Sustainable Tourism Policy and Planning

Development of tourism as an economic branch meets all requirements of sustainable development considering that is supported by all three pillars of this type of development: economic development, social development, and environmental protection. Unfortunately, as in other economic areas, in recent years, tourism in economically developed countries has benefited from sustainable development approaches more than in less developed countries. Sustainable tourism development aims to ensure efficacious coordination structures, integrated policies, and functional/operational processes that take place without destroying or depleting resources, providing economic, social, and environmental development. Resources should be exploited at a rate identical to that of renewing them, by giving up the exploitation when the resource is regenerated very slowly to replace the one with greater power of regeneration (Neamtu and Neamtu 2012).

The sustainability discussion has helped draw attention to the need for a balance between economic and environmental interests in tourism. Its actual penetration into strategies and policies has resulted in many good practices and improvements such as energy savings, recycling, a reduction of waste and emissions, and increased attempts to improve the livelihood of the local population (Mihalic 2014).

Ballantyne et al. (2009 cited in Chen 2015) expounded that the enlistment of tourists as conservation partners is critical for the progress of sustainable management. Moreover, Vernon et al. (2005 cited in Chen 2015) presented a collaborative approach in making sustainable policies, involving residents, governments, and tourism businesses. Buckely (2012 cited in Chen 2015) argued that regulation is the main driver for improvement in sustainable management. Indeed, as Yasarata et al. (2010 cited in Chen 2015) have expressed, political maneuvering is the key to advancing the concept of sustainability. As the opinions of politicians are highly influenced by the public and business interests, local residents and businesses could be important actors in the development of sustainable tourism. In sum, tourists, local residents, and businesses along with the government constitute an integrated decision-making network for sustainable development (Chen 2015).

Tourism policy can be defined as ‘a set of regulations, rules, guidelines, directives, and development objectives and strategies’ (Goeldner et al. 2000 cited in Kerimoglu and Qraci 2008). Tourism policy provides a framework to guide tourism development actions, and it is a strategic declaration of intent within which tourism is expected to develop (Jenkins 2000 cited in Kerimoglu and ?rraci 2008). Thus, within a sustainable tourism perspective, tourism development frameworks or rules, regulations, guidelines, and strategies of tourism policy are concerned with the principles of sustainability. The concept of sustainable tourism is comprehensive and refers to tourism that is long term, integrated, participatory, and environmentally, socially, culturally, and economically compatible. From a sustainable tourism point of view, Goeldner et al. (2000 cited in Kerimoglu and Qraci 2008) identify the main goal of a tourism policy as providing high-quality visitor experiences that can maximize the benefits to destination stakeholders without compromising environmental, social, and cultural integrity of destination. Therefore, it could be argued that achieving this goal would depend on the extent to which tourism destinations manage to integrate these major perspectives and diverse stakeholders (Kerimoglu and ?rraci 2008).

Sustainable tourism strategies must entail ways and means to create adequate policies and proper decision-making processes at all levels of government. Sustainable tourism policies should provide workable definitions, principles, implementation strategies, action plans, and a monitoring system of sustainable development for community tourism development with the consideration of the entire spectrum of economic, social, cultural, natural, technological, and political environments because context of sustainable tourism is a highly political one involving many stakeholders. Thus, political support in the form of legally binding commitments at the national and regional level is a critical element in obtaining information, funding, education, and expertise (Kerimoglu and ?rraci 2008).

For destinations operating in a highly competitive market, tourism planning is one of the most important points in increasing their success. In order to enhance the benefits of tourism development for local residents and tourists, and to minimize negative impacts, a balanced relationship between tourism planning and tourism development is necessary, as tourism facilities depend on natural and cultural resources (Selcuk Can et al. 2014). The main aim of any plan for sustainable development is the sustainable utilization of resources, which means that if one resource cannot be renewed or redeveloped, it must be replaced by others. As for tourism resources, whether they are used in a sustainable manner or not is the key point (Ning and Hoon 2011).

Cooperation and collaboration are considered to be the major issues in the planning phase. They are also connected to the concept of sustainable tourism development and, especially in the context of community-based tourism, involve integration and participation as two central concepts. The identification and legitimization of all potential stakeholders are more critical than the implementation of the collaborative planning approach, including all parties who are involved in the planning process (Kadi et al. 2015). Implementation of tourism policies and plans is a responsibility of both the authorities and the private sector. Public sector is responsible for the planning and implementation of basic infrastructure, development of certain landmarks, establishing and administering rules regarding facilities and services quality, establishing measures for management and recovery of territory and environmental protection, setting standards for training in tourism, and maintenance of public health and safety. The private sector is responsible for the development of accommodation, the operations of travel agencies, and commercial enterprises with tourism activity and is based on superstructure, the development of tourist attractions, and promoting them through specific marketing activities (Neamtu and Neamtu 2012).

Governments in many countries endorse the use of partnership arrangements in planning tourism development. By encouraging regular, face-to-face meetings among various participants, partnerships have the potential to promote discussion, negotiation, and the building of mutually acceptable proposals about how tourism should develop (Kerimoglu and ?iraci 2008). Research on tourism development shows that in many countries, local authorities have not been closely involved in tourism and have little experience of its planning, development, and management. In recent years, this has been changing, and the key role of local authorities is now recognized. Local Agenda 21 makes evident that the local authorities play important roles in the planning of the destination regarding all the stakeholders’ interests and the well-being of local communities for a sustainable development (Selcuk Can et al. 2014).

Hunter (1997 cited in Selcuk Can et al. 2014) claims that it is difficult to imagine the formulation and implementation of any approach to tourism in the absence of strong local authority planning and development control. For instance, generally, it is at the local or community level where negative impacts of tourism are most acutely felt (Tosun 1998), and so the actions (or inactions) of local authorities can play a large part in ensuring that overt environmental degradation is avoided and adverse impacts on the host community are minimized. Local authorities can minimize the negative impacts of tourism such as environmental degradation, and degeneration of the local culture, and can preserve and maintain the environmental, economic, and cultural resources of the destination by tourism planning activities. They are in a strong position to promote a broader base of involvement in tourism planning. Churugsa, McIntosh, and Simmons (2007 cited in Selcuk Can et al. 2014) noted that local governments can play a leading role in bringing partnerships together to facilitate destination development, to plan strategically, and to define effective tourism policy. Therefore, involvement of the local community in the planning process can be facilitated by local authorities (Selcuk Can et al. 2014).

The purpose of achieving a sustainable tourism plan should be subordinated to national economic and social development plans. Actions can cover economic (income growth, diversification and integration of activities, controlling, enhancement, and development zoning), social (poverty and improving income distribution inequality, sociocultural indigenous heritage protection, participation, and involvement of local communities), or ecological (protection functions of ecosystems, conservation, and sustainable use of biodiversity) aspects (Neamtu and Neamtu 2012). Planning for sustainable tourism development actually refers to environmental preservation planning and as such includes a variety of research activities and analysis prior to determining the direction of the development. All these activities are undertaken in order to prevent the overuse of resources in some specific areas (Angelevska-Najdeska and Rakicevik 2012). Accordingly, the precautionary principle or the idea that any action should be avoided if the consequences are unknown highlights the sustained component of sustainable development, which is compatible with the basic platform of adaptation and caution. In some extreme cases, it would mean forbidding all of the tourist activities in some areas. Some alternative options like small-scale ecotourism are usually preferred in areas allowed by tourism development (Angelevska-Najdeska and Rakicevik 2012).

Familiarity with the existing susceptibilities and delicacies in the nature system and understanding the existing opportunities and threats in the environment is an unavoidable necessity for the sustainable development planners. With the help of a conscious management, by using the modern management tools, and by preserving the environment, the effectiveness and good use of tourist attraction spots can increase (Azizi et al. 2011). To achieve this, it is necessary to assess different dimensions of tourism such as activity type, spatial vastness, and importance of the effect. After specifying the position of a certain society relative to the sustainability in tourism industry, the strategies of the sustainable tourism development in that society are introduced by using strategy planning. These strategies can be long-term, middle-term, or short-term, and they result in enhancement and improvement of the tourism indices aiming environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Considering that planning is a continuous and cyclic procedure in nature, it is expected that the planning procedure be of the same nature for achieving sustainable tourism (Azizi et al. 2011).

Developing a tourism planning framework that can handle a complex problem domain is necessary in order to make tourism sustainable (Kernel 2005 cited in Kerimoglu and ?iraci 2008). Sustainable tourism development should aim to improve residents’ quality of life by optimizing local economic benefits, protecting the natural and built environment, providing a high-quality experience for visitors, and providing a long-term economic linkage between destination communities and industries. It should also minimize the negative effects of tourism on the natural environment and improve the sociocultural well-being of the destination communities (Kerimoglu and ?iraci 2008). Although most of the political issues that arise in the course of achieving sustainable tourism are associated with residents’ rights, others include an absence of stakeholder collaboration or community participation, a lack of community leadership, poor regulations, the role of NGOs, and the displacement of resident and external control over the development process by private or foreign investors (HwanSuk and Sirakaya 2006 cited in Kerimoglu and ?iraci 2008).

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