Tourism and sustainability

Elena Matei, Mirosław Mika

Current state

The European Union policy in the field of tourism is oriented towards sustainable development. On the other hand, for the last two decades, the Carpathian countries have been strengthened their tourism industry and tried to make it more competitive. The issue how to reconcile the ideas of sustainability and competitiveness in the era of climate change is currently more than ever complicated and come up the big question in the scientific debate.

Since the 1970` the tourism has been an active component of the multifunctional development of the Carpathian region. Its socio-economic diversity and the political conditions in the 20th century led to shape distinctive spatial and functional models of tourism in Carpathian countries. Nowadays, the different facets of local tourism development in the Carpathians determinate and make difficult the development of common, integrated, and acceptable vision of sustainability in tourism. In the mountain areas that face major social and economic challenges connected with rural depopulation, population ageing, and decline in the agricultural function, the tourist expenditures are perceived as an important factor for the development. From the local communities’ perspective, the social and economic functions of tourism are inseparable aspects of sustainability.

Contemporary tourism research try to answer the question about the individual ways of local tourism developments, its factors and the mechanisms that lead the destinations to the paths of growth. Concurrently, there have been many studies undertaken to recognize the natural and socio-cultural potential for tourism, the specificity of tourist function of the protected areas as well as how to limit the negative impacts of tourism on the natural and the cultural heritage. The special focus is concerned with the implementation of good practices in the local policies and to examine the sustainable solutions in the management of the protected areas. Moreover, the alternative forms of tourism are discussed as the sustainable options like geotourism and ecotourism with their educational aspects. Relatively new studies are related to the management of tourism information using GIS and IT platforms.

Where should we go between 2015 and 2020?

Today, in the scientific discussion, we are close to the conclusion that the concept of sustainability in tourism needs a new paradigm, and the issue of what we consider sustainable must be regarded as still open. The past experience confirms that the limits of growth in tourist development and tourist consumption may be achieved only by the strict law regulations. Thus, the only suitable destinations are the protected areas, where the solutions compatible with the idea of harmonious tourism development might be expected.

Taking into consideration diversity of spatial and functional forms of tourist destinations in the Carpathians and the progressive economic and climatic instability, the research strategy for 2015-2020 should be described as more proactive than protective. The main aims of scientific activity should include:

– development of local tourist studies and the detailed analysis of the development situation regarding every locality as a unique system and special combination of conditions for tourism;

– identification of cause–and–effect relationships in the local tourist systems, e.g. between tourism demand and quality of natural environment, tourism development and its economic impact on the local communities;

– searching the levers in tourism development to support the local communities;

– searching the barrier in economic activation of communities in tourist destinations;

– identification of factors determining the ability to long–term development in case of “mature” tourism destinations;

– more studies on social function of the protected areas from both the tourists and the local communities perspective;

– identification of factors determining the partnership initiatives concerning the local tourism;

– development of the conceptual planning studies at different spatial levels (local, regional) to create grounds for active management of tourism that should also be encouraged and given priority in the sessions and working groups of the Carpathian Forums;

– development and use of complex methodological procedures to analyze the tourism development as a dynamic process in the conditions of instability (e.g. climate change, uncertainty in tourism demand) and to give assistance for stakeholders in certifying the eco-destinations;

– involvement of the researchers groups, from all Carpathian countries, in projects based on interactive digital platforms for tourism or/and create a common work/atlas about tourism in the Carpathians.

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