The role of urban ecotourism in the development of local communities

The role of urban ecotourism in the development of local communities
In a new research, the country’s researchers have evaluated and emphasized the role of urban ecotourism and its related empowerment in the development of local communities.

The role of urban ecotourism in the development of local communities
According to Kental Iran Travel report, quoted by Isna, empowerment has always been considered as one of the main needs of urban communities. There are various approaches to achieve this goal, all of which are mainly focused on the existing potentials and capacities of the local community in social dimensions. They are cultural, economic, political, perceptual and environmental in order to overcome weaknesses such as poverty, lack of self-confidence and weak social role of the residents. The existence of natural attractions and environmental potentials can be considered as a capacity to attract tourists in urban communities, which is also called ecotourism or natural tourism and nature tourism.

According to the researchers, attracting tourists regardless of the characteristics of the host communities, these communities face serious challenges and practically does not transfer the development to its lower layers. Therefore, for the purpose of coordinated and integrated development, it is important to pay attention to the sustainable form of natural tourism in the communities. Ecotourism is considered to be one of the most important and growing sectors of the tourism industry, as some have claimed that ecotourism is increasing by 25-30% annually. In recent years, ecotourism has become a gateway to the global economy and has a conservation perspective to sustain the host communities.

Researchers from Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, focusing on this topic, have conducted a research in which empowering urban ecotourism has been investigated as a new approach in the development of local communities.

This research has presented a framework for the two concepts of empowerment and ecotourism by using the meta-composite method of related studies, and by explaining the relationship between these two frameworks, it has presented the process and criteria for empowering urban ecotourism.

The results of the above research show that empowering urban ecotourism has social, cultural, economic, political, mental-perceptual and environmental dimensions. This approach follows the social empowerment of the host communities step by step with individual empowerment, increasing the ability to participate, social development and social effectiveness.

According to Iman Qalandarian, an assistant professor and researcher of urban planning at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad and his colleague, “the empowering urban ecotourism framework presented in this research includes ecotourism solutions for empowerment in a step-by-step manner. After empowerment, there are various examples that start from individual empowerment and continue with individual growth, the ability to participate in various social affairs and the formation of active groups. In the continuation of this process and by increasing the social participation of groups, the influence of individuals and groups is improved and the possibility of decision-making and directing decisions for the local community is formed.

These researchers say: “Finally, with the strengthening of active groups, the possibility of making decisions for the local community in various political, socio-cultural, economic and environmental aspects is provided, and it brings an increase in the self-confidence of individuals and groups.” Therefore, in general, the steps presented in the conceptual framework can be used as strategies for urban planning and design in empowering local communities in areas prone to ecotourism and improving the quality of tourism along with improving the environmental conditions for residents and tourists.

According to the findings of this research, based on the above process, in addition to the protection of cultural, social, historical and environmental values, the better life of the residents is also helped in various fields.

According to Qalandarian and his colleague, “Using empowering urban ecotourism solutions can be an effective help to improve the quality of life in communities that need empowerment. In this regard, things such as the development of the market for local products, holding cultural and identity events, organizing tourism education projects and generating income through ecotourism, providing government discounts to local residents to start tourism-related businesses, handing over land ownership to residents, and national and transnational advertising. In order to identify the existing ecotourism potentials, those interested can help empower these communities by using ecotourism.

These scientific research findings have been published by the quarterly “Urban and Regional Development Planning” belonging to Allameh Tabatabai University.

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