Advancing Sustainability in Tourism Destinations with a Complex Adaptive Systems Approach Based on Systems Dynamics Modelling

Karin Schianetz (2009). Advancing Sustainability in Tourism Destinations with a Complex Adaptive Systems Approach Based on Systems Dynamics Modelling PhD Thesis, School of Engineering, The University of Queensland.

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Author Karin Schianetz
Thesis Title Advancing Sustainability in Tourism Destinations with a Complex Adaptive Systems Approach Based on Systems Dynamics Modelling
School, Centre or Institute School of Engineering
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor A/Prof Lydia Kavanagh
Prof David Lockington
Total pages 226
Total black and white pages 226
Subjects 09 Engineering
Abstract/Summary This thesis analyses the potential of a complex adaptive systems (CASs) approach based on system dynamics modelling (SDM) to add value to the currently used assessment tools and monitoring practices for tourism sustainability in an effort to advance sustainable development in tourism destinations. While many different concepts and tools for the assessment of sustainability have developed, most of them do not take the complexity and dynamics of tourism destinations into account. It is argued in this thesis that these linear tools need to be complemented with new approaches that can deal with uncertainty, non-linearity and unexpected changes. New knowledge from ecosystem research, which is derived from complex systems theory, suggests that tourism destinations are indeed social-ecological systems, which need to be viewed and studied as CASs. In recent years tourism researchers have acknowledged the necessity to view tourism as a system with interconnected elements, and have discussed the unpredictability of these tourism systems. CASs approaches, which have been successfully applied by ecologists and economists in other areas, are indicated for tourism management, but have been rarely used in order to promote sustainable tourism development and planning. Appropriate methodologies and frameworks for the implementation of CASs approaches into the tourism context are still lacking. Therefore this thesis addresses the aforementioned challenges as follows: • A critical review of the concepts and tools currently used for the advancement and assessment of sustainability in tourism destinations is presented. The review evaluates the suitability of assessment tools for specific sites and situations, and develops guidelines for tool selection. It is concluded that for particular purposes linear assessment tools need to be combined or complemented with tools that can deal with complexity and dynamics. Tools covered include sustainability indicators, environmental impact assessment, life cycle assessment, environmental audits, ecological footprints, multi-criteria analysis and adaptive environmental assessment. • The use of sustainability indicator as one of the most promoted assessment tools for sustainable development in tourism destination is explored further. A systemic indicator system (SIS) methodology based on a CASs approach as an alternative to linear assessments is developed. This methodology is tested using a case study of a holiday eco-village near Lamington National Park in Queensland. The research findings suggest that the SIS has the potential to enhance system understanding and adaptive management of tourism destinations, and can foster collective learning processes amongst stakeholders. • A framework is developed for a Learning Tourism Destination (LTD) based on the concept of the Learning Organisation, and using SDM as a tool for strategic planning and the promotion of organisational learning. The concept of the LTD is discussed on the basis of 6 case studies, where SDM has been applied primarily for predictive reasons, and through evaluation of the potential of SDM as a tool for the implementation and enhancement of collective learning processes. The results reveal that SDM is capable of promoting communication between stakeholders and stimulating organisational learning. It is argued that the effectiveness of SDM may be greatly increased through incorporation in the foundation of an LTD. • A practical approach for the implementation of an LTD is presented. Preliminary results from a case study undertaken at the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia are discussed. Surveys were conducted to verify if the LTD forms a useful framework for fostering consensus building, dialogue and collective learning processes amongst stakeholders. The preliminary results of the study suggest that the implementation of an LTD on the Ningaloo Coast will improve the capacity of the local industry to take more responsibility for the sustainable development, and thus has the potential to enable a more effective transition to sustainability in the region. Through its multi-methodological approach, this thesis demonstrates the importance of considering tourism destinations as CASs. New concepts and assessment tools for sustainable tourism are needed that acknowledge the complex and dynamic nature of tourism and tourism development. Together, the SIS methodology and the LTD framework provide an initial platform from which to conduct further research.
Keyword complex adaptive systems
Organisational Learning
Sustainability Assessment
sustainability indicators
System Dynamics Modelling
Tourism destinations
Additional Notes landscape: p144

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