To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Problems and perspective of ecotourism in the Island of Farasan: An empirical study based on survey data

Haythem Ayachi (Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Laws, Economics and Management, Jendouba University, Jendouba, Tunisia)
Said Jaouadi (Department of Finance and Banking, Jazan University Faculty of Business Administration, Jazan, Saudi Arabia)

Society and Business Review

ISSN: 1746-5680

Article publication date: 10 July 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to find a balance between tourism development and environment, on the one hand, and achieve a consensus between the profitability and development of local community, on the other hand.

Design/methodology/approach

The research model presented is a model of structural equations with three variables (tourists, local population and resources); these variables attempt to explain how we can develop ecotourism in Farasan Island. This study is based on a survey conducted in June 2015 of 600 Saudi citizens and residents. A list comprising 900 potential participants was created from various public sources as well as from the researchers’ professional and social contacts. The interviewees were contacted to alert them to participate in the survey. A total of 600 completed responses were received within 10 weeks of launching the survey, and these responses are analyzed and reported in the present study. The questionnaire consists of a series of questions with a five-point Likert scale for each concept in the model. The authors also used a set of demographic questions that delved into respondents’ tourism and ecotourism knowledge.

Findings

The results of this study indicate that the impact of local population and resources toward ecotourism is statistically significant and that they positively influence ecotourism as hypothesized. However, it was surprising that tourist was negatively related to ecotourism. This may be because the benefits of tourist are more apparent at leisure and social level rather than at the environmental level. The data were analyzed using factor, correlation and multiple regression analyses. Factor analysis was used to determine the dimensionality of each construct. The reliability and validity of the constructs resulting from the factor analysis were evaluated before they were used in the regression analysis. Reliability was tested using Cronbach’s alpha, where the degree of acceptance of reliability is 0.70 (Nunnally, 1978).

Research limitations/implications

Negative attitudes toward a potentially empowering tourist need further investigation and attention from policymakers. One possible explanation for this result may be that ecotourism through foreign tourist is not entirely anonymous, and this may dissuade people for fright of negative effects. It can be explained by the conservative culture of Saudi Arabia and the so-called “intermediate paradox” (Persson and Lindh, 2012), where the same people who are responsible for new forms of ecotourism explicitly or implicitly oppose these reforms.

Practical implications

From a practical perspective, the findings regarding attitudes toward ecotourism lend support to the notion that the government is doing a relatively good job and this work should be sustained. The respondents recognize that significant benefits can be derived if the government uses ecotourism to develop and increase livelihood of citizen. These benefits include more efficient policy- and decision-making processes and outcomes and greater engagement of citizens in government initiatives and priorities for ecotourism. This perception is in accord with the pervasive thinking in the literature regarding the transformative potential of ecotourism. The lack of interest or discomfort in engaging with the government via ecotourism has profound implications for the development of Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia. The finding suggests that regardless of the level of government investment in ecotourism, uptake may remain low. The study has also proposed and empirically tested a model of ecotourism that provides fertile grounds for further testing in other contexts and socio-political environments. From a practical perspective, the findings reported here could help shape the strategies and tactics the government could use to increase the rate of ecotourism in Saudi Arabia.

Social implications

From an original exploratory study that puts in perspective of Island experience, this study examines the scope of ecotourism as an alternative to tourism to the Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia. Considering the tourism potential existing on Farasan Island and its socio-cultural consequences discussed, we think of making tourism otherwise based on conservation of ecology and participation of local people. It is then shown that the position of the authorities in terms of alternative tourism, which remains the order of discourse, encourages local actors to pursue their own projects. But in terms of local development, the impact of these local initiatives, scattered and disjointed, are altogether very low. The authors try, through well-designed questionnaire, to explore and to take measures leading to the expected sustainable management of resources, while investments are gradually encouraging ecotourism in Farasan Island. The results indicate that the impact of local population and resource toward ecotourism is statistically significant and that they positively influence ecotourism. However, it was surprising that tourist was negatively related to ecotourism.

Originality/value

Research on ecotourism in Saudi Arabia is virtually non-existent, particularly research relating to tourist as opposed to the technological aspects of fostering ecotourism. The results of this study indicate that two variables positively influence ecotourism: local population and resource, through the use of nature and social tradition. The perceived benefits of ecotourism were statistically significant but negatively related to tourists. Moreover, both age and gender influence the level of ecotourism – age positively and gender negatively. These findings suggest that as people become more mature, they are more willing to encourage ecotourism of the country via natural and cultural channels. Also, it appears that women are not likely to use ecotourism more because of traditional practices of the role of women. Moreover, participants have a favorable attitude toward the progress and efforts made by the government to encourage greater ecotourism. Finally, while participants recognize the benefits of interacting with the government through programs and that program is likely to play a major role in future efforts, they currently do not see the need to use ecotourism or are not comfortable to engage with the government.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the Center for Environmental Research & Studies of Jazan University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, award number (CERS 1/2013).

Citation

Ayachi, H. and Jaouadi, S. (2017), "Problems and perspective of ecotourism in the Island of Farasan: An empirical study based on survey data", Society and Business Review, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 235-251. https://doi.org/10.1108/SBR-10-2016-0056

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited