عنوان مقاله [English]
Many economic analysts believe that after the oil and automotive industries, tourism is the third most important industry in the world (Ghaffari and Turki, 2009). Geotourism as a branch of ecotourism has many social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts on tourists and local communities. Geologically, Iran is one of the countries that have many capabilities for the development of geotourism. Which has a strong dependence on oil revenues, tourism for Iran can be a way to get rid of dependence on it and release of the mono-productive economy (Taghdisi et al., 2014).
An environmental impacts assessment is an assessment of the possible positive or negative impacts that a proposed project may have on the environment, together consisting of the natural, social and economic aspects (Padash, 2017). For Ecotourism Development, environmental impacts assessment is also necessary since any kind of development must be accompanied by consideration of system sustainability. The issues of development and the environment are single issue and are the common denominator of all environmental issues (Zolfaghari, 2013). This assessment allows decision makers to gain a better understanding of a specific project (Aslipour et al., 2014). Tourism projects are also involved in the preparation, implementation and operation of various activities that affect the environment. Since tourism and the environment are interdependent; Tourism development and management must be adapted to the environment in a way that does not lead to a decline in its quality (Ranjbarian and Ahmadi, 2000).
Salt domes are favorite geomorphological places for ecotourists. In salt domes, several morphological forms have been placed together. Hormuz Island, as a large salt dome, has interesting morphological features that are visited by tourists. Local people hold generally positive views of the measures necessary to achieve ecotourism; however, their intentions to engage in behaviors to support these measures do not entirely match with their positive views (Lai & Nepal, 2006). The aim of this study was assessing the environmental impact of the Hormuz Island from ecotourism development. Along with these goals, the environmental sustainability of the island had also been analyzed.
Hormuz Island is located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance of the Persian Gulf from the Oman Sea between 56° 25' - 56° 30' E and 27° 2' – 27° 6' N. The island of Hormuz is bounded on the northeast by Bandarabbas and on the southwest by the islands of Qeshm and Lark. The distance from Hormuz Island to Bandar Abbas is 18 km, to Qeshm Island is 18 km and to Lark Island is 18 km too. The distance of this island in the closest route to the main coast of the country is 5.5 km. Its area is about 45 square kilometers.
The research data include spatial distributions of landforms of Hormuz Island, cultural events, conservation, destruction, access, use, communications and infrastructure status, etc., which were collected using library studies and frequent field visits in the form of geomorphological place identification forms. Maps of geology and topography, GPS and modified RIAM models were used as research tools. The study was followed in the following steps:
In the first step, with the help of library studies and frequent field visits, the geotourism attractions of Hormuz Island were identified and geomorphic places identification cards were completed. In the second step, a matrix method was used to evaluate the environmental impacts of geotourism and ecotourism development. In this study, modified RIAM model was used. The required data of this model were collected by completing the identity cards of geomorphological places and used in the study.
In the third step, to analyze the sustainability development of geotourism of Hormuz Island, the output of the modified RIAM model and the equations based on it (Fricovsky et al., 2016) were used. The environmental ratings of the revised RIAM model have negative scores.
Results and Discussion
According to the results, the geotourism sites of Hormuz Island are located mainly around it with a short distance from the coast; they can be visited by a major ring road. These manly include the Salt Goddess, the Salt Cave, the Rainbow Valley, the Sculpture Valley, the Silver Beach, the Turtle Rock, and the Portuguese Castle.
Evaluating the impacts of ecotourism development in terms of modified RIAM factors, shows that geotourism development has a negligible beneficial effect on the island's physical environment, a moderate beneficial effect on eco-biological and a beneficial effect on the socio-cultural environment. In brief, ecotourism development has beneficial average effects on the island's environment. The numerical ranking of environmental sustainability is between 0.001 and 0.250. It means that the development of ecotourism in its current form is associated with very weak environmental sustainability level.
Although development of ecotourism in its current form is associated with very weak environmental sustainability level, considering the minor and mainly positive changes in the physical and biological environment of the island, it can be concluded that the development of geotourism in Hormoz is in line with the goals of ecotourism (TIES , 2015) and sustainable development and has a high potential for beneficial effects on the environment. Based on summarizing the research results, it seems that to avoid physical environment from any damages, the development of ecotourism in Hormuz Island should be accompanied by caution. In this regard, it seems that with proper management, more stable conditions for the environment (natural and human) of the island can be created.