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Sustainability Issues and Expectations from Alternative Tourism

The relationship between tourism and development has long been an interest with a shifting focus over time. The modernization theory emphasizes the role of tourism as an income and employment generator with a modern western life style, whereas the dependency theory highlights the dependency of peripheral regions to the core as the main tourism generator in developed regions (Shaw and Williams 1994; Mathieson and Wall 1982; Britton 1987). Furthermore, tourism is considered to be an essential activity for peace through cultural interactions (Telfer 2002). However, an increasing number of tourists and pressure on destinations has caused the problems of mass tourism. The concept of sustainability has mainly occurred due to environmental concern about tourism impacts, whereas sustainable development covers all aspects of the economic, social, and environmental. Studies have tried to find out the impacts of tourism, putting forward that economic impacts are perceived as more positive than environmental and sociocultural ones (Ratz 2000;

Tosun 2002; Ap 1992; Besculides et al. 2002; Jurowski et al. 1995; Williams and Lawson 2001). On the other hand, the findings of studies focused on the measurement of environmental impacts emphasize the increasing awareness of ecological features (biodiversity, coastal land features, and critical changes in the habitat). However, visible physical impacts such as sewage, waste discharge, air and water pollution are perceived as more than ecological impacts (Hillary et al. 2001; Hughes 2002; Goodall and Stabler 2000).

In the literature, there is a distinction between sustainable tourism development and sustainable tourism. According to Butler (1993), sustainable development in the context of tourism has been identified: ...which is developed and maintained in an area that it remains viable over an indefinite period and does not degrade the human and physical environment. On the other hand, sustainable tourism is considered as a form of tourism. Barke and Newton (1995) point out that sustainable tourism must be based on more than a narrow ecological and environmental perspective; rather it must be multifaceted to be successful. Therefore, Sharpley (2000) has noted that sustainable tourism has been inserted into the development policy. However, there is an argument that the sustainable tourism concept remains among the academics rather than being taken into practice. Thus, the expectations from the sustainable development strategies would be challenging, since most of the negative impacts of mass tourism will be diminished, while alternative forms of tourism as an antithesis to mass tourism will be induced. But as Weaver and Lawton (1999) argue, tourism on any scale is potentially sustainable or unsustainable. Moreover, alternative tourism would be considered sustainable, although elements of unsustainability are also apparent. Tourism studies have mostly proposed the tools for sustainability in tourism destinations, which are mainly related to regulations and methods for measuring tourism’s impacts such as carrying capacity, visitor management techniques, environmental impact assessment, or identifying conservation areas. On the other hand, there have been studies that enhance the need of a holistic approach considering the multidimensional aspects and complexity of the issues (Weaver 1998; France 1997; Hunter and Green 1995; Gill and Williams 2008; Scheyvens 2011).

The concept of alternative tourism emerged in the later decades of the twentieth century due to different aspects. First, the negative environmental impacts of mass tourism have got the attention, and alternative forms of tourism should be something different than conventional tourism industry as it has reduced these issues. Not only increasing awareness to environmental issues, but also major shifts in the production process are significant for the emerging of alternative tourism. Secondly, the post-Fordist process has gone hand in hand with postmodernism, and it has supported alternative trends of consumption, which are far from the standardization of the tourism product toward more personalized travel experiences. Furthermore, visitors from big cities have increasing interest in the remote and natural areas, which are the base for alternative tourism. Thirdly, alternative tourism provides diversification of tourism activities and is an opportunity for relatively less-developed areas. Thus, it would be possible to reach more balanced spatial and temporal distribution of visitors and economic gains of tourism. Meanwhile, the alternative tourism approach has been welcomed for policies on regional and rural development. From all of that, the main objective is to minimize local negative impacts, and the characteristics of alternative tourism should be area-specific, on a small scale, stimulate individual visitors and local involvement, consider long-term and holistic processes (Eadington and Smith 1992; Weaver 1998; France 1997; Hunter and Green 1995; Jenkins and Oliver 2001). Furthermore, the needs of sustainability have mainly brought forward the role of governance, networking among stakeholders, community participation, and empowerment of local people (Milne and Ateljevic 2001; Bramwell 2011; Hall 2007; Cawley and Gillmor 2008; Ruhanen 2013; Farmaki 2015). However, the networks of cooperation and collaboration have seen the major elements of the integrated process. The study of Saxena and Ilbery (2008) concluded that the difficulty of achieving coordinated actions is even within the small and rural areas.

Moreover, Weaver (2006) argues that some forms of tourism, which were much older than mass tourism, were discovered as alternative forms of tourism. Also, complexities of definition and different labels for alternative tourism would be other challenges for studies on alternative tourism. Agro-tourism, rural tourism, ecotourism, green tourism, soft tourism, and responsible tourism are the ones identified as alternative tourism (Pearce 1992; Lanfant and Graburn 1992; Roberts and Hall 2001; Newsome et al. 2002). However, a community-based tourism approach (Murphy 1985), which focuses on local participation in the development process, occurs before the concept of alternative tourism. Moreover, there have been increasing numbers of studies considering the issues of local involvement to the tourism development process (Scheyvens 2002; Telfer 2002; Gezici and Gfil 2004). In this paper, we mainly focus on rural areas promoting tourism as a tool for rural/local development, whereas tourism would be an opportunity to preserve the cultural and agricultural landscapes and complement the agricultural economy with respect to its sustainability (Aslam et al. 2012; Garrod et al. 2006; Trukhachev 2015). As Lacher and Nepal (2010) comment that alternative forms of tourism promote visitors to rural areas in developing countries, we should also pay attention to possible negative impacts and threats of tourism on the sustainability of rural areas, such as losing local control and ownership, reducing agricultural production, diluting identities, and raising the cost of living (De la Torre and Gutierrez 2008).

 
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