Sports Tourism Destinations on the Path of Sustainability: Assessing Obstacles and Challenges A Case Study of Isfahan Province

Document Type : Article extracted From phd dissertation


1 Department of Sports Organizations Management, Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, Shahroud University of Technology, Shahroud, Iran

2 Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities, Yazd University, Yazd, Iran


Despite numerous studies and annual reports of international organizations on the sustainability of tourism destinations, this sustainability still needs to be institutionalized in the country's sports tourism industry. In fact, Iranian sports tourism is by no means "sustainable" in terms of revenue and economic benefits, nor in terms of protection of resources and assets. Therefore, the present study seeks to identify and evaluate the obstacles to achieving sustainability in the sports tourism industry, done with a case study of Isfahan province. Two expert groups were selected using a Survey method based on interviews and questionnaires. The first group included 14 university experts, and the second group included 180 experts and senior managers of sports and tourism organizations in Isfahan province. Sampling from both groups was done purposefully. Data analysis was performed using open coding techniques, heuristic factor analysis, and multivariate regression analysis. Based on the results, barriers to sustainability in sports tourism destinations in Isfahan province were identified and categorized into 6 key areas with 36 variables. The main axes are Weakness in policy-making and vision; Inefficiency in managing sports tourism destinations; Non-social acceptance; Environmental constraints; Weakness of investment and employment; and Lack of security. The most influential factor was the weakness in policy-making and vision. Accordingly, in order to achieve sustainability, policy-making approaches to the management of tourism destinations in the country should be reviewed. Finally, it was concluded that in the absence of policy-making and regulatory approaches at the national level, it is possible to organize the sports tourism market to some extent by defining a specific perspective at the provincial level in the form of provincial development programs. This is possible by applying some requirements
Extended Abstract
The sustainability of tourist destinations has become so important in recent years that it can be claimed that a tourist destination can only be competitive if it is sustainable. Despite conducting numerous types of research and the existence of annual reports of international organizations regarding the sustainability of tourist destinations, this sustainability has yet to be institutionalized in the country's sports tourism industry. In fact, sports tourism in Iran is neither " sustainable " in terms of income and economic benefits nor in terms of protecting resources and assets. This unsustainability has different economic, social and environmental dimensions. There needs to be a theoretical consensus in current studies about the intensity and weakness of instability in each of these dimensions, as well as the obstacles facing the stabilization of sports tourism destinations. Therefore, the present study aims to identify and evaluate sustainability obstacles in the sports tourism industry, which was done by conducting a case study in Isfahan province.
The present study was conducted using a survey method, which includes a qualitative design based on interviews and a quantitative design based on questionnaires. This two-pronged plan required defining two target population groups for data collection. The first group included 14 academic experts, and the second included 180 experts and senior managers of sports and tourism organizations in Isfahan province. The distinctive feature of the second group was that, in addition to having appropriate theoretical knowledge, due to their managerial and executive records, they were fully familiar with the tourism and sports issues of Isfahan province, and they also had a history of living in the province. Sampling from both groups was done in a targeted way. The work process was such that in the first stage, obstacles and challenges were identified using theoretical literature and in-depth interviews. Then these obstacles were completed in the form of a 44-question questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale from the managers of Isfahan province. Data analysis was done using open coding techniques, exploratory factor analysis, and multivariate regression analysis.
Results and discussion
Based on the results, sustainability obstacles in sports tourism destinations in Isfahan province were identified and categorized in six key axes with 36 variables, which explain about 66% of the variance of the dependent variable, i.e., sustainability of sports tourism destinations in Isfahan province. The first factor was "weakness in policy-making and vision," the most important variable of which is "not having a clear vision for the future of sports tourism in the province." The second factor was "inefficiency in the management of sports tourism destinations," the most important variable of which is "the existence of parallel organizations and the unclear duties of each of them." The third factor was "social rejection," and its most important variable was "the phenomenon of tourist avoidance." The fourth factor is "environmental limitations," and its most important variable is the "prevalence of the Covid-19 pandemic and epidemic diseases." The fifth factor is "weakness of investment and employment", the most important factor of which is the "effect of international sanctions." Finally, the sixth factor is named "lack of security." On the other hand, Isfahan province is facing other restrictions. Many natural and ecological resources of the province have been destroyed in recent years. The drying up of Zayandehrud, continuous droughts, land subsidence crisis, and loss of vegetation and animal life are damages that will affect sports tourism. These restrictions lead to the seasonality of sports tourism activities. However, the analysis of the coefficient of the effect of each factor on the sustainability of tourism destinations in Isfahan province showed that the most important challenge affecting the sustainability of these destinations is policy-making, which is related to obstacles such as managerial inefficiency and lack of social acceptance of sports tourism.
The final result of the present study was that due to the complexity of the obstacles and the high dependence of these obstacles on each other, the vulnerability bottleneck of this system should be identified, and the changes should be started from there. Since the identified challenges and obstacles often act in a causal and consequential manner, that is, every challenge is the result of the interaction of other challenges and leads to the reproduction of new challenges, therefore, perhaps the starting point of the reconstruction of the sports tourism system can be searched for in the factor of "politicization and perspective-making." In fact, saving the tourism industry from the crisis requires policies at the national level. These policies should have an institutional aspect. It means that they depend on institutions' legal and legal capacity rather than on the will of managers and persons in charge. This also depends on some structural reforms in the country's governance and macro management system. In the absence of policy-making and regulatory approaches at the national level, it is possible to organize the sports tourism market by defining a specific vision at the provincial level in the form of provincial development plans. This is possible by applying some requirements.
There is no funding support.
Authors Contribution
All of the authors approved thecontent of the manuscript and agreed on all aspects of the work.
Conflict of Interest
Authors declared no conflict of interest.
We are grateful to all the scientific consultants of this paper.


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