The paper aims to analyze the current situation of rural tourism in the municipality of Marathon and to identify ways of improvement. The research methodology followed is primary, quantitative analysis with a sample of 44 companies which offer tourism services in the region. The companies that participated in this research are categorized as followed 82% are in the food service sector such as restaurants and bars, 14% are hotels, 2% are rooms to let and 2% are travel agencies. The questionnaire used is trying to depict the attitudes and the perception of tourism professional about the rural tourism development. The findings lead to the conclusion that even though the area has a wide range of rich resources in order to develop a sustainable tourism model, the reality is far from the potential of the region. This gap can be covered through a number of initiations that the local community and the tourism companies must undertake. The research takes into consideration only the attitudes and believes of tourism companies and not the citizens and the local community and public administration. The changes proposed by this study are going to improve the local economy and the social life in a sustainable way. This is the result of the unique characteristic of the study as it analyses the available resources and the professionals’ opinion that are running their own business in the tourism sector in the specific area of Marathon.
Keywords: Sustainable development, tourism, Marathon
The human tendency to seek nature when manifested in the form of tourism is called “cluster of Anteo’s” by various psychologists which means that man owes his existence in nature, he takes strength from it and is reborn every time he is in contact with it (Sfakianakis, 2000).
There are several effects of organized mass tourism vacations in the environment, the society and culture as they reinforce the tendency for development of alternative tourism standards. Since 1980s there have been recorded many significant changes in tourism demand, which were initially related to the motives of tourists while tour operators began to seek an environment friendly package tour.
Given the decisive role of the above in the production of tourism packages, started the change of direction and growth of various alternative tourism models (Spilanis and Vayanni, 2003) based on three major lines:
- Creation of new impulses.
- Mitigation of tourist traffic and parallel to the economic development of areas of the region.
- Effective use of natural, cultural and human resources of the region.
2. THE NEW ERA OF MASS TOURISM
The last two decades under the influence of sociology of tourism, there were made efforts to create new tourism standards where modern demands require pure natural environment, respect to local social specificities, decentralization and participation of residents in tourism development processes. These trends have created two fields of research (Ambrož, Ovsenik, 2011). To the first one, the emphasis is in the modern motives of tourists and trends in development issues and the second level refers to the changes in consumer and social patterns of tourists, leading to convert passive viewers of tourism activities into energetic tourists that influence the tourism development.
Many countries have tried to develop their economies through tourism. This was mainly in Third World countries but also in other areas with tourist resources and attraction areas for holidays (such as mountainous or coastal areas), which was the first choice of tour operators. The result of this development had positive and negative positive impacts in other sectors of the economy (such as technology, crafts, construction, agriculture, etc.). The final yield however was less than expected (Britton, 1982). The items that were detected and focused on review were:
- Even though the primary target was the right combination of "quality - price" then it was replaced by the "quantity-price." The result was a decrease in revenues, stagnation in investment and social tensions for the inefficiency of the tourism sector.
- Creation of economic arguments against mass tourism and the benefits of tourism development.
- Tourist’s reception areas display social and environmental problems and the profits are reduced, due to the competition among areas that have the same tourism product.
- The identical way of tourism development, with the same characteristics of the infrastructure and services brought to saturation having as a result tourists’ dissatisfaction and seeking of new tourism services.
2.1 Model of sustainable tourism development
Sustainable tourism development is defined as development that aims to equitable satisfaction of needs, that is, development that meets the needs of the current generations and does not preclude future generations from meeting at least the same level of needs (Fotiadis, 2009)
Sustainable development refers to creating the necessary conditions for the sustainability and maintenance of a specific activity and there are limits to growth and exploitation of natural resources in such a way that is profitable, socially justifiable and ecologically tolerated.
The tourism industry has two sides. On the one hand, contributes to the economic prosperity of a region in various ways, and on the other hand it must be environmental friendly and socially responsible.
According to a number of WTO surveys (www2.unwto.org) the majority of tourists today, wish to visit areas of high environmental quality and strong elements of local culture. Sustainable development pays particular attention to alternative forms of tourism which were rapidly developed the last two decades, as they were considered a effective tool to improve the quality and quantity of services, which is important to overcome competition.
A model of sustainable tourism development
Source Fotiades, 2004
The locality has been closely linked with policies and actions for the development of modern tourism, where the cooperation of the State, the private sector and local government are necessary. The private sector contributes more and more through institutional and professional representative bodies at the local level, such as businessmen, hoteliers, tourism workers and others. This change was required by initiations (Elliot, Radcliff, 2006) such as: a) the need to protect the environment by reducing the unsustainable use of non-renewable energy sources, control water consumption, reduce waste, the congestion, access control tourists to ecologically vulnerable areas, etc. b) changing motivation for tourists and turn in quality tourism using tourism innovations, new technologies friendly to the environment and promotion of alternative forms of tourism compatible with the principles of sustainable development.
The move of mass tourism into alternative tourism financially and expertise supported by community programs, emerged a dynamic field of sustainable tourism development, by connecting different productive activities, in addition to environmental protection, the protection and promotion of traditional agricultural activities, highlighting monuments and activities of local culture, as well as programs changing the land use from problematic rural areas to implement alternative forms of tourism. Also local innovative initiatives systematically strengthened, particularly those created positions and many of these movements were based on activities related to the above forms of tourism. However, the final conclusion is that the promotion of alternative tourism does not concern tourists and locals in the same way and both contribute to the consolidation of it by their behavior.
Diagram 2. Sustainability of an ecosystem in the Conway theory
Source: Conway, G. R. 1983. Agroecosystem Analysis. London: Imperial College of Science and Technology.
Tourism and sustainable development are interrelated constituent elements since they always refer to quality features and timeless presence. Sustainable development not only takes account of economic factors, but also environmental and sociocultural. That means that we approach the development with a sense of "economic sustainability tourism” and the concept of sustainable tourism development. (Fennell, 1999).
In Greece the sustainability of tourism is administrated by the law JMD 107017.28/8/2006 which is the result of the European Union Directive 2001/42/EC.
The Chamber ofEnvironment andSustainability objected because the proposed framework has these characteristics:
The basic principlesand targetsfor sustainabletourism developmentare:
- Tourism development should be from time to time, environmentally friendly and socially equitable for the locals.
- Tourism should be always interested in the cultural heritage and traditions of the local community.
- Compliance with the natural environment
- To protect and improve the natural environment and the cultural environment should be working together all operators of the local community.
- The main goals of tourism development should be to preserve the local destination and the service of tourists in the context of sustainability.
- To contribute significantly to the opportunities of the local economy.
- To contribute effectively to improving the quality of life of residents and the social-cultural enrichment of the tourist destination.
- The environmental sensitive areas should be given special care.
- There should be an emphasis on using alternative energies.
- The adoption of alternative and special forms of tourism should be in harmony with the local culture environment.
- Raising awareness to all, about the implementation of these principles objectives.
Sustainable development indicators:
Hughes (2002) analyzes sustainability into three categories:
- Ecological sustainability to protect the ecological system and varieties of fauna and flora. The limits of the ecosystem should not be exceeded due to the development.
- Social and cultural sustainability for the maintenance of identity and characteristics. This is achieved through the direct and active involvement of residents.
- Economic sustainability to ensure resources for the maintenance of society and future generations.
For the above categories should be created laws that will support sustainability and sustainable development..
Major type sofrural tourism
Areas of natural environment except the urban and marine areas are the rural areas and the countryside. In the countryside are developed different tourist activities that make up the various options, and special forms of tourism. The most important are:
• Rural tourism being developed in rural areas
• The agricultural tourism being developed in rural areas
• Tourism of observation of flora and fauna
• The ambulatory tourism developed in rural walking paths
• Tourism of Outdoor sports
• The Trekking tourism, excursion tourism, health tourism. if the forms are developed in the countryside
• Adventure Tourism
• Eco-tourism and environmental tourism which does not mean focusing only on the protection of nature but also on the protection and promotion of cultural heritage.
If the concept of rural consists also of mountains then mountain tourism is also a form of rural tourism. Decentralization and removal of tourism activity from the coastal areas and channeling them within the country, is a common characteristic resulting in the development of new areas and maintenance of remote areas.
3. MARATHON AS A RURAL TOURISM DESTINATION
At the following map 1, we see that the majority of lowland of Marathon takes up rural areas. They are also basic economic factor for the residents of the area, since one third of the economically active population mentioned that is occupied with farming. The most important agricultural core is surrounded by housing associations of Judicial officers. The Grava, the Schinias and Saint Panteleimon. A second core is located around the village of Agios Georgios, Kato Souli and Aura. Smaller rural areas are north of association and between the village of Marathon and Kalentzi.
Source:National Technical UniversitySCHOOL:ARCHITECTURE-ENGINEERING
Marathon Natural resources
- The artificial lake of Marathon
Marathon lake is a very important part of natural wealth of the region. Beyond the exploitable water resources, the lake has a rich natural ecosystem and offers a picturesque natural beauty. In a relatively short distance from Athens.
- Mountain ranges in the north and northeast of the municipality.
These tumors are not as important natural wealth for the region as that of Penteli mountain, especially after the recent fires and illegal reconstruction. However, they are an important forest reserve.
- The Blessed Source
The source gushes today beside the road Bei-Kato Souliou, at the northeastern end of the valley. Once, Athens was supplied by the rich waters of it, and this is evident from the pumping station located there. During German possession was protected by guard. Still survives untouched the small fort of the German army. Today waters enrich the arena of the Olympic Rowing Centre
- The Pentelic mountain
It is the western municipality and a unique source of greenery and oxygen for residents of the entire basin. From this point several streams start and lead to the sea where they have been preserved, creating a pleasant microclimate for surrounding areas.
- National Park ofSchinias-Marathon
This is an area of increased ecological importance, both for Schinias, and for the entire Attica Basin. Includes the biotope the coastal zone of the pine forest, of 3 km length and 450 m width about and certain crops north of the wetland. West of the park lies the plain of Marathon. The area Schinias is of particular interest from an ecological point of view, both because of the variety and rarity of habitats and wetlands and also because it has been strongly degraded and is likely to be completely destroyed by the continuing and increasing human interventions.
The National Park Schinias Marathon is the important coastal ecosystem of Attica, while it is extremely interesting as a location and is based on a sensitive water balance. Its area is 13.84 sq km and comprises the forest of Koukounaria. The Great Swamp, the Hersonissos of Kynosoura, the coast and the sea zone includes protected species of flora and fauna, such as water ducks and one rare endemic type of fish around the world. In 2000 the land and sea areas of the Schinias, were marked as National Park and established zones and activities permitted per zone. The law stipulates the integrated planning and development of the area while locating the Olympic Rowing Center. The area was described as supra-environmental resource for the preservation, promotion and enhancement of ecological features and natural ecosystems.
Recently, and as the rowing remains closed to the public after the Games, the organization of Olympic Properties, issued a press release whereby the Rowing reopens its doors to the world: 'The aim is the utilization of Olympic facilities and the chance to learn the future athletes / sportsmen of our country for the sport. As well as contact and acquaintance of the public with rowing but also with the environment of the National Park Schinias Marathon.
Points of attraction of thestudy area(City Marathon)
The areas bordering the National Park of Schinias are broader segments of the National Park of Marathon. Are in order of the habitat, the rowing and pine forest with the beach of Schinias.The rowing and the beach work as a sports city, while pine forest and habitat areas are of particular interest because of its natural beauty and rare species of flora and fauna they host. The region Tymvos is a dipole point of interest, the trophy of the battle of Marathon and the church of Panagia Mesosporitissa. The trophy is is a copy of the original, parts of which are in the Archaeological Museum of Marathon. From the information appears that there were buried in groups dead Persians because they found bone remains irregularly arranged, which seems to belong to hundreds of victims. North of rowing is another archaeological site which is located north of the village of Kato Souli. In this region is located the Blessed Source, the waters of which provided input to Athens, while these waters today are used to enrich the track of rowing. At this point is the church of Agios Athanasios, and the estate Benaki with neoclassical villa. The property has an area of 2500 acres and belongs to the institution of the Benaki Museum since 1962. Older residents recognize the contribution of the estate Benaki to the survival of area in difficult times. Finally, the area with the number 7 includes the archaeological site of Rhamnus. Although formally not wholly owned by the municipality of Marathon, it is located very close to the settlement of the Aura and is accessible through the main street that runs through the study area. The archaeological site of Rhamnus is the most extensive archaeological site in the area and has a huge archaeological significance as it includes walled shrines of holy Themis and Nemesis, burial buildings, ancient theater and settlement of the 4th century BC.
Other points of attraction
- Olympic Rowing Center of Schinias
Created for hosting the rowing race and canoe kayak during the Olympic Games and is part of the National Park of Schinias, which has joined the program NATURA 2000. The facility enables you to host activities and programs of environmental education and research, and related functions with the principles of sustainable development and conservation of the area of Schinias. The main lake has a length of 2.2 km and is associated with a second auxiliary lake, which during the period of the Olympic Games was used for training and warming up athletes. The total water surface area of the facility is approximately 470 acres, while the Olympic Rowing Center grandstands of Schinias has 1000 seats.
- The “trophy” of the battle of Marathon
The copy of the trophy of the battle of Marathon, is located next to the church of Panagia Mesosporitissa. From the information appears that there were buried in groups dead Persians because bone remains found irregularly arranged, that seem to belong to hundreds of victims. The remains of the real trophy are in the Museum of Marathon
- Archaeological site of Rhamnus
In the borders of the municipality of Marathon and Grammatiko extends the archaeological site of Rhamnus the best preserved ancient township of Attica. Two shrines have revealed - the temple of the strict goddess Nemesis , connected with the biggest names in classical art of Phidias and Agorakritos - and the temple of god Amphiaraos. Seaside fortress is preserved,which has been used as a fort for Athens for long periods, burial monuments and houses.
- Panagia Mesoporitissa
The Church of Panagia Mesosporitissa is located at the SW edge of Megalo Eleos. Celebrated on November 21, of the Presentation of Mary. In terms of style, striking impression makes the roof of the temple which consists of thin wooden logs. Beside the church they found the remains of the trophy of the battle of Marathon, built in a tower from the time of the Middle Ages.
- Benaki estate
On the avenue of Kato Souli, about 4 km from Marathon, are the estate and the magnificent villa Benaki. The property once reached up the Limiko (Rhamnus). Today it has an area of 2500 acres and belongs to the Foundation of the Benaki Museum (since 1962). Older recognize the contribution of the estate Benaki to the survival of area in difficult times
4. FIELD RESEARCH
The aim of this is to gather information that would determine if there are opportunities to support the possibility of developing alternative tourism focusing on activities of mild rural tourism (Brown, 2003).
In the new Kallikrateio Municipality of Marathon and mainly in the area of Nea Makri and Marathon Beach have been developed in standards of mass tourism and not organized, various tourism businesses. Also in the municipality there are too many holiday houses. The previous Municipalities and communities had no organized plan with tour operators, since the destiny of the tourism product transferred by secretariats to secretariats and from ministry to ministry. The possibilities that existed were many as the tourism standards have changed since the 80s, and the tourist attractions of alternative tourism are many and motivations of tourists are also too much.
The objective of this research which was carried out on questionnaires forms which will be recorded and analyzed is to find appropriate ways of developing alternative tourism with an emphasis on outdoor activities. The effort will be, so that all operators with the initiatives of the municipality, and with new jurisdictions that provide the NLF or involved in tourism, initiate projects and programs targeting to the internal and external tourism. The specific research questions of the research are:
- If there is an alternative tourism in the Municipality of Marathon
- Investigation of alternative forms of tourism that may help in the tourist development of the Municipality of Marathon
- If there are tourist activities in the countryside Municipality of Marathon.
- Evaluation of all parties involved, associations and local government and the degree of participation.
- If they know the tourism attractions of alternative tourism activities and particularly in the countryside of the municipality Marathon and if they have goals for a sustainable development of alternative tourism with an emphasis on outdoor activities.
Presentation and analysis ofresearch results
The statistical analysis of the data was performed by using the statistical package SPSS 17.0 version for Windows. The descriptive measures considered are a) Frequencies of variables and b) The averages of variables scale likert, of 4, 5, 7 and 10 degrees used in the questionnaire. The results are presented graphically in pie Charts or bar graphs
From the 44 companies of the sample, the vast majority are catering companies and general health interest (82%), 14% are hotels while only 2% are the rented rooms and 2% travel agencies. The 81% of companies operates all year round, which is probably due to the permanent operation of the catering business in the region.
The answers to the research questions are depicted in the following charts.
- Do you believe that psychical environment is not part of the local tourism product?
The majority 72% believes that environment is completely unexploited
- Do you believe that rural tourism is well developed in Marathon?
The majority 81% believes the current situation is unsatisfactory.
- Do you consider there are problems in rural development in Marathon?
The majority 63% believes that there serious obstacles in Marathon’s rural development such as:
- Lack of infrastructure
- Lack of know how in rural tourism development
- Limited marketing efforts to promote the destination
- Lack of competition in the field
- Lack of capital and other resources
- Do you consider that the Municipality of Marathon promotes rural tourism?
The majority 88% believes that it is not interested at all.
- Do you believe that rural tourism will increase tourism companies profitability?
The vast majority (65+26) 91% believes that it will be for the benefit of the tourism companies.
5. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The research results prove that Marathon is a very attractive destination for rural tourism development although up to now there are very limited initiations to this direction.
According to Wray et al. (2010) who have conducted a research in Australia focused on the best practices in sustainable regional tourism destinations there twenty two best practices which, keeping in mind the research results, could also be implemented in area of Marathon:
- Establish long-term strategic planning processes to guide the sustainable management, development and marketing of tourism.
- Establish an effective destination management structure to lead and facilitate stakeholder cooperation for the sustainable development, management and marketing of tourism.
- Have a strong level of support from their state or territory tourism organisations.
- Business involvement supported by effective regional tourism organisations and/or local tourism organisations that lead and coordinate tourism and business involvement.
- Have a good level of support from their local governments.
- Have a good level of support from parks agencies and other relevant government authorities.
- Undertake research to support decision-making for tourism.
- Establish methods to improve funding for tourism.
- Educate and communicate the significance and local values of tourism to visitors, the community, governments and business (Venetzanopoulou, 2006).
- Foster service excellence.
- Develop crisis management plans for tourism.
- Improve access for visitors by planning and developing effective transport infrastructure and systems (WTO, 1994).
- Plan and develop appropriate infrastructure and support facilities for tourism.
- Plan and develop a range of appropriate visitor products and experiences.
- Plan for the preservation of natural, built, socio-cultural environments.
- Foster a cooperative approach to marketing.
- Develop strategic marketing plans.
- Establish an effective and consistent destination brand and image that is used to position and promote the destination to attract appropriate visitor markets and guide the development of appropriate tourism product.
- Identify and target appropriate visitor markets.
- Develop innovative advertising, sales and promotion strategies to support the destination brand and image.
- Provide quality visitor information and interpretation services.
- Develop festivals and events that support the destination image.