Resident involvement Probably no other economic development of communities has so many far reaching tentacles os does tourism. Tourism involves all the city’s businesses, agencies, organisations, and segments of the public. It involves the local society and its ability to host masses of outsiders, often creating congestion, litter, and even competition for goods and services. It involves competition for land. It competes for amenities, such as parks, museums, and cultural events. And, tourism often demands extra utility infrastructure, such as water supply waste disposal, police and fire protection, streets, lighting, and maintenance (Gunn 1994:16). The situation described in the above quotation, despite its reference to the city. may be applied to all visitor destinations. Indeed, it may relate more strongly to smaller communities where the ratio of visitors to residents is higher. Several commentators on the planning process have emphasised the need for community consultation, local government regulations often require plans to be open to public scrutiny and amendment, it appropriate, before they are accepted for implementation. However, this process has been described as tokenistic, in that little purposeful effort is made to ensure that the complete range of community views is represented. It has been argued that more effective planning may be achieved through a greater involvement of the community. Murphy (1985) referred to evidence of useful contributions by citizens with respect to decisions about the future of their communities, and to the view that residents, with experience as both hosts and visitors, can constitute a valuable source of reliable and timely information. Fur- ther, tourism development is a local issue with ramifications for many indi- viduals and organisations, and community inputs may help offset any tendency to a short-term focus in the business sector. Ritchie (1993) examined the idea of resident involvement with respect to the development of a tourism “vision for the Canadian city of Calgary, Alberto Among the advantages noted were the visible rejection of tokenism, and the opportunities for voluntary submission of non-technical advice contributing to the definition of parameters and guidelines by which tourism may be developed in forms consistent with the values and aspirations of the community. Matters addressed by the task force charged with developing the vision for Calgary included: • safety, cleanliness, attractiveness and efficiency the quality and beauty of the natural environment • heritage elements (indigenous and non-indigenous) education, and advancement and transfer of knowledge • a welcoming environment for visitors • cultural diversity and artistic achievement seasonality lyear-round attractiveness) • quality of attractions and events. Designing and implementing a community vision is a difficult and complex task. For example, it must take into account the (sometimes conflicting) views of many organisations and individuals. There are likely to be concerns about the essential irreversibility of the developments decided upon. Conflict may also occur between community aspirations for the future and existing tourism organ- isation commitments, and between tourism and other business sectors. Perhaps even more difficult to deal with will be public apathy — an apparent lack of interest among some community residents. Guevara (1996) reports on a project that sought to encourage meaningful community involvement in tourism-related decision making in a small Victorian destination. The project stemmed from the realisation that community involve- ment in tourism development tended to be restricted to the provision of infor mation on individual proposals, with an emphasis on the benefits, rather than a genuinely educational exercise in which the community learns by active partici- pation in the overall planning process. The author reviews previous approaches and notes the use of consultants charged with ascertaining community opinions, and of surveys of different interest groups. But such surveys are educational only if the findings are shared and discussed by the wider community. Guevara proposes a more collaborative approach, based on participative action research, whereby those involved learn from conducting an investigation on a matter of concern to them. The advantages of this approach, he argues, include opportunities for comprehen- sive stakeholder representation, for government and industry, personnel to become informed on community needs and expectations, and for meaningful community empowerment. Members of the community could learn and acquire a sense of ownership from their participation in the research through which the necessary information was gathered. The project was mounted in Holls Gap, a community of about 250 residents located in the Grampians Range, 300 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. Most of the area folls within the Grampians National Park, noted for its scenery, flora and fauna, and Aboriginal rock art sites. The Brombuk Living Cultural Centre, situated near Halls Gap, presents informative displays and interpretive material on the culture of the local indigenous people. Representation was sought from indigenous people, other residents, business operators, holiday home owners and national park management. The project team chose to focus on the development of ecotourism, with par- ticular reference to visitor information, environmental impacts, tourism products and operators. Information sought from residents included views on a commu- nity vision; a listing of local tourism assets; perceptions on the strengths, weak- nesses, opportunities and threats pertaining to the destination; and an inventory of relevant local knowledge. Members of the community were involved in a series of meetings, workshops and working group sessions, which generated a vision statement, on inventory of local assets, criteria for preferred ecotourism a sense of ownership from their participation in the research through which the necessary information was gathered. The project was mounted in Holls Gap, a community of about 250 residents located in the Grompions Range, 300 kilometres north west of Melbourne. Most of the creo folls within the Grampions National Park, noted for its scenery, foro ond fauna, and Aboriginal rock art sites. The Brombuk Living Cultural Centre, situated near Holls Gap, presents informative displays and interpretive material on the culture of the local indigenous people. Representation was sought from indigenous people, other residents, business operators, holiday home owners and national park management The project leon chose to focus on the development of ecotourism, with por tículor reference to visitor Information, environmental impacts, tourism produch and operators Information sought from residents included views on a commu nity vision, a listing of local tourism assets; perceptions on the strengths, weak nesses, opportunities and threats pertaining to the destination, and an inventory of relevoni local knowledge. Members of the community were involved in a series of meetings, workshops and working group sessions, which generated a vision statement, on inventory of local assets, criteria for preferred ecotourism developments, and a plan for implementation and monitoring. A timer mon foring program introduced residents to the skills needed in recording and reporting environmental impacts. A resident survey was conducted to identity tourism-related problems. Information was distributed through on insert in a local newsletter. The effectiveness of the project in generating information, com munity participation and learning Outcomes was evaluated through interviews, questionnaires and round table discussions While there was general agreement that the objective of community empowerment is sound, and can be achieved by participative action research, some porticipants expressed reservations about how representative the eight to ten residents who remained actively involved were likely to be. The project was seen by some as externally managed because of the early project team initiatives. Participants also felt that apothy related to the absence of problems of sufficient urgency, and to a lock of understanding and agreement about what constitutes ecotourism. There was a perceived need to develop better machon isma for ensuring that the wider community become informed. These conclusions should not be taken to imply that there is no place for pro fessional expertise in planning for visitor destinations. As Ritchie (1993,388) noles, making a vision operational requires a considerable amount of stoff work. This work will normally be corried out by local government officers, and implementation is likely to involve tourism organisations and tourism operations. However, if community input is to be genuine and meaningful, the professionals must not be the dominant forces in the process. Questions Ils tourism the only field of planning in which the wider community should be involved? Does tourism merit special attention? ? Are there limits to the practicality of the Halls Gap approach outlined above? For example, could such a project be implemented in a large town or city? 3 Where apathy among community members is widespread, is there a need to take their interests into account in planning and decision making?
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Does Tourism Merit Special Attention.