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Discussion and Conclusions

At the end of this chapter, we could conclude that mass tourism development in Turkey has had important negative environmental, social, and cultural impacts, while at the same time, the economic benefits are fewer than expected. While this focus on beach tourism has been critical for the economic development of Turkey, the further indiscriminate development of this sector would raise some major concerns, due to the very nature of this type of tourism (Okumus et al. 2012; Okumus and Karamustafa 2005; Tosun et al. 2008, among many others):

  • 1. When we combine seasonality with spatial polarization, the result is a spatial organization that puts intense pressure on the environment and on local communities. Indeed, research has indicated that coastal areas encounter more environmental problems and are subjected to stronger pressures than interior destinations (Gezici 2006). Turkey is realizing that tourism development (at least in its mass form) is not a panacea for all national and regional economic problems. Tourism implementation plans should then be designed to minimize environmental and cultural damage and maximize economic gains while giving local communities more decision power (Tavmergen and Oral 1999).
  • 2. Social inequality. Those who benefited the most were large investors from outside, whereas the local people benefited very little. Initially, small local businesses were involved in destination development. After only a few years, these were replaced by large foreign and non-local domestic businesses, often multinational corporations (Tosun et al. 2004).
  • 3. This type of tourism is very sensitive to national and global crises (Yarcan 2007), which may cause important variations in the number of tourists and further reduce economic benefits.

Many of the problems discussed above were generated by the inconsistency of tourism legislation and policy, due to the political instability that characterized Turkey until the early 2000s (Tosun and Timothy 2001). Rapid tourism growth in terms of volume and value happened in a haphazard way, without well-thought-out, comprehensive planning (Tosun et al. 2003). Tourism development was beyond the control of local authorities (Tosun 1998). As tourism was declared a priority for national development, very powerful central government enforced this strategy by dictating decisions to regional and local governments (Tosun 1998, 2001). Many local governments were dependent—financially and otherwise—on the central government, so they had to accept and implement all decisions regarding tourism development, even when they understood the possible consequences (Tosun 2001). Turkey has not had a tradition for local participation in decision making, so that the local population was not generally consulted, even though decisions to develop mass tourism in their communities had the potential to significantly alter their lifestyles and their livelihoods (Tosun 2001). Confronted with many problems, local administrators could not respond effectively to the needs of tourists and local residents simultaneously; therefore, they focused on the needs of tourists and second-home owners (Tosun 2001). At the same time, they ignored the needs of the local population.

Hotels were built rapidly almost everywhere in the coastal areas, without effective control. Mass tourism products are not necessarily based on what tourists want, but rather on what the businesses want, which is to create economies of scale, in order to allow for profits even at low prices. Hence, to give access to the beach to as many tourists as possible, many high-rise hotels were built near the beach (Claver-Cortes et al. 2007).

A land use planning strategy was previously designed by the Ministry of Tourism but has not been effectively implemented, and many Turkish entrepreneurs learned to get round the rules (Tosun 2001). The delay in enacting legislation and enforcing measures to increase the sustainability of coastal zone developments was determined by political and institutional reasons, as more than 15 institutions are involved in the management of coastal areas, “generating biased solutions due to the plurality and fragmentation in the decision making process” (Burak et al. 2004: 516).

Finally, tourism resources are part of the “commons,” or the common pool of resources that is used by more than one economic sector and by both tourists and residents. As any “commons,” tourism resources experience problems of overuse and mismanagement (Briassoulis 2002). As we know, “tourist attractions are not infinite and timeless but should be viewed and treated as finite and possibly non-renewable resources” (Butler 1980: 11). Overuse damages the environment and other resources and reduces the attractiveness of a destination. This eventually results in direct and indirect costs such as reduced income and loss of employment opportunities (Briassoulis 2002). Also, land use conflicts among tourism, other economic sectors, and nature conservation will lead to an inefficient use of resources. These conflicts could also affect the image of the destination, leading to a decline in the number of tourists (Briassoulis 2002). Investing in improvements of the commons is a difficult decision because “tourist demand is volatile due to changing preferences, competition from other destinations and the manipulation of flows and costs and quality of services made by intermediaries” (Briassoulis 2002: 1077).

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