An analysis of the potential development implications of cultural tourism in North West Cameroon Volume 5, Numéro 1

Analyse du potentiel et du développement du tourisme culturel dans le nord-ouest du Cameroun

Jude Ndzifon KIMENGSI, Ambe Ernestine LUM

Abstract: Tourism (especially cultural tourism) has become one of the world’s leading industries with the steady rise in international travel. As a tourist destination, Cameroon has numerous cultural touristic attractions – this perhaps explains why the country was officially recognized as a tourist destination in 2010. Bafut in the North West Region represents a cultural touristic haven par excellence. Although efforts were made to examine the potentials and challenges of tourism development in the region, an important aspect which seemed to have eluded geographical literature in the context of this area centers on the link between cultural tourism and development. In this study, we attempt a spatial analysis of cultural touristic potentials of Bafut, and using a stratified random sampling of 100 respondents, we assess the development implications of cultural tourism in the Bafut area. Based on the multiple linear regression analysis employed, the following conclusions were empirically drawn: (i) a statistically significant relationship exists between participation in museums and income generation in Bafut; (ii) there is a statistically significant relationship between arts/craft visits and employment generation; (iii) participation in cultural festivals is not a key determinant of infrastructural development in Bafut. Considering the integral nature of cultural tourism in the area, it is imperative for local authorities to maintain cultural touristic assets, publicize them to attract more tourists, and set limits for the exploitation of cultural touristic assets while guarding against the destruction of socio-cultural values which represent key touristic assets.  

Keywords: Cultural tourism, heritage sites, development, Bafut, infrastructure  


Résumé: Le tourisme (spécialement le tourisme culturel) est devenu l’une des industries les plus florissantes dans le monde; ce qui se traduit par un accroissement constant des voyages internationaux. Le Cameroun dispose de plusieurs attractions culturelles; c’est la raison pour laquelle le pays a été officiellement reconnu comme destination touristique en 2010. Bafut, dans la Région du Nord-Ouest, est un paradis touristique. Quoique des efforts aient été déployés pour examiner le potentiel et les défis que pose le développement touristique de cette région, un aspect important semble avoir été négligé dans la littérature : le lien entre le tourisme culturel et le développement. Dans cette étude, nous avons essayé de présenter une analyse spatiale du potentiel du tourisme culturel de Bafut et nous avons évalué l’impact du développement de ce secteur dans la région, en utilisant un échantillon aléatoire stratifié de 100 répondants. À partir des analyses de régression linéaires multiples, nous sommes arrivés empiriquement aux conclusions suivantes : (i) il existe un lien statistiquement significatif entre la fréquentation des musées et la génération des revenus à Bafut; (ii) il existe un lien statistiquement significatif entre les visites des objets d’art/sculpture et la création d’emplois; (iii) l’affluence aux festivals culturels n’est pas un facteur déterminant dans le développement des infrastructures à Bafut. Étant donné la nature intégrative du tourisme culturel dans la région, les autorités locales doivent impérativement assurer l’entretien des atouts touristiques, les publiciser pour attirer plus de touristes. Elles doivent également fixer des limites à l’exploitation de ces atouts afin de les préserver contre la destruction des valeurs socioculturelles qui forment l’essentiel de leur attractivité.  

Mots clés: Tourisme culturel, sites patrimoniaux, développement, Bafut, infrastructure  



Study area and research methodology
Socio-demographic characteristics of respondents
Cultural Touristic Attractions in Bafut
Participation in Museums
Arts and craft visits
Participation in Cultural Festivals
Conclusion and recommendations


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Unarguably, tourism is considered as a leading industry the world over. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, 1990, cited in Gheorghe, 2010), tourism denotes the act of travelling to and staying in a place outside one’s usual environment for at least one day and not more than one consecutive year, for leisure, business or other purposes. Cultural tourism is the subset of tourismtourism concerned with a country or region’s culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that helped shape their way of life (Rotich, 2012). Culture is considered as ‘ways of life’ (beliefs, values, social practices, rituals and traditions), including tangible (buildings, monuments, objects) and intangible (language, performances and festivals, craftsmanship) expressions and manifestations of society’s values and beliefs (Robinson and Picard, 2006). Cultural tourism is conceptualized as the movement of people away from their normal places to cultural attractions with the intention to gather new information and experiences to satisfy their cultural needs (Richards, 1997; Atlas, 2009). The World Tourism Organization view cultural tourism to include ‘movements of persons for essentially cultural motivations such as study tours, performing arts and other cultural tours, travel to festivals and other cultural events, visit to sites and monuments, travel to study nature, folklore or art or pilgrimages’ (World Tourism Organization, 2010).

Although cultural tourism is rooted in the ancient times, it was recognized as a product category only around the mid-1980s (McKercher & Hilary, 2002). Its rapid growth since 1980 is a direct result of the rising interest in art, culture and history, which can be explained by demographic, social and cultural changes. The rising interest in cultural tourism is further elucidated by the designation of World Heritage sites which attracts millions of tourists yearly. As of July 2016, 1052 World Heritage Sites are located in 165 states which include 814 cultural, 203 natural, and 35 mixed properties. According to the sites ranked by country, Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites with 51 sites, followed by China (50), Spain (45), France (42), Germany (41), India (35) and Mexico (34) (UNESCO, 2016). The World Heritage Committee has divided the world into five geographic zones which is called regions: Africa, Arab states, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America and Latin America and the Caribbean (Table 1).


Source: UNESCO World Heritage list statistics 2016
Table 1 Number of World Heritage properties by region

Today, various forms of cultural tourism exist in the different latitudes of the world. Leading are mainly the countries with preserved cultural-historical heritage, where local cultural systems (LoCUuS) are identified. The world Tourism Organization in 1993, for example, asserted that tourism, including cultural tourism, accounted for 37% of global tourism (Richards, 2001; 2011). In Paris, London and Rome, cultural tourism is attracting annually up to 15 million tourists, and the largest city in Turkey, Istanbul, is visited by 8 million tourists. Separate anthropogenic sites such as Taj Mahal in India, the Acropolis in Athens or the ancient Troy are a guide for approximately 5 million tourists annually. The UNWTO forecasted that international arrivals in major tourist destinations across the globe are expected to reach over 1.56 billion by the year 2020, which were 842 million in 2006 (UNWTO cited in Ebru et al., 2008). Tourism offers more sustainable means of development as it is able to generate both income and employment relatively cost effectively by drawing upon the resources of nature and culture (Robinson and Picard, 2006).

Cameroon is blessed with different cultural and historical events, some of which are celebrated annually. Diverse cultural activities found in more than 250 ethnic groups (Yenshu, 2011). This cultural diversity is manifested by a rich and diverse folklore, arts, handicrafts and way of life. Over the past years, cultural tourism has become a source of attraction, as the country has witnessed an increase in national and community activities. This led to her designation as a tourist destination in 2010 (Awa, 2010). The North West Region of Cameroon is endowed with lots of cultural touristic potentials which attract both national and international tourists. Bafut Sub-Division has rich cultural touristic potentials (natural and man-made). The extent to which these attractions contribute to development through income, employment and infrastructure is the focus of this study.

In 2010, Cameroon was designated as a tourist destination thanks to the fact that it crossed the 500,000 tourists mark. The crucial role of tourism in the country’s development is further captured in Cameroon’s development vision where tourism is expected to contribute about 13% of the country’s revenue by 2035 (Cameroon Vision 2035). For such targets to be met, touristic potentials in all forms need to be developed. This includes the promotion of cultural tourism. Cultural tourism has gained recognition fairly recently because of the need to promote the preservation of cultural heritage while sustaining development. It is therefore a subset of sustainable tourism. Although the concept has gained importance, there is still limited information regarding its contribution to development in the context of the Northwest Region in general and Bafut in particular. Previous research efforts have largely focused on an examination of touristic potentials in the Northwest region (Ndenecho, 2005; Ambe, 2009). Furthermore researchers have equally identified the challenges of tourism development (Jamieson, 2009; Kimengsi, 2014). Most of these studies did not lay emphasis on the link between cultural tourism and development, especially within the context of Bafut which hosts a UNESCO world heritage site. In this study, we employ the multiple linear regression analyses to assess the development implications of cultural tourism in the area. Bafut is blessed with rich cultural touristic attractions such as traditional arts and crafts, historical buildings (the Bafut Fon’s palace), museums found in Savanna Botanic Garden and Niba Albert Foundation, festivals like the Bafut annual dance, the Mandele dance. Sacred institutions such as ritual ceremonies like ceremonies of Fon, chiefs and notables, traditional worships and masquerade displays. These attractions can contribute to development through income generation, employment and infrastructural development, particularly in the Cameroon context where tourism represents a significant potential for development.


Bafut Sub-division is one of the Sub-divisions at the outskirts of Bamenda town in Mezam Division of the North West Region of Cameroon. It lays between longitude 10000 and 11011 east of the Greenwich Meridian and latitude 60051 and 60101 north of the Equator. It is found at a distance of 12 km from Bamenda town to the Bamenda-Wum stretch of the ring road. Found at the foot of the Bambili-Njinikom plateau, it is bounded in the west and south west by Momo division, in the north and North West by Menchum division and in the north east by Boyo division. The Sub-division is bounded in the east by Tubah Sub-division, and in the south east by the Bamenda Central sub-division in Mezam Division (Figure 1). Bafut occupies an estimated surface area of about 492.3 km2 (Bafut council development plan, 2011) with a population of 57,930 inhabitants (29,178 males and 28,752 females) (BUCREP, 2005).


Source: Adapted from Geo-data base of Cameroon, 2016 NIS Yaoundé
Figure 1: The location and layout of Bafut Sub-Division.

In this study, seven villages which were judged to exhibit cultural touristic attractions were purposively identified. They include Agyati, Bujong, Manji, Njinteh, Nsem, Bawum and Nsoh. These villages have an estimated total population of 30,745 inhabitants (Bafut Council Development Plan, 2011). From this population, a target population of 1537 was extracted. This was considered to represent the estimated proportion of the population that is involved in cultural tourism activities. This was preceded by a sample of 100 residents representing 15.37% of the target population. Following Gay and Diehl (1992), at least 10% of the target population is an acceptable representation in descriptive studies. The instrument for data collection employed in this study is a semi-structured questionnaire which captured socio-demographic information of respondents (section A), identification and awareness of cultural touristic assets in the study area (Section B), contribution of cultural tourism participation to income, employment and infrastructural development in Bafut (Section C), and the challenges of cultural tourism (Section D). These villages were organized into different segments (strata) corresponding to their dominant cultural touristic attractions as follows: museum promoters, arts and craft producers, and those significantly involved in cultural festivals. Using the semi-structured questionnaire, a random sample of 100 inhabitants drawn from the three strata was conducted. The questionnaires were administered on the spot, with the aid of field assistants, and all were successfully retrieved giving a return rate of 100%. The survey data were coded and treatment for analysis. Analysis was done in two phases. Phase one involved the descriptive analysis of results while Phase two centered on inferential analysis using the regression analysis (multiple linear regressions). The multiple linear regressions were used to predict the relationship between the dependent and the independent variable. It is also good for survey research where values on one scale are used to predict those on another. This follows a general regression equation:

Y= a + b1x1+ b2x2 +……………..+ bnxn + e

For the sake of this study, the equation was reduced to

Y= a + b1x1+ b2x2+ b3x3 + e

Where Y= Dependent variable (DV) and x’s are independent variables.

X1= IV1 (participation in museums)

X2 = IV2 (arts and craft visits)

X3 = IV3 (participation in cultural festivals)

b1b2 and b3 are slopes of straight line which represents the regression coefficient that predicts the relationship between the DV and each of the IV’s.

a represents the intercept and e represents the error (variance in Y unexplained by other terms).


Socio-demographic characteristics of respondents

The age and sex distribution of the respondents is presented in Table 2 below. From the table, a great proportion of respondents fall within the age range of 35 to 50 (48%), followed by the 20 to 35 age bracket (27%). The least represented falls within the range above 65 (5%). 84% of the respondents are males as opposed to 16% females.


Source: Field Work, (2017)
Table 2 Age and sex distribution of respondents

On the basis of level of education, most of the respondents fall within the category of First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) holders (55%), with just 10% having graduated with Bachelor’s degree or higher (Table 3).


Source: Field Work, (2017)
Table 3 Educational level of respondents

Cultural Touristic Attractions in Bafut

The distribution of cultural touristic attraction shows that the highest touristic attraction in the study area is arts and craft especially for Agyati, Bawum and Nsoh. This is followed by the presence of museums while festivals occupy the least position, understandably due to their periodic nature (Figure 2).


Source: Field Work, (2017)
Figure 2: Distribution of cultural assets according to quarters

Bafut is blessed with rich cultural touristic attractions such as museums, arts and crafts, festivals, the Bafut/Bawum palace, historical attractions and buildings, and cultural displays which are spatially distributed (Figure 3).


Source: Adapted from Field Work, 2017
Figure 3: Spatial distribution of Cultural touristic attractions in Bafut

Participation in Museums

The area is endowed with museums; prominent among them are the Bafut palace and the Savanna Botanic garden museums. The Bafut palace museum is compartmentalized and includes peculiar sections such as the queen’s mother room, the German Bafut war room, slave trade room, royal animals, ancient musicians and traditional dance instruments (Figure 4).


Photo: Ambe, May 2017
Figure 4: The Bafut Palace Museum

The palace museum presently hosts a wealth of varied antiquities and artistic patrimonies. The museum which is a major source of touristic attraction is also in a plural perspective, with a combination of the historical, ethnographic, stylistic, and anthropological, aesthetics analysis and a collection of objects linked to the rites of the prestige nature of the Bafut inhabitants (Table 4).


The Bafut palace museum has over the years generated a lot of income since its creation from international and internal visitors. Between 2012 and 2016 for instance, a total of 33,352,000 Francs CFA were earned (Table 5).


*value as at May 2016
Source: Visitor’s book Bafut Palace museum (2017).

In The Savanna Botanic Garden (SABOGA) museum was created in 1994 for education, environmental awareness and entertainment. It is a four hectare garden which is made up of one large room where the locally made articles are displayed. They include; lions, elephants, antelopes, ostriches, giraffes and horses made from the branches of trees, wood and local materials. Some of the works of arts discovered were, calabashes, fiber bags, carved chairs, baskets, wooden stools, drums, carved structures of human beings (Figure 5).


Photo: Authors May 2017
Figure 5: some items at the SABOGA Museum

In analyzing the association between participation in museums as a cultural tourism indicator and income as a development indicator, the multiples linear regressions were employed.


Table 6: Regression coefficients

From Table 6, the three variables were all significant. Participation in museums (β = 0.312, t = 4.136, p < 0.000), arts/craft visits (β = 0.264, t = 3.280, p = 0.001) and participation in cultural festivals (β = 0.393, t = 5.048, p = 0.000) were all positively related to income generation. This shows that there is a statistically significant relationship between the participation in museums and income generation in Bafut.

Arts and craft visits

The Bafut royal arts and craft is the most significant in the area. Its age and history attached is a driving force to visitors. Within the palace is a purely traditional house called “achum” constructed with local materials. It is roofed with grass and the walls with bamboos decorated with carved and designed wood. The fon’s wives “bangyue buntoh”, princes and princesses “mboh ntoh” engage themselves in the production of craft made out of local material like bamboos, Indian bamboo, raffia palm, calabashes, wood and the production of the North west traditional regalia. In Bafut palace, more than one hundred people are involved in craft work either as suppliers of raw materials or in the production of the craft itself. The articles are mostly exhibited during the annual Bafut cultural dance.

In terms of employment, the royal craft provides direct employment. PRESCRAFT employs both permanent and temporal workers. Employment with the production of tourist craft is not only limited to the royal family and PRESCRAFT, but to the entire community since craft work is carried out in every quarter (Table 7).


Source: Field Work, (2017)
Table 7: Employment picture in the arts and crafts sector in Bafut

Table 8 shows that using a simultaneous entry multiple regression, there was a significant model (F = 27.646, df = 3, p <0.001) for the relationship between participation in museums and employment.


From Table 8, there were two significant variables; participation in Museums (β = 0.559, t = 7.192, p = 0.000), arts/craft visits (β = 0.266, t = 3.420, p = 0.001) were both positively related to employment. However participation in cultural festivals (β = 0.008, t = 0.112, p = 0.911) was not significantly related to employment. This shows that arts and craft visit help to generate employment in the Bafut area. Therefore, there is a statistically significant relationship between arts/craft visits and employment generation in Bafut.

Participation in Cultural Festivals

Infrastructure is important in the development of the tourism sector. The need for a means of livelihood has led to the development of tourism infrastructure in Bafut which include hotels and inns, bars and restaurants, road infrastructure, health facilities (Figure 6).


Figure 6: Spatial Distribution of Tourism Infrastructure in Bafut.

In establishing the degree of association between participation in cultural festivals and infrastructural development in Bafut, the multiple linear regression was employed (Table 9).



Bafut subdivision is endowed with cultural touristic attractions like museums, arts and crafts, festivals and historical attractions. The following conclusions can be drawn: Firstly, at 0.001 level of significance (df = 3), a positive association exists between the participation in museums and income generation in Bafut. The implication is that should the local population, traditional authorities, the council and other tourism stakeholders multiply efforts towards restoring old and abandoned museums and developing new ones, there is a likelihood that it will fetch reasonable income which can, on the one hand, support the population in their livelihood search, and on the other hand, provide support to the council and other community development stakeholders. Secondly, at 0.001 level of significance (df = 3), there exists a relationship between arts and craft visits and employment in Bafut. In this respect, it is incumbent on the council and the tourism officials to organize events that can promote talents in arts and craft in a bid to support employment. Finally, since at 0.05 level of significance (df = 3), it is established that the participation in cultural festivals does not determine the rate of infrastructural development in Bafut, infrastructural development should rather be seen as a motivating elements for the influx of tourists and not the other way round. Considering the integral nature of cultural tourism in the area, it is imperative for local authorities to maintain cultural touristic assets, publicize them to attract more tourists, and set limits for the exploitation of cultural touristic assets while guarding against the destruction of socio-cultural values which represent key touristic assets.


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To cite this article

Electronic reference

Jude Ndzifon Kimengsi & Ambe Ernestine Lum (2018). « An analysis of the potential development implications of cultural tourism in North West Cameroon ». Canadian journal of tropical geography/Revue canadienne de géographie tropicale [Online], Vol. (5) 1. Online in May 15, 2018, pp. 01-07. URL:



Jude Ndzifon KIMENGSI
Faculty of Environmental Sciences
Technical University of Dresden, Germany


Ambe Ernestine LUM
Department of Geography
University of Bamenda, Cameroon


Volume 5, Numéro 1
ISSN 2292-4108