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Tourism, residents' attitudes and perceived carrying capacity with an experimental study in five Tuscan destinations

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This paper starts from the idea that tourism is an encounter of at least two non-homogeneous populations: residents and tourists. Their interaction may trigger conflicts and a population dynamics whose results are difficult to foresee. It follows that the sustainability of tourism depends simultaneously upon the sustainable use of local resources and the minimisation of the costs of conflict between the populations involved. The latter also depend on attitudes and perceptions that distinct groups of residents have toward tourism and other groups in their community. This issue is investigated within the tourism carrying capacity framework. The paper analyses both theoretically and empirically the likely outcomes of conflicts between distinct groups of residents. It presents and discusses the results of a research carried out in five famous tourist destinations in Tuscany, with a high number of tourists and seasonality of tourist flows. The main goals are to analyse how distinct groups of residents, characterised by different levels of involvement in tourism-related activities, perceive the tourism phenomenon, and to check whether there exists a latent or potential ground for conflicts between groups of residents. Contrary to expectations, the results portray communities with a high level of social acceptability toward tourism and an apparent lack of current conflict.

Keywords: tourism carrying capacity, community interaction, resident attitudes, residents, tourists, sustainable tourism, sustainability, Tuscany, Italy, conflicts, population dynamics, tourist destinations, social acceptability, tourism capacity

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