Based on an in-depth field study in a rural area of Namibia, this article assesses the potential contribution of community-based tourism enterprises (CBTEs) to poverty alleviation and empowerment. It shows that tourism income captured locally improves rural households' livelihoods and generates linkages in the local economy. On the job learning, training sessions and extensive support by non-governmental organisations and donors are further shown to empower rural actors and unlock socioeconomic opportunities for the future. In this context, CBTEs can be characterised as pro-poor initiatives. However, this article provides counter evidence that the sustainability of such community tourism ventures is to be questioned. First, mainstreaming these projects within the competitive tourism commodity chain proves highly challenging and costly; second, communities' institutional and managerial capacity is weak and thus CBTEs' viability is limited; finally, inadequate support by donors and non-governmental organisations fails to tackle challenges faced by community tourism ventures.