The political environment of a tourism destination is the most important element in planning, implementing, and controlling sustainable tourism development. The political environment refers to the coordination and cooperation among many participants to formulate and apply tourism policies. In our study the term political environment refers to political power, leadership, structures, mechanisms, and strategies, or policies for the implementation of sustainable tourism development. The main purpose of this article is to, through the example of Aksu-Jabagly natural heritage site in Kazakhstan, study how the negative political environment (NPE) of a tourism destination inhibits the implementation of sustainable tourism development in Kazakhstan. This study draws on in-depth interviews with local residents who are considered as one of the key stakeholders in the tourism industry. In our research, we conducted a questionnaire survey of 222 representative households from the neighboring village of Aksu-Jabagly, a natural world heritage site. Results show that because of negative political environments, the residents highly perceive the negative economic and environmental impacts of tourism development. Although the residents highly evaluated tourism’s positive sociocultural impacts, its relevance to other indicators was relatively weak. The residents are dissatisfied with tourism development, and their participation level in tourism was low. The results also reveal that highly perceived negative economic and negative environmental impacts of tourism are the main cause of residents’ dissatisfaction with tourism development and residents’ lack of participation in tourism.
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