Mass tourism, which has increased its presence menacingly with the increase of the population, the improvement of transportation opportunities, globalization, has caused serious damage to the environment and society. Ecotourism in the face of this uncontrollable serious damage; the environment has been seen as an important tool in terms of conservation and sustainability of natural resources. Ecotourism is the whole of tourism activities that are sensitive to nature and prioritize protecting the environment and local people. At this point, many duties fall on local organizations and administrations to realize, develop, and maintain ecotourism activities. Determining local tourism policies, ensuring active participation of local people in the process, improving infrastructure opportunities, efficient and efficient use of resources are among the main responsibilities of local administrations. In this study, it will be discussed what can be done in the name of creating, developing, and supervising ecotourism policies of local governments.
Ecotourism Definition, Purpose and Scope
The concept of ecotourism originated from the Greek word oikos (house) and logos (word), which examines organisms and their relations with their environment and is scientifically called ecology. Ecology naturally requires respect for local cultures as well as the protection of biological communities (Kuter and Ünal, 2009; 148). Ecotourism, which is a fairly new concept, developed in the 1990s and was first conceptualized by Kenton Miller (RAHEMTULLA and WELLSTEAD, 2001). Criteria for a sustainable world and environment were put forward for the first time at the Rio Environment Summit in 1992. In line with these criteria, ecotourism can be summarized as adapting to tourism, developing methods to benefit from it without harming the environment and ensuring that all indigenous peoples benefit from tourism activities without destroying their culture. (http://www.ekoturizmdernegi.org/ekotur.asp).
The first relied on definition of ecotourism belongs to Cabellos-Lascurain: “Ecotourism is not only cultural expressions of the past and present in a place, but also travel to natural areas that are partially unspoiled or unspoiled for certain purposes, such as examining nature, wildlife and natural plants, admiring nature, enjoying its appearance” (Erdoğan, 2008). Although there are many definitions, ecotourism is defined by the International Ecotourism Society TIES (The International Ecotourism Society) as “travel that protects the environment and respects the welfare of the local people, sensitive to natural areas”.
We can list the main objectives of ecotourism as follows:
- Minimizing the damage caused by tourism to the natural environment,
- Training for the protection of nature and socio-cultural environment for tourists and local people
- Encouraging tourism to be perceived as a mutual duty-oriented trade that responds to the needs of local people and can be developed in collaboration with local government institutions,
- Allocating resources for the management of protected (natural and socio-cultural areas).
- Supporting long-term observation and evaluation plans for the socio-cultural environment in order to minimize the negative impact of tourism,
- Ensuring that tourism is developed in a way that contributes to the livelihood of the local people,
- Encouraging the development of tourism in a way to increase the social and environmental capacity of the region,
- It is the realization of tourism infrastructure investments that are compatible with the environment, intertwined with natural and cultural life, protect local vegetation and natural life (Wood, 2002: 14).
General Framework Ecotourism in Turkey
The tourism sector is one of Turkey’s major and emerging sectors. There is a steady increase in the number of tourists visiting Turkey every day, and revenues indicate a steady improvement in the sector. In the study “Tourism: 2020 vision of Europe ” prepared by the World Tourism Organization, Turkey is 4th in 2020, after France, Spain, and Italy in its region.
It is estimated that it will come to the country level. As the potential of ecotourism, which is popularized in the face of mass tourism, which is gaining momentum from day to day, Turkey is one of the countries with its natural and cultural resources quite high. The importance of the concept of ecotourism, popularized by the 1992 Rio conference on earth, increased with the declaration of 2002 as the “year of ecotourism” by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. (Kasalak, 2014;97). As a matter of fact, ecotourism activities have started to develop in Turkey since the 1990s. At this point, many factors such as the fact that three sides are covered with seas, measurement of the blackface, the number of endemic plants, and the richness of vegetation indicate that Turkey is lucky in terms of ecotourism. Turkey’s geopolitical position, historical and natural beauties, national parks and archaeology are ecologically valuable. At this point, in order to ensure the sustainability of all these beauties, many ecology-supporting projects have been included. Blue Flag, Atak project, GAP ecotourism region are among the few examples that can be given to this support. The Blue Flag Project creates an international level of environmental awareness, carried out with volunteer participants in the name of marine pollution and protection of beaches. (http://www.mavibayrak.org.tr). Atak project also known as” Mediterranean-Aegean Tourism Infrastructure Coastal Management Project ” includes the construction of various infrastructure systems such as waste treatment plants, sewerage, biogas plants to protect the environment and people in the coastal part from Canakkale-Balikesir provincial border to Antalya-Icel provincial border. ( T.C. Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 2015). The GAP Project also aims to develop tourism in the region and ensure its sustainability by developing and protecting infrastructure deficiencies, transportation difficulties, biodiversity.
Role of Local Governments in Eco Tourism
Ecotourism is the subject of a management organization, plan and program that local organizations, local people, Service and product servers will create together. (Yücel, 2002). Ecotourism activities that do not progress in a coordinated manner may pose a threat rather than a benefit. In line with the goals of Turkey Tourism Strategy 2023 prepared by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, it is aimed to work in coordination with public institutions and local governments in the field of ecotourism and sustainability. In the same way, all these activities were planned and implemented, and public participation was kept at the forefront. (T.C. Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 2007;35). Keeping citizen participation at the forefront is very important for the ownership and effective existence of established policies.
Ecotourism in terms of proper implementation of activities, it is very important to create plans and policies that can remain in place, adequate and long-term. The tourism activities that occur are reflections of management and policies. At this point, it is clear that local governments have a large role in the existence of ecotourism.
It has also been mentioned above that local policies play a very important role in the effectiveness of ecotourism at the local level. In addition to increasing the efficiency of tourism, the policies established at this point cover many points such as nature protection, employment of local people, solving infrastructure and transport problems, and being sustainable. For this reason, mutual duties and responsibilities fall to the managers and citizens at the local level. The most important method of policies created should be” participation”. Resources should be used rationally, effectively and effectively. Local governments should protect the self-culture of the people and ensure the necessary awareness.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
As a result of globalization and developing opportunities, mass tourism and the destruction it caused to nature have increased. In parallel with this development, ecotourism has gained significant momentum in the tourism sector in recent years. Although ecotourism culture does not have a long history in Turkey, it is very important for its development.
If we consider ecotourism as a tourism activity that prioritizes tourism at the local level, local governments have a very important influence in terms of creating and developing and maintaining the existence of an activity at this level. There is a mutual relationship between ecotourism activities and local governments. The most important point that local governments will make in line with ecotourism activities is to determine the local tourism policy. According to the plans created, resources should be used rationally and easy to access. The priority of policies should be the sustainability of ecotourism.
The necessary infrastructure and transportation facilities should be provided for the effectiveness of ecotourism. Policies should also be produced that prioritize the protection of local people and culture. Instead of hasty and unplanned, unsupervised activities, programmed, effective projects should be created. All types of transport and infrastructure deficiencies should be taken into account in the projects created and action plans should be prepared in this direction.
Because local governments are the closest administrative units to the public and can establish a direct, horizontal relationship, it is very important for the creation and effective implementation of ecotourism policies. If it is an undeniable reality that there is a direct relationship between ecotourism activities and local people, awareness raising and awareness studies should be carried out in the name of creating awareness of ecotourism with sustainability of the local people, which must be done immediately at this point. In the policies produced by this consciousness, the public should actively participate, ensure ownership and be present at every stage of the policies (creation, implementation and supervision of the policies). In addition, ecotourism activities are also very important for the employment and development of local people. All kinds of alternatives should be considered and supported by local governments in order to ensure diversity in the name of reviving the local economy.
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