Tourism is an act of selling national heritage, beautiful sceneries, wildlife and unique culture to visitors who wish to come see them. Before they see these features, they have to remit some revenues, which come handy in developing the economy and infrastructure of a given place. Moreover, tourism has become a substantial foreign exchange earner in some quarters of the world. This is because people from all walks of life come to tour a given country carrying with them foreign currency in the form of revenues and fees. The goal of this essay is to gauge how the concept of “sense of place” can be useful in understanding management and planning of tourism. Additionally, it will provide relevant examples to support the arguments and provide meaning to terms “space”, and “place” as used in tourism. Hopefully, we will enhance our knowledge of tourism and our perspectives about geographical features improved.
There is a lot of ambiguous results when one talks about the meaning of space in relationship to tourism management and planning, but come to think of it; are people living in a certain area and are not concerned about their ecological surroundings, especially when those surroundings contribute to their well being and economic status? The concept of “sense of place” can be viewed in terms of recreation, its ability to offer definite solutions to emerging environmental and economic problems, then finally, its employment in managing resources and planning tourism. Of interest, is the reality that a concern for the environment is attached to ones willingness to be involved in activities meant to conserve and protect the environment, thus making sense of place an essential aspect in planning tourism and managing natural resources associated with tourism. Indeed; many people, for example, William and Stewart, have argued on the importance and value of sense of place to tourism management and planning. In their submissions, they have explained that sense of place can offer solutions when a conflict presents itself, and create the mutual understanding amongst people while building a common ground, where people can share ideas and voice their complaints through sense of the place, makes it an indispensable tool in achieving sustainability both socially and ecologically. This is because through sharing ideas on a common place, citizens come up with solutions to ecological problems, and, therefore, come up with ways in which the environment, natural resources, heritage and wildlife can be conserved so as to attract more tourists (Campbell, 2003).
It is worth mentioning that an aspect of an ethical tourism management and planning is its ability to emphasize more on the values and meanings associated with the use of land owned by a community. This makes sense of place extremely critical in planning and managing with tourism. Apparently, people living in a particular land have identified with it. They know what can bring harm to that environment and for sure, know measures, which if put in place will result in the best conservation results. It is as if they have a sense of place of their surroundings. This defines the management styles and modes of planning that should be adopted so as to conserve the environment. Sense of place has the capability of providing a link between the knowledge of the flora and fauna, and their management. This is because it is only by knowing an ecosystem remarkably well, one can relate the problems facing it so as to design adequate measures to conserve and protect it. Moreover, in order to provide better recreational facilities and activities, tourism managers and planners need to have a perfect understanding of the meanings of different places and the attributes associated with such places so as to create experiences that are of quality and fun that can attract tourists (Brown, 2000).
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Schroeder, for instance, carried out a survey in nineteen ninety six in the area of Black River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He noticed that this area stirred up public passion amongst the indigenous people living in it. His surveys were distributed to various stakeholders with the view of knowing how well the place was endowed in terms of richness and diversity. His results were overwhelming in terms of the arguments to the extent that the tourism planning and management team were called in to formulate plans for the future of the area. Using Schroeder’s results, they found it possible to identify regions with unique meanings, what made those regions unique and distinctive to the population and incoming visitors. Especially, they were able to determine the impact of a place attachment that is “sense of place”, on the behavior of a tourist or any other visitor in those regions where people had established strong emotional connection with the ecosystems of a particular place, to the extent of eliciting strong emotions when something happened to that ecosystem. Lastly, they were able to ascertain both the positive and the negative outcomes that would have resulted from making any changes to the ecosystem of the Black River. This solidifies the fact that sense of place plays a significant role in tourism management and planning. This is because; if one does not identify with a place, then he or she would possibly not know the processes occurring in the ecosystem, and the resultant effects of any sort of the change to that particular ecosystem. To expound on my views, I looked at one case study which elucidated on the importance of sense of place in resolving conflicts (Gibbons & Ruddell, 1995).