ASSESSMENT OF THE COMPETITIVENESS OF KASTAMONU PROVINCE IN TERMS OF CORE RESOURCES AND ATTRACTORS FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY STAKEHOLDERS
1.1. RESEARCH SUBJECT
After extensive Turkish and English literature review, it has been determined that there are many conceptual and empirical researches conducted to measure destination competitiveness. It can be said that conceptual studies are mostly done to develop more models and indicators (Akkus, 2017: 101). It is possible to divide empirical research into two as supply-side and demand-side. While the tourism sector stakeholders are taken as a basis in supply-side research, tourists are targeted in demand-side research. Table 1 presents key information on empirical research evaluating destination competitiveness from a stakeholder perspective.
In most of the studies listed in the table, various destination competitiveness models were adapted to the relevant tourism region and stakeholder views on the subject were evaluated. In this research, an interview form was prepared based on the Conceptual Competitiveness Model of Ritchie and Crouch (2003) and in-depth interviews were conducted with stakeholders. For this reason, some information was shared about similar research (Hudson, Ritchie ve Timur, 2004; Hallmann, Müller, Feiler, Breuer ve Roth, 2012; Dragičević, Jovičić, Blešic, Stankov ve Bošković, 2012) based on the model developed by Ritchie and Crouch.
1.2. RESEARCH PURPOSE AND IMPORTANCE
In this study, it was aimed to reveal the core resources and attractors of the province of Kastamonu and evaluate their situation in detail in terms of competitiveness.
1.3. CONTRIBUTION of the ARTICLE to the LITERATURE
After extensive literature review, it has been determined that research on destination competitiveness is frequently included in foreign literature. In Turkish literature, the number of researches on the subject is very limited.
2. DESIGN AND METHOD
2.1. RESEARCH TYPE
In this research, a qualitative method has been adopted as it provides a holistic approach that is more appropriate to the natural environment, collecting first-hand information about the data and communicating with the participants. The research has the nature of exploratory research.
2.2. RESEARCH PROBLEMS
The main research problem is to reveal the core resources and attractors of Kastamonu province.
2.3. DATA COLLECTION METHOD
Interviews can take various forms, and in this research, fixed format survey interviews were adopted. This type is similar to the structured interview in terms of content and method, but there are a number of predefined questions. While creating the interview questions, the seven components that constitute the basic resources and appeal factors in the Conceptual Competitiveness Model of Ritchie and Crouch (2003: 110-129) were used and each component was measured using multiple items and the 5-point Likert scale (1: Well below average, 2: Slightly below average, 3: Average, 4: Slightly above average, 5: Well above average). These components are divided into physiography and climate (10), culture and history (12), mix of events (22), special events (7), entertainment (7), superstructure (21) and market ties (10). Seven components were evaluated in detail and comprehensively with a total of 89 items. In order to increase the comprehensibility of the items for all participants, some probes were added next to the items in parentheses.
The universe of the research consists of the accommodation management managers in Kastamonu province. However, since it is not possible to reach all business managers, sampling has been done. Easily accessible case sampling was preferred from the purposive sampling methods. The research is limited to the accommodation enterprises in the city center. The number of facilities with tourism operation certificate in the city center of Kastamonu is 25 and there are 25 public guesthouses (Kastabil, 2020). Among the 50 facilities in total, 15 facility managers or owners, who were relatively easy to access and warm to the meeting, were interviewed. However, care was taken to select all facility managers included in the sample from stakeholders who play an active role in provincial tourism.
While all the interviews were held in the working environment of the stakeholders, most of them were made appointments via telephone, and some of the interviews were made without an appointment and the meeting was requested. Interviews were held on certain days of November and December 2019 and lasted an average of half an hour.
2.4. QUANTITATIVE / QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS
The analysis of the interview questions designed in the survey format was provided through the SPSS Package Statistics Program. Open-ended questions asked for seven components arranged in accordance with the theoretical framework were subjected to descriptive analysis.
3. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
3.1. FINDINGS as a RESULT of ANALYSIS
In terms of physiography and climate, it is determined that the accommodation sector stakeholders find Kastamonu more competitive than its competitors with the highest average in terms of forest resources (4.66) and landscape beauty (4.60). In terms of culture and history, the statement with the highest attendance of stakeholders with an average of 4.33 was the interior and exterior architecture option, which has a region-specific appearance. In terms of the mix of activities, the stakeholders of the accommodation sector stated that the city is in a competitive position in terms of adult activities (4.66) and activities based on difficult adventure (4.60) among the activities held in Kastamonu. In terms of special events, the highest participation (4,06) stated that events for historical milestones can be held in Kastamonu. The highest average entertainment element has been traditional festivals (3.33). Tourism superstructure component has been evaluated as quantity and quality in terms of functional elements, improved structural elements and improved natural/normal elements. The component with the highest participation of stakeholders in terms of the quantity of functional elements was bed & breakfast facilities with 3.73. When the same title is evaluated in terms of quality, it is stated that the most competitive superstructure element of Kastamonu with 3.40 is the translation centers. In terms of improved natural/normal elements, stakeholders have quantitatively evaluated Kastamonu as competitive compared to its rivals with its mosques and madrasahs. Qualitatively, mosques, madrasahs and historical sites have the highest participation with the same average. The title with the lowest averages among all tourism superstructure components has been structural superstructure elements, both quantitatively and qualitatively improved. In particular, unique office buildings / towers were found quantitatively and qualitatively, and famous houses were qualitatively inadequate. Finally, stakeholders found Kastamonu slightly above average compared to its competitors, especially in terms of market ties established due to religious visits (4.06).
3.2. DISCUSSING the FINDINGS with the LITERATURE
It was determined that among all components, stakeholders think that the strongest component of Kastamonu compared to its competitors is physiography and climate. Seven of the responses to a total of ten statements have an average of four and above. Similarly, nature and natural richness are accepted by many tourism researchers as an important component of tourism supply (Olalı, 1990: 117; Tuna, 2007: 17). In addition, it has been supported in researches that nature tourism is the main tourism type that is carried out in the province and constitutes a great potential (Akkus and Akkus, 2019a).
4. CONCLUSION, RECOMMENDATION AND LIMITATIONS
4.1. SUGGESTIONS BASED on RESULTS
• Highlighting the city with its climate, air quality, forest and water resources, flora and fauna will provide competitive advantage.
• The protection of historical and cultural values, especially the promotion activities for tourists seeking originality, will provide an important competitive advantage.
• Attention should be paid to the promotion of activities that include authentic experiences of the region such as the herb festival held in Alaçatı.
• The diversification of activities, especially the inclusion of disadvantaged groups (individuals with disabilities), will both increase participation and strengthen the image of which they have awareness. However, only activities for children or activities based on children and families spending time will both provide social benefits and satisfy visitors to the city.
• What mega-event or events Kastamonu can host should be demonstrated through feasibility studies and necessary infrastructure investments should be made. Many such suggestions were made in the text.
4.2. LIMITATIONS of the ARTICLE
Considering the research limitations and findings, more inclusive and generalizable data can be obtained by reaching all the tourism sector stakeholders in Kastamonu in future research. In addition, similar field researches are carried out in provinces with close competitors of Kastamonu, and the competitive aspects of destinations can be compared with each other. In addition, the perceptions of demand and supply side can be evaluated together by measuring the perceptions of the tourists, who are qualified as demand-side stakeholders of the destinations, about the city. By evaluating these and similar research findings, a short, medium and long term action plans can be developed for the future of Kastamonu tourism.