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Introduction

Understanding tourism planning and visitors management to meet the tourist’s preferences is critical to establishing the exact levels of services, facilities, scale and design of the tourism projects. Achieving World Heritage Site status is not a one day activity, it has to do with experts who are continuously aware of movement of the market fiscal pressures and demand, which frequently influence the planning and development in tourism sector (Edinburgh World Heritage 2005).

Maintaining the World Heritage Site status can be a complicated and susceptible, requiring cross-sectoral analysis, analytical skills and prudence in decision making. Particularly, it is very important to balance the initial economic forces of any project (tourism) with the long lasting monetary sustainability by identification of the weaknesses and strengths of the tourism project through in depth feasibility studies.

Description of Spissky Hrad & Levoca and reasons of achieving WHS status

Levoca, Spissky; Castle and associated cultural monuments is composed of a group of Military, Religious and civil buildings that have survived integrally. Spis Castle is the largest surviving castle of Eastern and Central Europe dating back in the early 13th century. Its strategic location on a limestone hill necessitated the need of using it as a defense against the popular Tatar invasions. With time, it has encountered a number of alterations and additions. It is surrounded by monuments which are designated as part and parcel of the world heritage, they include; town center of Spisske Podhradie, Holy Spirit Church in Zehra and complicated religious buildings in Spisska Kapitula (Harrison 1996).

This site is without any doubt the most impressive and finest tourist attraction site in Slovakia. The terrain is favorable with large car parks, souvenir shops, a 135 SK entrée fee and drinks served with snacks are readily available at the inner castle courtyard. The castle bears a truly amazing structure, over years many tourists have found it hard to find a castle to match its splendor and sheer presence when viewed from a distance. On the lower hill top, opposite the castle, is the Spisska Kapitula, popularly referred to as the Vatican of Slovakia. Spisska Kapitula has many monasteries and a nice Cathedral which were turned into a hotel.

A number of reasons are attributed to Spissky Hrad & Levoca achieving WHS status; it is located in an area which forms a unique natural landscape and urban-architectural unit of high aesthetic and artistic value. The castle represents social, cultural and artistic developments and it is at the same time comparatively intact. Also, there is the adequacy of protection of the management plan and the property with an adequate, practical organization. The property is also accorded a high degree of authenticity which is satisfactory. The aforementioned reasons constitute the major reasons as to why Spissky Hrad & Levoca achieved WHS status (Font 1999).

Description of the tourism area/destination in which Spissky Hrad & Levoca is located and its importance to tourism

Tourism industry is a service industry which contributes heavily to the GDP of Slovakia. Spissky Hrad & Levoca plays a very significant role in tourism. It gives the tourists a chance to practice mountain climbing – there is a tough one-hour walk until one gets to the gates and beyond the gate one has to climb to reach the top of the old Gothic Tower form where a brilliant view of the landscape is achieved. Mountain climbing is such a nice encounter and unlike many sites, Spissky Hrad & Levoca offers this chance via its favorable terrain. With a unique feature, many tourists are attracted to the site and in the process most of the tourists ends up visiting other sites in Slovakia (Eagles 2002).

More so, the income generated from the site is pumped in the tourism industry in the effort of providing better services to the tourists visiting the country. Scholarships are also offered to the bright and needy students in the country who out of passion ends up in careers related to tourism. In this sense, tourism industry grows and becomes a major player in the Slovakia’s economy (Lieber 1983).

Management and key stakeholders of the site

The site is managed by a board of directors and a group of employees. The board of directors is elected annually. Managing the site is a demanding affair and the constraint faced by the management is the availability of willing and able human resource. Different arms of management are charged with their own responsibility e.g. management in the field of built heritage, management in the field of natural qualities and management in the field of the social environment (World Heritage Centre 2000).

Each arm of the management has its own objectives, therefore, helping in achieving the overall objectives of the site. The specific objectives in the built heritages field include; education and enlightenment of values dealing with cultural heritages, deepening of the natural and cultural values knowledge, dissemination of knowledge on traditional building techniques and incorporation of resources of civilizing heritage into expansion plans. In the field of natural qualities they include; regulation and support of the economic activities bound to natural potential, explaining the concepts at the regional and local level and establishment of a potential in development of the countryside environment. Lastly, in the field of the social environment the aims includes; recognition of measure in the field of poverty and unemployment, regional image creation, information system support, community services support and programmes enhancements in the process of solving ethnical emancipation and integration (World Heritage Centre 1993).

The philosophy of management is “aspire to do what is in you”. The major stakeholders in the site are; government, sponsors, tourists and non-governmental organizations. Each and every stakeholder play a significant role in the management and day to day activities of the site. The management recognizes the crucial role played by the state in ensuring that favorable laws are passed, and a nice political environment is provided, which is a major determinant in attracting the tourists. Without tourists visiting the site the only option is closing down the site, therefore, the tourists play a major role in ensuring the smooth running of the site.

Challengers faced by the site in meeting the visitors’ needs

Ever since 1993 when the site was accorded WHS status, the preservation and renovation state has been predisposed by insufficient financial resources, little development, current state conservation and mostly by utilitarian modernizations and reconstructions than by the faults connected to undirected investments, poor managed tourisms development and housing fund utilization (Mason 2008).

Unfortunately, the proprietors in the sites lack the curiosity in reconstruction of values of artistic and architectural elements and supplier’s offering the provision of the mentioned services lag behind. The environment provided by the government exclusively enables the objects protection but unfortunately at times the government is not willing to offer these supportive services. Individual resorts of the administration of the state pay very little attention, if any, to development and protection of the cultural heritage with the higher territorial units showing almost no interest (Newsome 2002).

The management groups and thea site manager have not risen up to their tasks up to date. The site lacks sufficient cooperation among the individuals responsible for the management (self-government, church, state protection of nature, state protection of monuments e.tc). Cooperation of the management units is a major challenge facing the site, but it can be eliminated if the parties in the management agree to stop it and work as a team of professionals. In a nutshell, every business venture encounters a number of challenge but what matters is the courage and the persistence in overcoming them.

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