Cities have numerous tourist attractions and always attract tourists. So, sustainable tourist development and its deliberate management need planning. This research used survey methods and quantitative analysis. In this research, Isfahan city is selected because of its numerous tourist attractions, its high importance at national and regional level and its multi-function role. The period of study was from March 2008 to February 2008. The results can be used for the management and planning of tourist attractions.
A review of literature shows that there have been attempts to classify different tourist attractions, considering tourist behaviors. In 1981, Copper’s study showed that there are differences in tourist behavioral pattern considering their life cycle and their socio-economic status. Copper found out that tourist with lower level of incomes just visit major tourist attractions and tourists with higher level of income visit places that are seen less often. Most of the similar researches are conducted on small cities. Cities studied have been mostly tourist destinations with single function. Multifunctional cities have not been studied. Shavel and Raveh classified tourist attractions in Jeruselem and Tel Aviv, using three variables: percentage of visits, average number of visits. Four clusters of tourist attractions were found. A study by Chadefaud, divided tourists into two groups: (1) Group tourists and (2) Individual tourists. The result of his study showed that the group tourists visit mostly major attractions and more inner parts of cities. While, individual tourist visits outer parts of the cities. Chadefaud, suggests two explanations for his results that tourists coming as an organized groups are usually older and it is more difficult for them to discover the city. But individual tourists are younger. In 1998, Pearce did a study of the characteristics of the three tourist attraction areas in Paris.
This research used survey and field research as the method of data collection. Five hundred questionnaires were filled in Isfahan from individual tourists.
Results and Discussion
The characteristics of the tourists were found. About 43 percent of tourists stay in Isfahan for 4-7 days. About 57 percent of the tourists have visited Isfahan for recreation and spending their leisure time. Sixty five percent were male. About 42 percent had university education. About 40 percent of tourists had visited Isfahan three times or more. About 35 percent were staying in a hotel. Their sources of information were brochures, guidebooks and internet. Education, average length of stay and average number of visits are explanatory variables for their visits to tourist attractions.
Isfahan is the heart of tourist attraction in Iran. It is a suitable city for tourism studies since it is functioning as the major tourist attraction and as a multi functional city.
Butler‘s model was used to analyze the situation in Isfahan. He presents a model for the evolution of tourist activities in a city. The first stage is exploration stage. Tourists explore a city. Their numbers are not a lot, and have low impact on the destination. Infrastructure and facilities are not developed at this stage. In this stage, when tourists return to their origin, they encourage others to visit the place. As a result, the number of tourists increases. Gradually, the host community tries to adjust to the situation. The second stage in the cycle is created which is called the involvement stage. The third stage is development stage, when investments are made. There is local control and advertisements to promote tourism. The next stage is called consolidation, which is empowering the tourist activities. At this stage, tourists come from long distances. The destination gets to the peak of its capacity to accept tourists. The next stage is called stagnation when there is a over-saturation stage. There is deterioration in the quality of facilities and services because of the high number of tourists. This is the stage where the city of Isfahan is stands. According to Butler, three possible stages happen after this. (1) Rejuvenation, (2) Continuation of stagnation, (3) Decline.
The results of study show that the existing infrastructure and facilities do not have the needed capacity to accommodate the increasing numbers of tourists and are at the development stage. The host society and tourists are realizing the negative impacts of tourism without enough preplanning. The results of study also show that there is a need for creating the culture of acceptance of tourism in the host society.