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Mohammad Hassan Zal, Nazanin Tabrizi, Mortza Mehr-Ali Tabar,
Volume 5, Issue 15 (5-2016)

Tourism industry cannot be only considered as a way of recreation and escaping from daily routines. Of course, by use of strategic planning and principles of sustainable development in tourism, we can develop the economy of countries. So far, tourism industry has been gradually developed in all parts of human society. Moreover, its connection with society and different aspects of human culture aroused the emergence of different trends. Tourism industry is one of these trends. Tourism is one of the oldest and most booming industries all over the world. Since tourism expenditure plays a decisive role in tourism economy, religious tourism can cause significant changes in the economic conditions of local communities. It is notable that tourism industry has the two core elements of supply and demand. Following this approach in tourism industry indicates its remarkable effect in the economy tourist destinations and, consequently, local communities. So, it can reveal the importance of studies on types of tourism including religious tourism to assess its economic impacts on the development of rural communities.
Tourism industry is one of the most effective approaches which is influencing in the reconstruction and development of rural areas and has been considered by planners and managers since previous decades. Oji Abad is a village in Amol County, Mazandaran Province. The presence of Astane Hazrat Abolfazl (AS) in the center of the village and its being close to sacred edifice, has made a booming religious complex there. Considering its potential capacities, the basic question is that what are some impacts of the presence of pilgrims, especially religious tourism, on the development of Oji Abad? And in which aspect these effects are more notable?
This is an applied study of descriptive-analytical type. Required data for the research have been already collected from documentary and field studies (by surveys and questionnaires completed by rural residents). Questionnaires have been completed in person. The information have been coded and then analyzed in SPSS software. The statistical society of the research consists of Oji Abad rural households which, according to the documentaries from rural municipality, had had a number of 350 households and 1400 inhabitants. Simple random sampling method was used and based on Cochran formula the required sample size was determined to be 152 households which have directly answered the questions. To evaluate the impact of religious tourism on each sub-criteria of the related factors (economic, social, cultural and environmental) the value of each respective sub-criteria was firstly determined using Delphi technique and quantity table of "Thomas L. hour". Then, using Likert scale, the value of each sub-criteria was added to its rating and its relative value was calculated in the total questionnaires. In the next step, NOVA test and regression analysis were used to analyze the impact of religious tourism on the four dimensions of Rural Development and to investigate hypotheses of the research.
Discussion and conclusion
Religious tourism is one of the most important and booming industries of tourism with significant impacts on different aspects of societies, especially its economy. Results from One-way ANOVA indicate that it does not equally influence the four economic, social, cultural and environmental aspects and it strongly affects economic, cultural, and social factors, respectively. Results from regression analysis confirm the same things. It can be said that religious tourism in the intended rural area largely affect the economic aspect of the local society and that the religious booming and presence of pilgrims in the village cause formation of temporary businesses, improvement of transport, service, and residential sectors. Agencies, road transportation, Supermarkets, bakeries and other businesses have achieved the greatest benefits of the boom of religious tourism in the village.
Of course, it must be said that its economic impact has not been spread enough and just affected the living conditions of a limited number of households. So, all the potential capacities of religious tourism have not been used in the villages and it needs precise management and planning. The entrance of religious tourists and pilgrims from different cultures and cultural interactions of people and local communities caused remarkable cultural changes of the host community. So, cultural aspect is located in the second place of effectiveness. But, this matter cannot be considered as the only reason of cultural changes in local societies. In addition, vast and strong activities of public media, especially in recent years, is the main reason of rural cultural interaction and changes. Social factor is ranking in the third grade for Oji Abad which means that the host community and most of other communities of tourists and pilgrims are socially homogenous with no significant differences. Finally, based on statistics from the research tests, the boom of religious tourism has had a significant impact on some parts of the rural environment, especially those parts which are directly connected with the religious system, and has led to the distribution of wastes, overpopulation and overcrowding of the village. On the other hand, it has had no effect on virgin areas, water resources and its
landscapes which have been far from the center of the religious system.

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