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State as Regulator and Promoter of Ecotourism

Policy promotion of ecotourism and connecting it with sustainable tourism by many interested parties are abundant throughout world. The state and state institutions are the foremost ones in this respect. Policy developments in Turkey in general reflect manifestations of efforts to integrate international environmental policy initiatives across the political, cultural, and economic spectrum. Turkey has gradually put in place a regulatory framework for protecting sensitive areas and buttressing sustainable tourism development in order to integrate national environmental considerations in tourism policies and also harmonize its tourism legislation with the EU. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has emphasized environmental sustainability especially since the beginning of the 2000. In 2004, the “Tourism Vision of Turkey 2010” and in 2007, the “Tourism Strategies of Turkey 2023” were developed by the Ministry. The Tourism Vision provided explanations and policies about environmental sustainability. The Tourism Strategy 2023 also acknowledged the deficient infrastructure and environmental problems and provided prescriptive solutions that are found in neoliberal books. It stated that provisions shall be made for establishment of participative mechanisms such as Local Agenda 21, with the local councils becoming functional in a given neighborhood. Also, it indicated that an effective policy . should reroute all tourism investments toward reducing the imbalances of welfare and development imbalances throughout the country and treat them with an approach that safeguards, conserves and improves the natural, historical, cultural, and social environment” and should “conserve and use natural resources in the most economically and ecologically sustainable way” (Ministry of Culture and Tourism 2007). According to the National Parks Act 2873, all developments must be compatible with the environment and, when necessary, native plants disturbed from the site and surrounding area must be relocated as an integral part of landscaping and landscape restoration.

The policy issues of ecotourism in terms of the involvement of state organizations mostly boil down to the regulation, monitoring, control, and promotion. As Banerjee (2010) and others found in their studies, the bureaucratic and relational nature and practice of ecotourism policies rarely benefit local communities and environmental conservation/protection. In essence, the problem has little to do with the lack of funding, character of population, and developmental pressures.

Unfortunately, the daily practices of tourism sector generally lag behind the legal requirements and policy objectives. Furthermore, a prevailing problem in Turkey, similar to many developing/emerging countries (Agrawal and Redford 2006), is that there is a serious lack of enforcement of laws and regulations because of the prevailing relational culture in economics, politics, and administration. Laws, rules, and regulations about ecotourism and environmental protection are bypassed, overlooked, and violated by all the involved parties, including members of state agencies since parts of the state apparatus have been co-opted by networks of private interests and powerful elites. Thus, Turkey and similar countries are in need of finding ways to enforce the laws properly, and tourism enterprises need to develop honest social responsibility and environmental sensitivity (Tosun et al. 2003; Erdogan 2009).

State institutions in Turkey provide incentives, awards, national and global certification programs, eco-labeling, and accreditation schemes that are viewed as promising self regulatory and encouragement mechanisms for improving the industry’s environmental performance (Erdogan and Baris 2007). Yet again, there are no government-set conditions and industry practices geared toward investing in specific geographical areas, with specific criteria for the use of local goods or services, employing local people, and encouraging local financing.

 
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