Residents' Support for Sustainable Tourism Development in Rural Areas: The Case of Karuizawa, Japan

Residents' Support for Sustainable Tourism Development in Rural Areas: The Case of Karuizawa, Japan

Manuel Alector Ribeiro (University of Surrey, UK), Mayu Moritomo (KCS Co. LTD Consulting, Japan) and Kyle Maurice Woosnam (University of Georgia, USA & University of Johannesburg, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3156-3.ch005
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The present study aims to examine residents' support for sustainable tourism. Karuizawa town was selected due to the increasing number in both domestic and foreign visitors, as well as the existence of seasonal residents. Residents' participation in tourism and their support are vital for sustainable tourism. In doing so, this study primarily used the theory of reasoned action, social exchange theory, and emotional solidarity to examine residents' support for sustainable tourism. Data were collected using qualitative approach, and semi-structured interviews were adopted to explore the relationship between theoretical frameworks. Twenty participants were selected by non-probability sampling to examine differences among residents in tourism-related businesses and those who are not, and among permanent and seasonal residents. Deductive thematic analysis was chosen because of the ability to produce themes from theoretical frameworks. Lastly, an in-depth discussion, as well as theoretical and managerial implications are offered along with the limitations and avenues for future studies.
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International tourist numbers have ballooned from 435 million in 1990 to 1,322 million in 2017 (UNWTO, 2018). This trend is especially significant in Asia. Although the number of international tourists to Asia and the Pacific (323.7 million in 2017) is roughly half of the number to Europe (671.1 million in 2017), the growth rate since 2000 has been highest in Asia and the Pacific (2.93 times) compared to the Middle East (2.60 times), Africa (2.37 times), Europe (1.71 times), and the Americas (1.61 times) (UNWTO, 2018). Japan is no exception to this dramatic tourism growth. Inbound tourism is developing dramatically, especially from 2014 to 2017, in contrast to the slow growth of outbound tourism (Japan National Tourism Organization or JNTO, 2017). Given the population in Japan is declining (and this trend is especially true in rural areas compared to metropolitan regions), the potential for inbound tourism is high for various rural areas. This is evidenced by the fact that the promotion of inbound tourism and rural rejuvenation through tourism are currently two core policies for the Japanese government (MLIT, 2018a).

To promote inbound tourism, the Japanese government is keen on developing inbound tourism sustainably. For instance, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) in Japan has conducted several studies to understand sustainable tourism development from the residents’ perspectives by reviewing the international transition of sustainable tourism and international case studies (MLIT, 2018). However, in practice, it seems that the government has not yet entirely implemented sustainable inbound tourism promotion. For example, the main inbound tourism policies established by MLIT appear to be for the preparation of necessary systems that serve to attract international visitors (e.g., investment, laws, DMO establishment, Wi-Fi maintenance, and multilingual services) (MLIT, 2018). Notably, it appears that the benefits for the communities and their involvement in tourism development, which can be essential elements for realising sustainable tourism (Berlin Declaration, 1997; Choi & Shirakaya, 2005; Kitnuntaviwat & Tang, 2008; The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO), 2005), are not emphasised by the government (MLIT, 2018a). With this in mind, the present study provides more ‘sustainable’ tourism policies than current ones for Japanese rural areas, including inbound tourism, which are based on local support for and participation in the tourism development. Based on the background and rationale, the aim of the present study is to examine residents’ attitudes and their support for sustainable tourism development in a rural area in Japan. Specifically, this study examines four aspects from residents’ perspective--perceptions of tourism impacts, feelings towards visitors, support for, and participation in sustainable tourism development.

Study Location and Context

Karuizawa town in the Nagano prefecture was selected as the study location for this research. Three reasons exist for this selection. First, since Karuizawa town has been a popular domestic tourism destination for nearly a century (Uchida, 1989), its residents likely have specific feelings towards visitors and have established perceptions of tourism impacts. Second, the number of international visitors is growing substantially in the town, as demonstrated by the fact that it has hosted the second-largest number of visitors in Nagano prefecture in 2016 (Nagano Prefectural Government, 2017), which leads to a better understanding of residents’ feelings towards international visitors and perceptions of tourism impacts. Furthermore, Karuizawa town has two types of residents; permanent and seasonal residents (Takahashi, 2013). Thus, the comparison between permanent and seasonal residents can provide more rigorous suggestions for sustainable rural tourism policies, because the national government encourages people living in metropolitan cities to move to rural areas (Tsutsui, Sakuma & Kasami, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Tourism Impacts: Include the effects of tourism on the environment and on destination communities, and its economic contributions.

Emotional Solidarity: Is considered the degree of closeness between residents and tourists in a destination.

Support for Tourism: Is the degree to which residents evaluate the effects of tourism in their community.

Sustainable Tourism: Increases the benefits and to reduce the negative impacts caused by tourism at destinations.

Social Exchange Theory: Is a general sociological theory concerned with understanding the exchange of resources between individuals and groups in an interaction situation.

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