Host communities participation in planning for sustainable tourism in Ireland: a local authority perspective
Local Authorities across Ireland are in an ideal position to plan for tourism in a sustainable manner when developing County Development Plans (CDPs). This thesis develops the first baseline study of host community participation in sustainable tourism planning at Local Authority level in Ireland. The principle aims of this thesis were to critically examine host communities current participation in sustainable tourism planning and to determine the extent to which sustainable tourism planning is evident within Local Authorities CDPs in Ireland. A multi-method approach was used incorporating interviews with planners in Local Authorities across Ireland and a content analysis of all available CDPs. The findings bring into question the ability of the Local Authorities to plan for tourism in a sustainable manner, in which, host community participation plays a vital role. A number of interesting findings emerged from this study. First, while all the Local Authorities are fulfilling the legal obligation to consult with the host community, few have utilised the full range of tools available to encourage functional participation. Second, host community participation across Ireland is characterised by low submissions relating to tourism, and high levels of plan alteration from county councillors. Third, at present, no set method or model is being endorsed or implemented for community participation, resulting in a significant level of disparity in the level of participation afforded to host communities. Overall this study suggests that host community participation reflects pseudo-participation in relation to normative typologies of community participation. With respect to the second aim of the thesis, it was found that Local Authority tourism plans across Ireland generally reflect a Development First approach to tourism planning. Few Local Authorities are fulfilling the need to plan and maintain the natural environment which tourists put such a high value on. Local Authority planners are not using the academic models and tools put forward by tourism scholars nor are they making use of state or EU strategies, guidelines or charters. This has resulted in a nationwide absence of comprehensive local level policies to manage or mitigate the negative impacts of tourism development. It is evident that the predominant Development First approach to tourism planning at local level in Ireland may leave the Irish tourism product at risk. The thesis offers Local Authorities a conceptual sustainable tourism planning toolkit, which is made up of two interrelated tourism planning policy checklists. In essence the toolkit facilitates Local Authority planners to ensure that they have firstly, engaged in meaningful host community participation in planning, and secondly planned for tourism in a sustainable manner.
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