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Tourism is one of the rapidly growing and largest industries in the world. It is an old phenomenon which has brought both good and bad or negative changes in social economic and political life of human beings, across the globe. It creates employment opportunities to millions of people who assist in improving people’s standard of living. It also brings about cultural understanding among people from different countries. This lays an understanding between different cultural groups through the creation of understanding and respect among them.
As a result, of its negative effect among the communities in the tourism destination, tourism has become a challenging industry. Thus, it calls for the creation of a sustainable tourism through the participation of local communities (Aref 2010, p. 253-261). This can be achieved through the analysis of problems in this context and establishing solutions to the problems in a way that local communities will have a chance to participate.
There are various ways through which local community can participate in tourism. This can be through passive participation, information giving, material incentives, functional, self mobilization and interactive participation. In the passive participation, local people participation is limited, their responses are not put into consideration, and information belongs to professional in the field (Twan 2007, p. 20). Information giving is also limited in that the communication gives information used in the survey and planning for tourism. The findings or decision made as per the information is not shared to community. Participation through material incentive is another level of participation; people contribute their labor and other materials to the tourism sector (Singh, Timothy & Dowling 2003, p. 55). Their participation ends at this point after they have been compensated. In the functional participation, people participate through the formation of groups to participate in collaboration with external organizations. In this case, they are independent though they depend on external organizational for consultations before decision making. Lastly, in self-mobilization and participation, people have the chance to independently contribute resources, make decisions and undertake collective action. In this case, people make full participation and enjoy the full benefit on tourism.
Local participation in tourism is important in various ways. First, local participation gives communities an opportunity to develop a sustainable tourism (Greg & Derek 2003, p.148). It is clear that tourism affects local residences in various ways. It is, therefore, essential to afford them an opportunity to give their voice and be involved in tourism decision making. As a result, there are few cases of conflict between the community and the tourism participants. In addition, the residents assist in promoting sustainable tourism.
The other importance of local participation is community development. This can be achieved through various ways. First, through the provision of material and other resources, members of the community earn a living. Secondly, participation in touring creates job opportunities to members of the community. This reduces the unemployment rate, which have an impact on reducing social and economic crimes in the community. Lastly, local investors through participation are in a position to identify and participate in tourism investment opportunities. This reduces the amount of locally generated income repatriated into foreign countries (Harrill & Potts 2003, p. 233).
Local participation assists in upholding culture, tradition, and heredity knowledge and skills. As a result, communities understand their heredity differences and respect each other for a cohesive living. On the other hand, the exchange of cultural values and practices assists in improving people’s ways of live, as they learn from others and complement their cultural values (Shalini, Dallen & Ross 2003, p.56). In this case, communality drops unproductive practices and takes up some positive ones from other communities. This has brought bout civilization for many communities all over the world.
Another importance of local participation in tourism is that it installs a sense of local control in the tourism sector. Participation in decision making and representation of local community creates a partnership between international tourism organizations, the government, and non governmental organization among other participants (Bramwell 2004, p.50). This leads to development of both the community and tourism, as a result of joined efforts, development of quality ideas and collaboration in the implementation of decisions and policies.
Despite the efforts put in place by stakeholders, there are various challenges of local participation in tourism development. Tourism is both international and local oriented industry. It is, therefore, call for professional participation in order to ensue it is an effective and productive industry. In some cases, local community members do not possess knowledge and skills to participate in tourism. In this case, they find it hand to deal with tourists particularly from foreign countries that use foreign language, as a means of communication. This calls for stakeholders particularly in education sectors to ensure that they produce internationally oriented human resource to work in their local context. In addition, foreign officials in the tourism industry should assist in training local individuals to increase their knowledge and skills for effective participation (Jones 1996, p.102-103).
Another challenge of local participation in tourism is that local communities view tourism as a competitor in natural resources. This is, as a result, of the factor that tourism involves utilization of natural resources and land in an intensive manner. These resources are immensely significant to local communities and, hence, they feel it is not wise to let them go for tourism purpose. In addition, these resources are usually scarce and limited in nature, some people have to be displaced to create a tourism utility (Chavis & Wandersman 1990, pp. 55-81). It is, therefore, viewed that tourism comes at the expense of local communities, which for this reason decline to participate in it. Investors and participants in the tourism sector should be resources and environmental sensitive to avoid conflict with local communities.
Some communities take their cultural beliefs and practices with passion and dedication. Anything threatening the continuation or viewed as disrespect to their culture is exclusively rejected (Miranda 2007, pp. 25-29). Tourism particularly international brings about a lot of changes in people’s ways of living, as they adopt foreign ways of live. This is through the introduction of tourists’ norms, values and behavior. As a result, people in such communities decline to participate in tourism activities, in all means.
Another challenge of local participation in tourism is its effect on the cost of living, as well as low income levels of residents. Tourism particularly during the peak seasons increases the demand for commodities and services in the home market. As a result, of the forces of demand and supply, prices of goods and services increase, and hence, cost of living of residents. In addition, in some communities, most people are poor and with a low amount of disposable income. As a result, they may not participate in tourism due to financial constraint. To mitigate this challenge, participant particularly can intervene to make certain that prices of commodities and services remain constant even during peak seasons (Shalini, Dallen & Ross 2003, p. 37). This can be achieved through setting price limits and initiating increased production when demand increases.
In conclusion, community participation in tourism is an essential concept for community development and sustainable tourism. Local participation reduces resistance of local communities to tourism development. It is, immensely essential for investors and stakeholders to enhance environmental sensitive activities, to reduce a negative impact on lives of local communities. Government intervention particularly in developing countries is immensely essential for a sustainable and developed tourism sector in their countries.