Rural tourism and endogenous development : a case study of a mountainous area in Northern Greece
This study critically investigates the introduction of rural tourism in a rural area of northern Greece, the mountainous arc of Drama. It examines whether or not this development effort -which is mainly supported by the LEADER programme of the European Union - engenders local endogenous development. The study entails four specific aims, which are to investigate: the nature and structure of tourism development; the role and interrelationship of institutions (extra-local and local); the involvement of local people in development and decision-making; and the trends and the implications for the future growth of tourism. The findings suggest that tourism in the study area is not 'rural'. This outcome is linked with planning practice, which is hierarchical and élitist, and has little emphasis on the socio-cultural and political aspects of development. It was also found that the local society is segmented in regard to perceived assets, aspirations and future plans: women emphasised less the economic benefits of tourism and recognised the positive socio-cultural benefits and young people were more inclined to recognise 'non-traditional' assets. The findings also suggest a growing 'attachment' to the emerging tourism sector on the part of the local society, a fact which is closely linked with the early stage of tourism development. The thesis concludes that the inclusion of rural amenities is necessary, in order for the locality to 'brand' itself more effectively, primarily 'inside' and subsequently to the 'outside' world. However, the thesis highlights the importance of other co-existing 'modern' forms of culture within the locality, thus being critical of the 'rural idyll'. Overall, it is argued that contextual factors may hinder the achievement of endogenous development. The wider implication is that different contexts may conceive of and use endogenous development in different ways, potentially leading to the emergence of further disparities between rural areas.