Critical analysis of stakeholders' perceptions of community-based tourism impacts in a World Heritage Site (WHS)

Abu Hassan, Z., 2019. Critical analysis of stakeholders' perceptions of community-based tourism impacts in a World Heritage Site (WHS). PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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This study was conducted at the World Heritage Site (WHS) of Morten village, Melaka, Malaysia from the beginning of September 2016 to the end of January 2017. Its aim was to examine the perceived impacts of community-based tourism (CBT) from the perspectives of different stakeholder groups. The thesis has the following three main objectives: 1) to identify the key stakeholders, and their roles and contributions to CBT; 2) to analyse stakeholder perceptions concerning the economic, environmental and socio-cultural impacts of CBT, and 3) to develop a CBT framework that informs both academic literature and the current practice of tourism professionals working in CBT at World Heritage Sites (WHS).

CBT was introduced as an alternative form of tourism product, to sit alongside ecotourism, with the aim of attracting visitors who demand an authentic cultural experience. As a part of cultural heritage tourism (CHT), CBT, through the 'homestay' programme, is used to meet demand for 'authentic cultural experiences' at the same time delivering economic benefits to the community. CBT relies heavily on community involvement and support from other stakeholders (e.g. governments, business owners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and tourists). In short, Morten village is a destination that offers an authentic tourist experience that has been created with the involvement of a range of stakeholders. As such, an understanding of their perceptions of the impacts of CBT is fundamental for the success and sustainability of tourism, as well as to understand the future viability or valorisation of the cultural products (both intangible and tangible).

This study obtained a grounded understanding of the daily realities faced by stakeholders within a WHS through its adoption of an ethnographic approach. This approach involved 'semi-structured interviews', 'participant observation', 'field notes', 'photography' and 'using secondary documentation. Analysis of the interviews was based on the methods of thematic analysis and content analysis. Data analysis was undertaken using NVivo 12.0. As alluded to above, a total of five stakeholder groups were chosen for inclusion in the research. These groups comprised government officials, the community, business owners, tourists and representatives from an NGO. The study also included tourism academics for the purpose of providing balance in the findings and to supply a counter justification from an educator's perspective. As a result, a total of thirty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals comprising fourteen respondents from the community, two government officials, two business owners, two NGO representatives, ten tourists and two academics from the field of tourism.

The findings provide deep insights into the way in which the stakeholders perceived the impacts of CBT from economic, environmental and socio-cultural perspectives. The respondents were found to clearly realise the impacts that CBT had produced in respect of the destination. Concerning the economic impacts, with the exception of the tourists, all of the respondents confirmed the positive role played by CBT in producing economic benefits for the village and local area. However, the community members expressed their dissatisfaction with regard to many economic items and were in strong agreement with the view that tourism leads to 'market competition', 'higher living expenses' and 'increases the income gaps between rich and poor. Yet all of them hoped that the village would continue to see further development, as opposed to simply sustaining its current level of tourism activities.

The findings also implied that all of the respondents formed a positive perception of the associated environmental impacts but were nevertheless worried about the effects that modernisation was having on the authenticity of the area. With reference to the socio-cultural impact, it can be seen that the members of the community are the group most affected when compared to the other four stakeholder groups. The business owners, government and tourists have only a low awareness of the socio-cultural impacts. Also, owing to the fact that tourists typically stay for only a couple of hours, it is very difficult for them to truly experience the way in which tourism influences the local life, culture and value systems. While, most of the government officials live in other areas of Melaka and merely work in Bandar Hilir; as such, most of them travel to the village only a few times per year. The interactions of business owners also tend to be limited only to their own business interests. When assessing the NGO representatives and academics, it was found that these groups perceived more in the way of socio-cultural impacts in comparison to the government, business owner and tourist respondents. These groups displayed a great degree of concern as they began to sense changes in the attitudes within the community. It is also interesting to note that no social impacts were recorded in this study. The community members, who frequently have contact with the tourists, made no mention of any social or cultural impacts created by them. Yet the community, tourists, NGO representatives and academics were found to be slightly ambivalent concerning the issues of authenticity values and authentic experience.

Unlike socio-cultural impacts, these groups debated the potential effects of tourism on the authenticity of the intangible products offered by the destination and the importance of balancing the economic purposes against cultural protection. It is suggested that in order for CBT to be sustainable, the concerns of every stakeholder need to be considered, especially with regard to the cultural and authenticity impacts. The stakeholders should be encouraged to not only enjoy participating in sharing the economic benefits of tourism but also to have the opportunity to preserve the culture and heritage. This study proposes a new academic framework for CBT which delivers a holistic account and insight into the real life of a CBT community within a WHS. The study will also provide an exciting opportunity to advance our understanding and knowledge of CBT in the Malaysian context. Specifically, it will shed new light on various attributes of the community and stakeholders in Malaysia that work to reconcile differences within the society. Moreover, this study will make a significant contribution by identifying the potential threats posed by CHT in terms of the cultural and authenticity impacts that may potentially lead to a loss of cultural and heritage products (both tangible and intangible), which may then have a knock-on impact on both the interest and numbers of tourists in the future. Looking to the future, there is a need to conduct further research in a similar or different context,such as in other WHS destinations, in order to identify any similar or different cultural and authenticity impacts of the tourism activities or products offered by such destinations and based on the perspectives of all stakeholders.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Abu Hassan, Z.
Date: March 2019
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5 per cent of this work for private study or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 24 Jun 2020 10:41
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2020 10:41

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