Negotiating rural tourism development at the local level : a case study in Pisece, Slovenia

A. Verbole

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

    Abstract

    <p>This study examines the policy and politics of the development of rural tourism at the local level in Slovenia. Its purpose was to increase our understanding of the socio-political dimensions of the rural tourism development process at the local community level by contributing to the current methods of investigating, describing and understanding of rural tourism.</p><p>This dissertation argues that sustainable rural tourism development cannot be achieved without the full support of the rural community that it will affect. Such communities are not homogeneous entities, thus it is necessary to critically investigate the various social realities of rural tourism transformation and negotiation processes.</p><p>Pisece, a small community of some 1200 inhabitants in the southeast of Slovenia, that requested assistance in developing their local community, was used for this case study.</p><p>The main focus was on the various social actors who tried to ` <em>transform</em> ' rural tourism development, as well as on the gap between the rhetoric of national planning and policy concerning the development of tourism (in rural areas), and on what actually happens `on the ground'. Further, this dissertation addresses the gap found between researcher's and the locals' perceptions of rural development.</p><p>This dissertation approached rural tourism development at the local level from an actor-oriented perspective. It conceptualized rural tourism development as a dynamic ongoing process, with various actors negotiating and struggling to obtain the most benefits. The actor-oriented approach makes it possible to analyze rural tourism development within a wider social, economic and political context. Meaning, that it was possible to get an account of the new political and policy reality in Slovenia, in which the old hierarchies and structures were very much still present.</p><p>The actor-oriented approach further made it possible to understand the strategies of the various local and external social actors who were involved in rural tourism development. The case study from Pisece shows that various actors had genuinely different perspectives of rural development, based on their various vested interests, values and opinions. This means that in Slovenia (as everywhere else) the rural tourism development process at the local level was a negotiated process, and was influenced by various social realities.</p><p>This line of thinking called for a more ethnographic exploration of different actors' social realities when collecting data. The author of this dissertation collected data during three years of qualitative field research (1994 - 1997) from extended, mainly unstructured interviews, life-histories, extended case-studies, interface and situational analyses.</p><p>The results show that rural tourism development in Slovenia is the domain of both local as well as external actors. This dissertation shows that a large segment of the population of Pisece was indirectly involved in rural tourism development at the local level. Only a few local actors had direct influence over the ongoing development process. The local social groups such as family clans, networks, and cliques were very important in obtaining and controlling access to the decision-making process for development. It is through these family clans, networks and cliques that various local actors become involved in various strategies to promote, control, reshape and make most of the internal and external interventions. The family clans in Pisece were, by definition, social groups based explicitly on kinship ties, while the local networks and cliques were built using other resources, such as religious orientation, political affiliation, value systems, and links to actors in positions of power in the local community and to external actors. These factors, importantly, influenced the exclusion and inclusion of actors from certain networks and cliques.</p><p>Social divisions in Pisece made it very difficult for actors to shift between the networks and cliques. This is not true, however, of the younger generation. The youth of Pisece appeared to have fewer social and political biases than the older generations, and were more willing to cooperate.</p><p>The local power structure and dynamics of social interactions in Pisece influenced the success of individual and more collective `projects'. Local power struggles finally ended in a stalemate, which could be only resolved by an outside intervention into Pisece's social reality. The intervention, when it occurred, gave the needed impetus to help proceed in the rural (tourism) development process. Intervention is never neutral, and soon after it took place, the negative impacts became apparent. Some external actors became enrolled in local `projects' by local brokers, while others started to pursue their own interests.</p><p>This dissertation suggests that both local organizing practices and local dynamics are vital to future planning for sustainable rural tourism development. The development and implementation of policies, and options for sustainable development of rural tourism should not only identify which tourism assets must be sustained and how, but more importantly how they should identify the various interests of the social actors, and the allocation of power at the various levels of decision-making. Finally, any discussion of sustainable development should take into account the political dimension of rural tourism development. These findings apply to all other forms of tourism development whether it be rural or urban.</p><p>This dissertation is one of very few to address the social and political dimensions of rural tourism development in Slovenia. It challenges contemporary methods and theories of investigating, describing and understanding the rural tourism transformation process at community level. The points raised will facilitate and improve rural tourism planning by increasing the understanding of the decision-making process that occurs at the local level. They will also contribute to maintaining the long-term viability of local, rural tourist destinations by helping us to strike a balance between local and external needs and interests, and to facilitate cooperation between different actors.</p><p>The challenge for further research will be to investigate, in more detail, how the above findings combined with expanded accounts of different actor strategies, can be articulated into more structuralist and functionalist interpretations. The hope is that if policy makers can understand findings easily, they will be more ready to apply them, thereby creating better links between local social realities and State policy realities.</p>
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • Dietvorst, A.G.J., Promotor, External person
    • Lengkeek, J., Promotor, External person
    Award date15 Feb 1999
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Publisher
    Print ISBNs9789054859840
    Publication statusPublished - 1999

    Keywords

    • rural tourism
    • policy
    • tourism policy
    • tourism development
    • rural development
    • slovenia
    • rural society

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