For at least the last fifteen years and at an ever-increasing pace, the concept of sustainability has emerged on one side of the debate over tourism development strategies. The topic does not concern Communication, from the point of view of which I approach various topics. It concerns the management and marketing of tourism, which, however, do not cease to be forms of communication of the business activity with the environments in which it moves and is addressed. Usually – in similar approaches – I choose an introduction of a short historical background, which is considered necessary here as well.
We all know very well that Greece became a world-famous tourist destination thanks to the favorable climatic conditions, the unusual natural beauties, and the cultural heritage. All these elements, called “natural and cultural resources”, are a means of satisfying the needs or desires of tourists. In other words, these are tourist goods and should be a reference point for the country’s tourism policy. However, modern tourism with its anarchic development has strongly pressed in the long run the natural environment and the local culture, with the result that the risk of self-destruction of the tourist areas is now visible. The need to create an extensive tourist infrastructure and the consequent presence of a disproportionately large number of tourists in relation to the local infrastructure acted as reinforcements in the environmental degradation. At the same time, rapid and uncontrolled reconstruction was observed, resulting in erosion of the landscape. The natural end of the above was the environmental and aesthetic pollution and degradation of one of the most important tourist resources, the environment (natural and artificial).
Given, therefore, that tourism is suffocating and intensifying pressure on the environment, nature, and local culture, it is obvious that its global development can not continue without planning and organization. Today it becomes imperative to realize the problems that tourism development creates in the environment and to undertake a series of dynamic initiatives. The relationship between tourism and the environment should play an important role in the priorities of action plans at the national and international levels. Entrepreneurs in the tourism industry, the tourists themselves, and the media need to work with governments to help and guide the work of environmental protection through education, information, and proper planning. It is also particularly important for any tourist activity to take into account the distribution of tourist traffic in the place and time to avoid overcrowding and landscape alteration. It is, after all, a common finding that the natural and cultural environment are inextricably linked and their close relationship reflects the relationship of human activity with history and popular tradition, ie the identity of peoples, as it was unequivocally expressed within the natural environment.
However, the incompatibility of modern tourism with the environment has created many problems in this area, such as the alteration of local architecture, the disruption of environmental and cultural harmony of the area, or the encroachment and construction of areas of rare natural beauty. The content and the main goals of the concept “tourism” include -among other things- the enjoyment of nature and the contact, acquaintance, and interaction of people. In order to consider, therefore, that a tourism business meets the required quality of services provided, it must also contribute to the protection of the environment, whether natural or cultural.
The crucial relationship between tourism as a source of wealth and the economy requires the rational management of tourism resources, so that they are used but not exhausted. Within the framework of this philosophy, a special relationship is developed between tourism activity and available tourist resources, which plays a key role in any form of tourism development. Based on all the above, the need for “environmentally friendly” tourism has emerged in recent years. The development of this tourism was called “Sustainable” and defines the model of management of natural ecosystems and renewable natural resources, according to which environmental, economic, and social activity must ensure the sustainable use of natural resources, ie not cause irreparable damage. undermining the future of future generations, but achieving sustainable environmental quality, balance, and – in our case – sustained tourism development. Its purpose is to change the environmentally harmful function of tourism, in order to minimize possible side effects of tourism development, such as urbanization, pollution, and erosion of natural space.
We need to make it clear that sustainable tourism is not a form of tourism. On the contrary, it can characterize any kind of tourism. This is a feature that guarantees a certain quality in every form of tourism and tourist activity. In order to study properly, its principles must first be presented and understood:
- It is not limited to certain forms of tourism, but generally concerns every tourist demand; by its nature (as tourism), after all, it accepts the changes that tourism activities may cause, as long as they do not harm any relationship between people and the environment.
- Therefore, its basic position is the principle of capacity. According to this, the tourist burden in an area is sustainable, when it is checked whether the tourist activities operate in relation to the number of existing infrastructure projects, as well as whether the natural landscape and natural resources can withstand the corresponding volume of tourism without cause problems of pollution and alteration of the landscape.
- It does not accept the maximization of tourism activity at any cost to the environment; on the contrary, it supports the moderation, balance, and long-term sustainability of any tourism activity. Tourism development in each region must be harmonized with its natural elements, its location, its uniqueness, its culture, and not have cumulative adverse effects over time.
- It does not require large investments or extensive research, but complements existing tourism development practices; finally, rejects short-term benefits for the few versus long-term benefits for the many to meet their own needs.
In recent years, tourism agencies, organizations, governments, and educational programs have been trying to transform tourism from its “hard”, traditional form, to more mild forms. These mild forms of tourism are not just an invention of some nor a sterile effort to enrich the tourism product. It is essentially the answer to the crisis of existing tourism. The facts that confirm this crisis are perceived by the wider society, whether in imperfect or fragmentary forms. Today, established tourism distances itself from local communities, shifts away from cognitive processes, and is limited to superficial intakes of entertainment and information. The tourism industry by maximizing the recruitment of spectacle leads to the weakening of the emotional and experiential ties of the tourist with the space. On the contrary, the mild forms of tourism introduce the educational experience in the place of the hitherto superficial contact with the “foreign” element and individualize the travel proposals. A variety of new tourism options, such as rural, conference, religious, spa, and winter tourism, attempt to re-approach and link the tourist experience with other productive or cultural activities.
The aim of these new forms of tourism is to acquaint the tourist with the local virtues, the landscapes, the food, the songs, the dance, the painting, the trekking, the creation, integrating them into the holiday environment. The proposal for sustainable tourism development must take into account the “maturation” of the current tourist through the travel practice of the post-war period. It must also be based on a comprehensive analysis of benefits and charges and – consequently – not limited to narrow collection and short-term calculations. The diffusion/spread of the tourist infrastructure in the wider area as well as the spatial-temporal decentralization of tourism can turn the hitherto conventional pleasures of the tourist into new experiences of surprises and discoveries.
In many countries with significant tourism activity, especially those that follow the model of organized mass tourism, or in areas with primary development, tourism policy has begun to be redefined in recent years, so that serious problems of their tourism economies can be addressed. The development of new, alternative forms of tourism was proposed as a way out and, perhaps, as a harbinger of a development course with upward trends. Sustainable tourism development is mainly influenced by the general planning of tourism development, which inevitably must aim at economic and social balance and the protection of the environment. It is also imperative to strengthen all the factors that contribute to the feedback of growth, such as research, education, marketing, private initiative, etc. The specific institutional framework is a prerequisite and perspective of sustainable development; The processes of local development planning will be promoted and directed, which will have as its main axis of development the use of special alternative forms of tourism. The implementation of sustainability programs in tourism is characterized by a different degree of success depending on the region and this is directly related to the significant shortcomings in the planning and planning of tourism development, as well as the practical implementation of the design.
This model shows expanding trends in the international arena, due to the fact that it is adopted by more and more tourist destinations, while at the same time it is promoted by international and national bodies related to tourism policy and development. In the alternative forms, tourists often choose a way of organizing and conducting the trip, which is dominated by autonomy in the options and the tour with little or no use of organized tourism services. It is natural in these cases to record the development of a special infrastructure that serves specific tourists. The aim is to create and develop specialized services for a specific type of tourism demand, as well as to establish a development model, which will either improve the existing production structure or create a new one, which will be based on highlighting and strengthening the infrastructure and services of specialists and alternative forms of tourism. Feedback on tourism development is a key achievement and goal of the model of sustainable development through the creation of supply infrastructure that will upgrade not only the tourism product but also the life of society in the present and the future.
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