SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Sustainable tourism represents a very important concept for communities around the world and the idea of long-term development has become a primary concern. Local communities contribute to sustainable tourism by promoting and safeguarding the natural and cultural heritage. The role of the community in environmental, cultural and economic sustainability is highlighted in an extraordinary variety of contexts.
Community development supports people, places and local identity and aim to improve the quality of community life. It helps all the actors involved to work together in order to improve services and the way in which decisions are made. At the base of community development are the following principles: respect for human rights, justice and cultural diversity.
Moreover, it puts the accent on self-determination (people and communities have the right to make their own choices and decisions), empowerment (people should be able to control and use their own assets and means to influence), collective action (coming together in groups or organizations strengthens peoples’ voices), working and learning together (collaboration and sharing experiences is vital to good community activity).
Examples of community development best practices include:
• promoting the local attractions in order to build individuality and increase the area’s economic potential (historic buildings, community sites and monuments, traditions and customs, events, particular landscapes, etc.);
• highlighting the advantages and opportunities for tourists while involving them in community’s life (new genuine experiences, acknowledging the role local identity and heritage play in national culture, better understanding of local mentalities);
• better understanding of local socio-cultural challenges.
An important key-factor for community development is local tourism. Despite globalization, despite online; place is still important. Whether driven by a sense of authenticity, convenience and/ or eco-concerns, travelers and consumers continue to embrace local products and services.
Heritage conservation is important for identifying, recording, analysing and protecting cultural resources. Conservation of heritage building represents an important tool for community development. It plays an important role to define the landmark within the heritage area as well as to generate economic return and to support the local tourism.
Heritage buildings represent a testimony of the past, history and culture of a place. They possess historical values resulting from their architecture and correlation with important events that occurred in the heritage area such as religious, social and political events.
Heritage buildings are subjected to processes of degradation with time, which leads to a situation in which they became not able to fulfil the purpose for which they were built. Preserving heritage buildings is very important because it provides a sense of identity and continuity in a fast changing world.
By being better informed and more aware about the role of local tourism, people will become more committed to taking action towards protecting and promoting local cultural heritage. For example, they can provide local guides for walking tours or sell souvenirs made locally.
Rural tourism is the most appealing to the public because it brings people closer to nature while building environmental and cultural awareness and respect for diversity. In this case, the level of attraction is determined by the village community which means involvement in protecting the environment and using local resources (regardless of their type).
Thus, leisure does not have to mean only relaxation but also contact with rural community life and work. Rural tourism draws people into the country with certain ideals and this means that the problem of rural depopulation can be addressed more effectively and beneficial in-migration can be encouraged further. Consequently, the socio-cultural development contributes to embracing the rural heritage and helps promoting local pride made – something that makes the rurality more of a reality.
Rural tourism allows the creation of a replacement source of income in the non-agricultural sector for rural dwellers. The added income from rural tourism can contribute to the revival of lost folk art and handicrafts. It also provides positive experiences for both visitors and hosts, direct financial benefit for conservation and empowerment for local people and raises sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate.
The main advantage of a rural touristic destination is that it creates a powerful bond between people – the tourists and locals – which, in terms of accommodation, become clients and hosts. Here the main influencing factor is determined by the degree of hospitability and pleasure of receiving guests.
Once rural tourism is established in a community, the positive results can be quite far reaching. A great starting point is rural service retention. Facilities within these locations can be improved with new developments that cater for incoming tourists and transport links are often enhanced to meet the greater demand, meaning the remote communities are no longer so remote. Sometimes the businesses and cultural facilities will renovate run-down rural properties but these resources are also ideal for accommodation for tourists and are even used for better housing for the local community.
The social development of rural tourism as an alternative to agriculture could persuade young people to stay in rural areas (employment diversification) and increase the incomes, which ultimately contribute to better living conditions for locals.
In the case of rural destinations, the essential product is the journey, the authenticity of the moments and the quality of the services offered. Competitiveness of rural destinations is essential for local economies, as the large number of tourists contribute to the increase of revenues, thus leading to increased welfare of residents, preservation of natural and cultural capital and, last but not least, the promotion of identity and destination image. The competitiveness focuses on economic and socio-cultural aspects and especially on environmental conservation.
Rural tourism plays an important part in the development of villages because it offers several advantages: is a complementary activity to agriculture and a source of income for villagers. Moreover, it is necessary for rural tourism development strategies developed to take into account creating diversified jobs.
Destination management involves a number of local actors that contribute to highlighting its features through actions and measures that lead to visible economic, social, and cultural outcomes. The actors of the destination participate in the organization, exploitation and consumption of the tourist offer.
A strategic planning of destination management is a well-grounded analysis that highlights the qualitative features of the destination.
A good functioning of the destination management process implies:
• flexibility and adaptability;
• long-term perspective;
• establishing a specific goal and actions;
• constant monitoring to improve the means used;
• coordination between local and regional legislative and policy structures;
• cooperation and community support;
• applying the principles of responsible tourism to ensure the sustainability of the destination, the local economy and the cultural values of the target community.
The force that unites the efforts of the actors involved in the promotion and sustainable development of the tourist destination lies in a well-developed marketing plan. Effective implementation of the marketing plan consists of developing and implementing product, price, distribution and promotion strategies.
The tourist product in case of destinations is not tangible, but is found in the form of services that the tourist accesses (natural resources, activities and events, culture, accommodation).
The tourist destinations offer a wide range of tourist products: cultural, fun, sports, etc. It is important to take into account the necessity, relevance and profitability of the product strategy for the destinations. A successful tourist destination must:
• offer visitors something unique;
• to highlight the identity and spirit of the place;
• to manage natural resources responsibly;
• to involve the community in the promotion process;
• to respect the principles of responsible tourism.
The tourist product is a combination of tangible and intangible, natural and anthropic elements (places, events, things) that motivate the tourist to travel to see / live / experience.
The tourist product must be multidimensional, accessible and public oriented (taking into account the socio-cultural basis of resources and services). It is defined and analyzed in terms of attractiveness, accessibility and accommodation.
The tourist product is perceived in a subjective way by the consumer. The perception of the tourist on the product depends on a number of factors such as:
• the culture from which it originates;
• the socio-economic situation;
• previous experiences.
Therefore, the experience of each tourist is unique. The level of satisfaction is difficult to measure, as it varies according to the personality, attitude and disposition of the tourist.
In order to increase the competitiveness of the tourism product, development and promotion strategies should be applied. Centered on harnessing existing resources and attractions it takes into account the long-term development of infrastructure, communications and services (sustainability).
In the issue, community economic vitality takes time. When trying to implement examples of best practices the results will show up in time but the effect will be long-lasting.
The process requires a shift in the cultural thinking, and it takes time and commitment from community leaders, citizens, volunteers, businesses, and others to make things happen and become part of the community fabric.