Mega-infrastructure development, tourism sustainability and quality of life assessment at world heritage sites: catering to COVID-19 challenges

Jaffar Abbas*, Gulnara Mamirkulova, Ibrahim Al-Sulaiti, Khalid Ibrahim Al-Sulaiti, Imran Bashir Dar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Mega-infrastructure development plans pave the way for policies to upgrade the infrastructure, environmental management and different aspects of locals’ well-being. These developmental dynamics can positively affect rural tourism including heritage sites destinations. The quality of life of local people can be linked to this positive developmental change through long-term and sustainable economic revitalization projects. In terms of this process, developing large-scale infrastructure and incorporating tourism sustainability can improve the quality of life-related to different dimensions that are critical to the community's well-being. Therefore, researchers have attempted to address this issue. Design/methodology/approach: Data were collected between September and October 2020. The study sample size was the residents of Zhabagly village, including Zhabagaly, Abaiyl and 115 Railway settlements. Moreover, the residents were older than 18 years. A systematic random sampling technique was utilised to reach the targeted sample size and the researchers received 243 responses from the locals. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was used for analysis. Findings: The findings from the structural equation modelling suggest that sustainable tourism increases due to the positive effect of mega-infrastructure development and positively impacts the locals' quality of life. Notably, no direct effect of mega-infrastructure development on quality of life reveals the pivotal role of sustainable tourism. Therefore, during the COVID-19 period, the dimensions of sustainable tourism – economic, market, socio-cultural and environmental – played a role in securing the positive impact of mega-infrastructure development on the locals’ quality of life. Research limitations/implications: This research highlighted the fact that when infrastructure projects are implemented to their full potential, they will generate sustainable tourism activities, provide eco-adventure activities, relax, treat signatories and boost the economy of all stakeholders. The study used AMOS to test the hypotheses. Qualitative research methods, including interviews with citizens, government officials and tourism managers, require further study. Practical implications: The infrastructural development on a mega-scale means building an upscaling tourism ecosystem. This ecosystem is marked by the availability of drinking water, waste and energy management facilities that support the elevation of living material, community, health, safety and emotional well-being. It reflects the policy-level implications for future Belt and Road initiatives (BRIs). The tourism industry's resilience during COVID-19 has practical lessons for other industries. Originality/value: Large-scale infrastructure construction must create favourable conditions for the rapid development of tourism. The availability of clean water, waste and energy management facilities contributes to the food production, social cohesion, physical and mental health and general well-being of the ecosystem. This is one of the few studies that used sustainable tourism as a mediator between the impact of large infrastructure projects and their impact on the quality of life of locals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aksu-Zhabagly, a World Heritage Site in Kazakhstan, was the site of this field study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
Early online date4 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2024

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