Desert Ecotourism Strategic Planning with an Emphasis on the Sustainability of Peripheral Desert Settlements: A Case Study of the Dasht-e Kavir

Esmaeili, Banafsheh; Esmaeili, Hamid Reza; Sichani, Akram Molaasadollah
September 2016
International Journal of Environmental Sustainability;Sep2016, Vol. 12 Issue 3, p21
Academic Journal
Due to particular climatic conditions, deserts, the imperative natural environment in Iran, have always had a doubleface: the detrimental and threatening/actor to cities and villages located in the periphery and, on the other hand, the unique manifestation of nature in Iran with special attractions for those interested in nature and desert tours. This issue has placed scientists and geologists in a dilemma of "desert greening and preserving the biological system of deserts' periphery" or "desertification and declining the settlement system. " This study is an attempt to present the "sustainable development of tourism" as the turning point of this dilemma. Moreover, explaining the relationship between tourism and the sustainability of economic conditions of peripheral desert settlements, the current paper provides some guidelines in order to protect deserts, especially Iran's deserts, with a naturalistic approach. The case of study is the Dasht-e Kavir, also known as the Great Salt Desert, in the center of Iran and adjacent to the historical and cultural city of Isfahan. The main strategy of this research for providing guidelines is based on the combination of two viewpoints: "public participation " and "naturalism. " This paper begins with the naturalistic approach and introduces the Dasht-e Kavir's precious and unique natural heritage, its potential and actual capabilities and strengths, and its weaknesses. Then, a survey is carried out by recording the opinions of tourists to find out the most influential factor for promoting tourism in the region of study as well as assessing the enthusiasm rate of local residents for participating in tourism activities; thus, some interactive strategies for protecting the Dasht-e Kavir against the harmful impact of human-related development and the sustainability of a peripheral desert settlement system are presented. Accordingly, it is suggested that all the presented strategies for planning desert ecotourism development should be based on the following principal foundations: 1) appreciating the desert as both the precious natural heritage of Iran and as the most important factor for attracting tourists, 2) being inspired by the native residents as major designers interconnected with the desert nature, and 3) respecting the interests and tastes of desert tourists as supporters and lovers of the nature and the originators of desert ecotourism.



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