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Governance, Mass Tourism, and Sustainability

In Turkey, while tourism development plans and tourism objectives have focused primarily on the expansion and development of the infrastructure necessary for tourism development, the importance of the social, natural, and cultural dimensions has been substantially underestimated and largely ignored. Similar to many developing countries, the governments of Turkey, as the parties responsible for defining the problem and designing, formulating, adopting, and implementing policies, perceive tourism as a relatively cheap and easy means of securing foreign currency and creating jobs for an increasing number of unemployed people (Ozen and Kuru 1998).

Turkey has experienced a gradual transformation from a state-sponsored managed development form of public-private cooperation and partnership to macrolevel developments in the political, economic, and social arenas (Goymen 2000). However, this transformation has occurred without a proper cost-benefit analysis and without taking into account the risks associated with international tourism (Tosun and Jenkins 1996). Meanwhile, the excessive centralist tradition in Turkey and the relative absence of a participatory culture have impeded the inclusion of all stakeholders in the decision-making processes. Goymen (2000) further notes that the reluctance of different levels of bureaucracy to relinquish part of their authority, coupled with the relative weakness of civil society institutions, poses a major obstacle. In this regard, Tosun and Timothy (2001) identify the shortcomings of planning approaches to tourism development, such as the over-centralization of planning activities and improper practices of public administration; development planning that is too rigid and inflexible; plans that are not comprehensive enough to incorporate contemporary measures; a lack of community-based approaches; the adoption of supply oriented tourism planning; a lack of consistency and continuity in planning policies; a myopic approach to establishing planning goals; and specific plans that are difficult to implement.

Tourism contributes to the development of less-developed and underdeveloped regions, to the restructuring of the economy and, as a result, to the growth and development of the economy as a whole (Bahar 2007). In this respect, the development of tourism in underdeveloped regions and the attracting of both domestic and international tourists to these regions create employment, income, and added value in economic terms and also contribute to the realization of sustainable development. Thus, tourism development, especially cultural tourism, has been perceived as an important factor in increasing the GDP in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey. However, when compared to the businesses in the coastal areas, tourism development has been of negligible significance (Seckelmann 2002). Furthermore, though in each of the five-year development plans, the governments continued to stress the capacity of tourism to eliminate socioeconomic problems (Seckelmann 2002) and to mitigate interregional disparities between developed and underdeveloped regions, this could not be achieved because the eastern provinces faced larger socioeconomic problems than the Western provinces.

Tourism is generally thought to be ‘an industry without a chimney.’ However, the literature suggests that tourism development has inadvertently produced impacts at tourist destinations, particularly in developing countries, thereby altering the ecological resources at these destinations (Butler 1990; Dodds and Butler 2009). Unfortunately, tourism development in Turkey is structured primarily as mass tourism, which is accompanied by many environmental, social, and economic problems and often only minimal economic contributions. For example, results of a study conducted by Dal and Baysan (2007) suggest that the intense use of coastal areas results in ecological and environmental problems, a finding supported by the local residents who contend that tourism has resulted in increased environmental problems. Dodds and Butler (2009) report that although the participants who are integral to the policy process are aware of sustainable tourism, the individual advantage from exploiting pooled or shared resources is often perceived as being greater than the potential long-term shared losses that result from the deterioration of such resources. As a consequence, there is little motivation for individual actors to invest or engage in protection or conservation of increased sustainable tourism. In response to the negative impacts of this phenomenon, societies have prompted a search for alternative forms of tourism as a way to transition away from mass tourism. Indeed, as noted by Copper and Ozdil (1992), this movement was largely consumer rather than industry driven and may lead to politically correct or acceptable forms of tourism. Unfortunately, it has been observed that in the main tourism centers, the local people are disregarded by the government and thus have no voice in the planning process (Tosun 1998; Yuksel et al. 1999). Seckelmann (2002) criticizes the central decision to grant an investor advantages or privileges and further argues that providing land in certain areas is often contradictory to the interests of the local people, especially when considering that a patronage system has arisen between some civil servants and potential investors (Yuksel et al. 1999; Tosun 1998). The inability of the local people to participate in the planning process has resulted in low acceptance of central programs by the local people.

By 1990, the public sector organization of tourism was in place, and Turkey was established as a recognized international tourism destination with main tourism products incorporating sea, sun, and sand; yachting; culture and history; thermal resources; and natural attractions (Cooper and Ozdil 1992). However, Turkey was not ready technologically, socially, or economically to absorb an expansion in tourism (Chesshyre 1990). As a low-price holiday destination with unspoiled beaches as part of its attraction, Turkey has been marketed to the mass tourist market (Crossman 1989). Moreover, the exploration of tourism by the Turkish people and the development of domestic tourism through second and vacation homes have contributed to an unplanned, unsustainable tourism development in areas, such as Kusadasi, Bodrum, and Alanya. Expectedly, different stakeholders have different agendas, and there is often a disconnect between ideal policy goals and achievable outcomes (Dodds and Butler 2009). Cooper and Ozdil (1992) suggest that there was no integrated planning or preparation for the rapid growth of tourism at the government level. Optimistically, researchers comment that the emphasis on tourism in Turkey is to drift away from mass tourism toward a more responsible form of tourism where volume is not seen as the criterion for success. However, this hopeful intent has, to date, not been achieved.

Apart from the environmental problems that Turkey has faced due to mass tourism, Cooper and Ozdil (1992: 381) identify numerous examples of social and cultural impacts:

  • • the commercialization of contacts with locals, such as being asked for money to take photographs, overpricing, and double pricing;
  • • the stereotyping of female tourists;
  • • the changing of the lifestyles of local people as they exploit the opportunities that tourism provides in the short term;
  • • the influence on language by the replacement of Turkish words with foreign words and phrases;
  • • the demonstration of tourist wealth by clothing and language, which is then increasingly copied by local people and has led to the breakdown of traditional Turkish customs and behaviors as well as to sexual relationships and, occasionally, to marriages between tourists and locals;
  • • the noticeable decline in morality in resort areas where gambling, drugs, and prostitution are evident;
  • • the changing of the material culture, for example, poor-quality Turkish carpets produced quickly to meet demand at the expense of quality. More importantly, archeological and historic sites are being looted by tourists for souvenirs or by local people who sell the stolen pieces to tourists.

Sustainable tourism development is envisaged as leading to the management of all resources in such a way that it fulfills economic, social, and esthetic needs while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems (Dowling and Fennell 2003). However, there are several factors hindering Turkey’s progress toward a sustainable approach to tourism. Tosun (2001) summarizes these limitations as a lack of a contemporary tourism development approach, the structure of the public administration system, the emergence of environmental issues, over-commercialization, the structure of the international tourism system, and the invasion of natural and historical sites by the industry. In this regard, ?etinel and Yolal (2009) suggest that a radical change in the democratization of the country and its political structure is necessary for the better management of the tourism industry and its resources.

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