based activities and a growing appeal in nature-based activities, it recommends that the development of a more diverse offering in Gansbaai will contribute to greater economic spend in the area. This has the potential to appeal to the domestic market to participate in shark cage diving. Package tours and discounted prices for domestic visitors could assist in highlighting other attractions in the Gansbaai region and increase domestic participation in such activities. These package tours will in return encourage economic activity in the area which will result in greater expenditure by visitors. Further studies on this activity are underscored as a lack of understanding may have serious implications for tourists, tourism in the area, tourism destination planners, tour operators, and tourism establishments in Gansbaai.