Date01 December 2014
AuthorTerzic, Aleksandra
  1. Introduction

    The role of the local community is especially important in the development of the sustainable tourism that 'is deliberately planned from the beginning to benefit local residents, respect local culture, conserve natural resources, and educate both tourists and local residents' (Steck, 1999, p. 4). This role needs to be accordant with the triple bottom line approach that was initiated by Elkington (1998); this means that all activities and practice of the sustainable tourism are directly connected to all three aspects of organizing a local community environmentally, socially (culturally), and economically. The ideal development of sustainable tourism could not harm the local community in any of these aspects. 'It means running a business, an organization, or a government in such a way that it doesn't destroy the resources--natural, cultural, or economic--on which it depends' (Bien, 2006). Therefore, the local community should benefit and not have its role marginalized. The cooperation between all sectors is necessary so that the local stakeholders can be included. However, Serbia was a centralized socialist country for decades, with the maximal role of the central government and the minimal role of the local authorities. This centralistic tradition has been changing at a very slow pace in spite of the EU accession process. This is the reason why managing heritage and tourism development in Serbia is still centralized and local residents as significant stakeholders have not yet been acknowledged and fully included. However, the non-governmental organizations and academic sector make efforts to start a debate about the greater role of the local community, which becomes an important factor for sustainable cultural tourism. Since tourism services mostly depend on local institutions and participation of local citizens, 'support and pride in tourism development are especially important in the case of cultural tourism where the community is part of a product' (Cole, 2008, p. 58).

    The main objectives of the research are to examine and evaluate: (1) the perceptions of residents concerning the state of heritage in the Danube region in Serbia; (2) the perceptions of residents concerning the information level, participation opportunities and the effects that tourism development projects have on the local community; and (3) sustainable cultural development indicators, with special focus on estimating the levels of resident participation and their role in the tourism development process. The results of the research should enable in depth view into the current situation in Serbia regarding the high level of centralization of the decision-making process in the development of tourism, as well as the extreme level of marginalization of the community's role in this process.

    The structure of this study is divided in several subsections. The literature review section is focusing on the role of the local communities as important stakeholders in the sustainable tourism development process. It also outlines the need for measuring the attitudes and perceptions of residents in the process of tourism development. The next section is dedicated to describing the current situation in the cultural tourism development process in the Danube region in Serbia and outlining the necessity for sustainable development. This is followed by methodological issues, including the detailed explanation of the survey process and the sustainability indicators evaluation method. The results of the survey and the evaluation process were then presented and discussed, after which the general conclusions were extracted, problems outlined and the proposal of possible solutions given.

  2. Literature review

    Tourism and culture are recognized as two strong drivers of growth all around the world, especially in Europe, primarily through economic development and employment (Prentice, 1994). However, they have a crucial role in fostering understanding and preserving the richness and diversity of regional cultures, as well as greater valuation of a common heritage. The fast growing tourism development has recently made heritage protection and sustainability a major concern (Timothy and Boyd, 2003). It is believed that heritage tourism is often used as a strategy to assist heritage resource conservation and to improve sustainable local development, but in practice it is rarely properly applied. This is especially obvious in the underdeveloped countries (du Cros, 2001; McKercher, Ho and du Cros, 2005). A balance among resource conservation, tourism development and local community well-being becomes a big challenge in the economically oriented world (Bjeljac et al., 2013). The Berlin Declaration (1997) made a strong normative point by suggesting that tourism should be developed in a way so that it benefits the local communities, strengthens the local economy, employs the local workforce, and wherever ecologically sustainable, uses local materials, local agricultural products and traditional skills. Mechanisms, including policies and legislation, should be introduced to ensure the flow of benefits to local communities (Choi and Sirakaya, 2005).

    Many studies in the tourism field focus especially on the estimation of local communities' reactions in the process of tourism development. These studies have examined residents' attitudes toward tourism and the impacts tourism can have on a community (Perdue, Long and Allen, 1990; Ap, 1992; Lankford, 1994; Andereck and Vogt, 2000; Gursoy, Jurowski and Uysal, 2002; McGehee and Andereck, 2004; Andereck et al., 2005; Dyer et al., 2007; Wang and Pfister, 2008; Anderleck and Nyaupane, 2011). Opinions and attitudes of residents on certain parts of cultural heritage in their environment are very important since they create local perspective for the evaluation of possibilities to involve geographically limited territory into wider social, cultural and tourism flows. There are also studies on the factors that influence the reactions of the local residents in tourism development, including economic support, length of stay in the community, quality of life and other issues. These seek to identify the social, political, economic and environmental implications of tourism development, taking into account the manner in which the reaction of the local population can be understood and taken into account in order to contribute as much as possible to the support of the sustainable tourism development. They suggest that it is not only important to involve the community in the development process in order to gain the support for tourism industry, but its sustainability also remains a goal. If this goal is to be achieved, some measures must be carefully introduced to the local population, making possible to exploit opportunities within the tourism development. Moreover, attitude and impact studies are often concerned with tourism-related community changes and the associated level of support for tourism development. There is also an assumed connection between community characteristics and life satisfaction that has an important impact on the general attitude of residents towards tourism development. Finally, and most importantly, the perceived benefit of tourism to an individual and its impact on resident's attitudes towards tourism development has been established (McGehee and Andereck, 2004; Andereck et al., 2005; Wang and Pfister, 2008). Residents who perceive greater levels of personal benefit from tourism are more supportive of tourism development than those who do not feel they receive benefits (Anderleck and Nyaupane, 2011). The existing literature suggests that residents should be the major actors in the tourism development process since they are directly affected by it (Ap, 1992; Gunn, 1994; Choi and Sirakaya, 2005).

    Sustainable tourism as an emerging paradigm seems to enhance the existing conceptual frameworks on tourism planning and development by making the residents its focal point (Choi and Sirakaya, 2005). Local governments, developers and community residents have been known to overlook or dismiss the importance of the surrounding environment and aspire only to maximize economic growth. For tourism to be truly sustainable, it needs to protect local and national culture, improve social and individual well-being, and conserve/ preserve the surrounding environment (Figure 1 and Figure 2).

    Evidently, sustainable tourism can reduce adverse impacts on the environment by reinforcing the management capability, implementing education and training programs and by developing monitoring systems (Choi and Sirakaya, 2005). It can also be stated that in underdeveloped destinations, without the publicly received acceptance for implementation of these measures, the tourism industry can gradually lose the support of the local community, which would jeopardize the sustainability of the destination in the future. It was observed that negative perceptions of the population regarding the tourism development, starting with a limited and non-existent possibility of participation can slow down the development process and eventually reduce the number of visitors.

    Cultural/heritage tourism has been growing at a great speed with the value of heritage being more and more recognized by various parts of society including governments, the tourism industry, visitors, and the local people. The principles for understanding the cultural/heritage tourism are defined as (Xiang and Wall, 2005): (1) it is based on cultural or natural heritage resources; (2) it provides a special visitor experience particularly of the unique cultural, natural or historical attractiveness of a certain site; (3) it undertakes an educative role in cultivating awareness of heritage conservation in both the visitors and the heritage managers and owners, including the local residents. Also, it contributes financially to the conservation of heritage resources; and (4) it...

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