Sustainable Tourism for Contribution to Economic Growth and Social Inclusion of Rural Communities in Post-Soviet Georgia

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The aim of our research is to find out to what extent tourism industry in Western Georgia ensures sustainable regional development - economic benefits and social inclusion of rural communities. Our working hypothesis assume that tourism should be the main source for the regional development – with positive effects in employment, income generation, social inclusion, welfare growth of rural households and natural environmental protection. Does the Prometheus carst cave as a tourist destination create better living conditions for villagers? What are dimensions of influence of native population on environment and in what way does increasing growth of tourist flows affect sustainability of the ecosystem? How much does the influence of this tourist site span all socio-economic and gender/age segments of the community? How actively is local population involved in decision making and how close are relationships between governmental/non-governmental/private businesses and local community members? Our research is based on Case Study and Qualitative Research methods; we also refer to Stakeholder Analysis; primary and secondary academic sources are used as well. The results of our survey showed the economic benefit from tourism, although with diversified influence on social capital particularly, on households with different social-economic statuses. The research revealed misuse of natural resources; the process of involvement of villagers in decision making was assessed as weak; and the lack of professional skills among locals to run minor businesses needs to be improved.
Georgia, Sustainable tourism, Transdisciplinary research, Poverty reduction, Welfare of families