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Community engagement with local associations and in the development of tourism: a case study of residents of three parishes in the Peneda Gerês National Park.

By Carlos de Oliveira Fernandes


The Peneda Geres National Park situated in northern Portugal has many characteristics associated with remote locations: rural depopulation, low population density, homogeneous lifestyles, little economic diversity, high quality natural environment, and communities structured on a feudal or hierarchical set-up, with the church, traditionally, as the centre of influence. Traditionally, cooperation within and between communities revolved around agricultural activities that required a joint effort. Agricultural activities that required a high level of\ud coordination resulted in the practically single form of association between residents. Residents still have strong cultural ties to nature, partially because of their reliance on sources of food and some income. There is evidence to suggest that community development with a significant emphasis on tourism may be an important element in the survival and revival of the economy of this region as traditional subsistence agriculture continues to decline.\ud The promotion of small-scale tourism is intuitively perceived as a suitable form of economic development for rural areas. However, as communities turn to tourism as\ud the means to raising income, employment and living standards the diverse impacts from tourism and its associated development affect the local population. A lack of community capacity and a lack of community understanding of tourism and its impacts have been identified as barriers to effective tourism development in this remote rural region. The overall purpose of this study is twofold. First, to critically examme and compare the attitudes to involvement, in and perceptions of, local associations of the residents of selected rural communities in the Peneda Geres National Park. Secondly, to determine resident perceptions of the contribution of local associations\ud and the National Park Authority to the tourism development process. A survey in the form of a structured face-to-face interview was undertaken to analyse the perceptions of members of the communities toward tourism development by identifying the obstacles and impediments to community\ud participation. A total of 346 usable questionnaires were collected using a randomly selected sample of residents in the parishes of Castro de Laboreiro, Entre-Ambosos-\ud Rios and Vilar da Veiga. These three selected parishes illustrate the variety of experiences faced by communities involved with tourism. Findings from the interviews were identified which serve to illustrate participatory\ud development as a complex and difficult though essential for community development in remote rural areas. Based on the findings, several recommendations on structural policies and advice on approach and issues in terms of research are\ud made

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