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Title: An evaluation of participatory ecotourism planning appoaches in the Kurdistan region of Iraq
Author: Sarky, Sarook
ISNI:       0000 0004 5922 739X
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis aimed to evaluate stakeholder attitudes towards, and tools for, participatory planning in the ecotourism sector in Kurdistan. Ecotourism has been adopted widely to promote conservation and community development. Ecotourism has the potential to support post-conflict recovery as it requires multi-stakeholder involvement, and has the capacity to unite different community sectors and the government. Ecotourism development may, however, encounter a range of challenges in post-conflict areas and areas lacking democratic governance, an area which has been relatively under-researched (Nianyong and Zhuge, 2001; Fletcher, 2009; Altinay et al., 2007). Research is needed to underpin ecotourism development, especially in places where it is newly introduced. By evaluating participatory approaches to ecotourism development in Kurdistan, this study addressed the following research gaps: limited understanding of the needs of local communities in participatory planning; barriers and enablers to participatory planning and the potential of ecotourism in such post-conflict settings. In addition, the literature cites use of GIS-based Multiple Criteria Evaluation (MCE) for site selection, but generally with limited stakeholder consultation and a lack of critical appraisal of stakeholder input. Thirty-eight participants from different stakeholder groups, including civil society, private bodies, government agencies and academia, were consulted to gain an understanding of their perspectives on ecotourism development and potential ecotourism sites. The initial consultation used a participatory workshop adapted from the Ketso toolkit, followed by complementary semi-structured interviews with additional stakeholders selected via chain-referral sampling. After two years, the same stakeholders were consulted again about their preferences for potential ecotourism sites and the sites’ suitability using a new, iterative GIS-based MCE approach. Local community attitudes and intentions towards conservation and a proposed ecotourism project were examined using questionnaire-based interviews with 70 respondents and RRA, adapted from a conceptual framework developed by Lai and Nepal (2006) in Taiwan. The workshop and survey suggested stakeholders lacked interest in participatory planning, and held ambiguous attitudes towards ecotourism development, particularly local community members, who were marginalised by other stakeholders. Several approaches could move Kurdish ecotourism forward. NGO participation should be encouraged, as NGOs are likely to be more trusted than government. Greater environmental education and awareness among stakeholders is essential to strengthen decision-making. Critically, local communities need to be empowered and engaged. Insight into the degree of consensus among different stakeholders was gained using a novel MCE and GIS approach, which developed suitability scores for proposed destinations based on stakeholder assessment of site criteria, followed by a comparison of suitability scores for destinations proposed by stakeholders versus ‘control’ locations chosen without reference to stakeholders. 78 destinations nominated by participants had significantly higher MCE scores than ‘control’ locations (58), suggesting consistency in stakeholder input. The application of existing techniques (questionnaires and a Ketso-derived stakeholder workshop) in a post-conflict setting forms part of the methodological contribution. The principal methodological contribution was to devise a GIS-based technique for assessing consistency in stakeholder input to participatory suitability mapping. The technique has potential application in ecotourism as well as other forms of participatory suitability mapping, and could be transferable to settings outside of Kurdistan.
Supervisor: Wright, James ; Edwards, Mary Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available