Given that the planet’s natural equilibrium is totally dependent on the relation and interaction between man and nature, as well as between society and economic development, a much debated global issue nowadays is the rational utilization of natural resources, along with the maintenance of the ecological stability and the preservation of the distinguishing characteristics of civilization. It is thus evident that the social and ideological concept that we give today to the development exerts an influence on the stability of natural systems, whereas human activities have either a creative results or a destructive one affecting the coming generations.
Tourism, an activity with direct impacts on the economic development of many countries, has begun in recent years to attract much discussion towards sustainability. Ever since the World Conference at Lanzarote in 1995, on the subject of Sustainable Tourism was discussed, there was a clear reference to the destruction left behind – in many cases – by organized mass tourism. It is precisely this almost universal acceptance of the catastrophic effects organized mass tourism often has on the environment and on small communities that has stimulated the shaping of the new conception of sustainable/viable tourism. This strategy aims at conserving the quality of sites that are tourist destinations and at satisfying the new demands raised by recreational travellers in the 21st century.
The development of organized tourism, which is the predominant form today, is being re-charted, given that the initial estimation of economic benefits both in terms of increases in income and employment and in terms of development of other branches of the economy has proven incorrect and the final balance-sheet from tourism in the area shows a smaller than anticipated net benefit from tourism.
This fact has been accompanied by questioning of the predominance of organized travel by tourists based on the consideration that it deprives them of autonomy in the course of their stay in the host location and does not offer authentic travel experiences. The specific interest emerging from the beginning of the 70s in issues first and foremost to do with environmental protection but also with preservation of specific cultural characteristics has played a decisive part in this process.
A new type of tourism, which does not possess the mass character of organized tourism and is promoted as a model for “active”, as opposed to “passive” holidays, has thus begun to make its appearance and to attract zealous promoters and adherents, in quest of quality in their holidays and seeking a different model for local development.
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