Journal of Tourism Research & HospitalityISSN: 2324-8807

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Planning the Wild: In Times of Tourist Invasion

Planning the Wild: In Times of Tourist Invasion

Many travellers seek wilderness areas to experience unspoilt nature, remoteness and solitude. Maintaining these conditions, however, becomes increasingly difficult once a wilderness area becomes a popular tourist destination, making planning a vital task if areas are to be sustained as wilderness. Given that the wilderness concept is hotly debated, it becomes highly challenging to use in practical work, such as planning. Lately, tourism in Iceland has increased at a rapid rate. The country’s uninhabited Central Highlands are characterized by wilderness landscapes which nowadays attract many tourists. With increased tourism and other land uses, this wilderness landscape is rapidly changing. Iceland’s first National Planning Strategy (NPS) for the Central Highlands has recently been approved by the Icelandic parliament. This paper reviews the extent to which the planning strategy takes tourists’ preferences into consideration and to critically discuss the challenges of tourism planning in wilderness areas. The results highlight the paradox existing between wilderness and tourism development, demonstrating the critical importance of planning tourism in the wild. Despite the fact that the emphasis of the NPS is placed on preserving the wilderness areas of the Highlands, increased accessibility and the availability of tourism facilities are also stressed, thus leaving a door open for the anthropocentric perspective. Therefore some highly debatable issues are left unclear, allowing for open interpretations for the various stakeholders of where and how much tourism development is considered appropriate in the Icelandic Central Highlands.

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