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Actors, Discourses and Interfaces of Rural Tourism Development at the Local Community Level in Slovenia

Nov 11, 2008
Year of publication2000
Author(s)Alenka Verbole
Number of pages110
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Magazine No.Volume: 8 Number: 6
This study from Slovenia indicates that local communities are not necessarily homogeneous in terms of their resources, interests, needs and views on rural tourism development, and neither do they benefit equally from the development of tourism. In Pišece, a large segment of the population was indirectly involved in rural tourism development at a local level, while only a few local actors had direct influence over the ongoing process. Among them, there was the strong presence of the voluntary sector and the Catholic Church. The emergence of the latter reflected the change to a multi-party democratic system of government and the liberalisation of culture, suggesting that, in the future, new players in the local community development process will have to be reckoned with. Furthermore, it was observed that local social groups, such as family clans, networks and cliques, were very important in obtaining and controlling access to the decision-making process. It was through the family clans, networks and cliques that various local actors become involved in strategies to promote, control, reshape and make the most of the internal and external interventions. The family clans were built 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, thus the rural tourism development process was dominated by the struggles between the various groups and ended in a stalemate position with no winners and no ‘sustainable development’. However, the stalemate is only a temporary situation in the development process. As argued earlier, rural tourism development is a dynamic and ongoing process, socially constructed and negotiated. Actors constantly redefine it through their social actions and inter-relationships. They may modify their views and interests while new actors may enter the process to accelerate rural tourism development, resulting in the emergence of new power relationships and the construction of new values and interests. Developing and evaluating ‘sustainable rural tourism development’ does not happen in a vacuum, as it is embedded in a given social, political and historical context. Studies of tourism development carried out in a specific local context can contribute greatly to (a) an understanding of how the many aspects of the development process are negotiated at the local as well as the national level; and (b) to the actual development of tourism that can benefit local communities.