Nowadays, tourism is widely accepted as a fundamental basis of development. As a sector of economy, tourism is considered to be one of the most important activities of contemporary human beings, which not only makes dramatic changes to the landscape, and political, economic, and cultural condition, but also transforms lifestyle of many individuals. The contemporary world considers tourism as one of the most important sectors of the tertiary industry which affects job creation and income generation, results in significant economic growth, and consequently provides the prerequisites for sustainable development of different societies. Iran is among the top 10 countries of the world in terms of tourist attractions, possessing many sites with potential attractions. Thus, tourism can be considered as an effective tool in dealing with economic problems of the country. As the basis of sustainable development, tourism can solve some problems of the country and thus, development of its infrastructure results in optimal allocation of available resources. The present study seeks to investigate the overall condition of tourism infrastructure in Markazi province. Previous studies in France, Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Thailand and Japan indicate that their tourism sector has developed rapidly and now aids other sectors of the economy. Therefore, a comprehensive analysis of necessary infrastructure for the development of this industry can result in a more dynamic rural economy.
Materials & Methods
This applied study has a descriptive-comparative design and its study area includes all counties of Markazi Province. Library method and questionnaires were used for data collection. Statistical data and information were collected from the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts of Markazi Province and the statistical yearbook (2015) of this province. In accordance with Delfi method and targeted sampling, related indices were sent to 17 rural development experts and specialists via Email. It should be noted that some of these experts had previous experience in tourism. Finally, 10 completed questionnaires were received. PROMETHEE multifunctional decision-making model was also used to determine the overall condition of counties in Markazi Province in relation to tourism infrastructure.
Since the present study seeks to classify counties in Markazi province, the first function of this technique has been used. An appropriate weight is first assigned to each of the 20 indices of tourism infrastructure using Delphi method. Then, these weights are evaluated and measured along with the value of each component and option in Visual PROMETHEE software. Structural equation modeling was used to investigate relations between variables more comprehensively. SPSS 26 and Smart PLS 3 software were also used to analyze the data.
Results & Discussion
Findings indicate that Arak with a value of 0.7739 has ranked first among the counties. Several factors can be the reason: First, as the capital of the province, Arak possesses better facilities, larger population, etc. Second, as the main access road connecting neighboring provinces, Arak has developed more than other counties. With a value of 0.4673, Saveh has the second rank. Saveh also contains the access road connecting some of neighboring provinces and is located near Tehran. Thus, a strong industrial town has developed in this county attracting many workers with different ethnicities seeking employment and income. Due to these factors, relatively good facilities have developed in Saveh. With a value of 0.3536, Shazand has ranked third. Due to its proximity to Arak (the capital of the province), this county has attracted large industries such as petrochemical industry along with suitable facilities and infrastructure. Khomein (0.3166), Delijan (0.0168), Mahalat (-0.1023), Tafresh (-0.1634), Khandab (-0.3002), Zarandieh (-0.3266), Farahan (-0.3320), Ashtian (-0.3514) and Komijan (-0.3523) are next in rank.
Analyzing the relationships between variables indicates that service-related components (0.279) and transportation-related components (0.096) have the most powerful direct influence on the level of development and other variables are next in rank.
Findings of the present study and previous studies indicate that centrality and population can be considered as influential factors resulting in easier access to desirable and appropriate facilities in different countries of the world. However, such a difference is not observed between different regions in developed countries due to their integrated development. Developing countries such as Iran lack such an integrated development environment and thus, the condition in provincial capitals is much more different from other counties. As indicated in the present study, the level of development in Arak was much higher than other counties of Markazi province. Therefore, an appropriate plan is required for other counties to achieve sustainable development, and especially sustainable tourism development.