The process of scientifically identifying locations suitable for a particular development, known as location suitability analysis (LSA), is an important aspect of planning for sustainable tourism development. Such an analysis is likely to involve a set of possible locations, multiple decision criteria and multiple interest groups (stakeholders) with multiple objectives. In many cases, the objectives of the interest groups involved are not only different but could also be conflicting. Decision making problems with these characteristics are basically members of the multicriteria decision making (MCDM) class of problems. The complexity of such problems usually hinders planners and decision makers from arriving at the "optimal" decision. Therefore, to improve the quality of decision making processes in identifying locations suitable for a particular development, an analytical tool, which is able to handle the complexity of a decision environment but is user friendly, would be a great value. The aim of this study was to develop such a tool.
An LSA model has been developed in this study which consists of three main processes - (1) the decision criteria identification process, (2) the screening process, and (3) the evaluation process. Although with the model the main aspects of location suitability analysis can be well structured, solving an LSA problem using it is still difficult due to the factors indicated earlier. This study shows that computer technology, particularly geographic information system based spatial decision support systems (GIS-based SDSS), can make this LSA model considerably easy to use.
A GIS-based SDSS, named TLSA (Tourism Location Suitability Analysis) has been developed in this study. The screening and evaluation processes of the LSA model are addressed in the TLSA system. Due to its unstructured nature, the decision criteria identification process is not addressed in the TLSA system. Although it is not addressed, the outputs from it are required as inputs to TLSA. Therefore, a real- life example of how to carry out the decision criteria identification process is also presented in this study.
The TLSA system combines, through a user friendly interface, the GIS's capabilities in spatial data management and manipulation with the MCDM's capabilities in solving a complex LSA problem. TLSA is basically a general SDSS for location suitability analysis. It can be used to assist decision makers in finding suitable locations not only for tourist related developments but also for any other type of development. As long as the decision criteria for a particular development can be represented spatially in criterion map layers, TLSA can be used.
The TLSA system has been applied in identifying locations suitable for tourism development in North Sulawesi, Indonesia to demonstrate its applicability in solving real-life LSA problems. In the decision criteria identification process, four stakeholder groups were identified and considered - the tourism industry, the government (tourism authorities), environmental supporters, and the local community. Five screening criteria and fourteen evaluation criteria that had been identified as relevant were available for use in this study.
As all the calculations in the TLSA system are performed on the raster data structure, all the screening and evaluation criterion maps were rasterised into 50 by 50 metre grid cells. The rasterisation process divided the study area (2,795.66 sq. Km) into 1,117,852 grid cells, in which each cell can be considered as a possible location. The large number of possible locations (grid cells) and decision criteria considered in the application and the involvement of four stakeholder groups in the process demonstrate the ability of TLSA to deal with a large size LSA problem and multiple decision-makers.