Tourism development in Gabon

Pioneers operating under adverse conditions

Authored by: Isabelle Cloquet

Routledge Handbook of Tourism in Africa

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138496088
eBook ISBN: 9781351022545
Adobe ISBN:


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With its untamed tourist-magnetic wildlife and sumptuous white sand beaches on the edge of the rainforest, Gabon was advertised as one of the most promising upmarket ecotourism destinations in Africa in the early 2000s. Yet, inbound tourism has been facing a slowdown since 2007, and the country is still not on the tourist map. Research has shown that barriers to tourism development in Gabon are structural; they are deeply rooted in economic, institutional, and infrastructural effects of the country’s long-established rent economy. These structural elements have considerably governed the way natural, cultural, and human resources have so far been valorized in the country in terms of content, time, and space. Marked by high selectivity and rigidity, these elements explain the limited number of those with the motivation and capability of setting up and maintaining tourism businesses, causing the inertia in the Gabonese tourism industry. Nevertheless, despite these important structural issues, a series of tourism initiatives still emerged in the country and are the focus of this chapter. Using a structure-agency approach, the chapter provides insight into the capacity of these initiatives to stimulate destination growth and development. More specifically, the chapter identifies and characterizes the different types of undertakings which have been able to emerge. It then examines the extent to which the providers leading these pioneering initiatives have been able to operate within the realm of the structural constraints and to act upon them in order to improve their business environment.

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