Tourism Resilience: More Than Just “Bouncing Back” from Adversity

This month we are publishing Tourism and Resilience by C. Michael Hall, Girish Prayag and Alberto Amore. In this post the authors explain the concept of resilience in tourism and comment on their case study of the Great Barrier Reef.

The environment seems to be becoming increasingly challenging for tourism businesses, destinations, and the people who work and live in them. In 2017 alone we have seen a range of weather and climate change related events, including severe hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, as well as in Ireland, while at the same time there have been major forest fires in the western United States and in Portugal. We also have political concerns in the form of terrorism, Brexit, the Trump administration, North Korea, and multi-national tax avoidance, while at the same time tourism is having to respond to economic and technological shifts such as automation, big data, and disruptive innovation.

Resilience is the magnitude of disturbance that can be tolerated before a system moves to a different state, controlled by a different set of processes. Given the challenges of crises and disasters, as well as ongoing “normal” change, for tourism, it is no surprise that the concept of resilience is seen as a response to the call for new definitions, concepts and understandings to frame the many ecological, socio-economic and political challenges of tourism. Resilience thinking is therefore a response to the urgent need for broader and different views of the tourism system. This clearly includes destination management at large, as the vulnerability of places and communities can no longer be ignored, but also considers how businesses and individuals are connected both within and beyond destinations.

The notion of a tourism system is widely used in tourism education and research but often there is not enough consideration of what this really means in looking at the sector as a whole, as well as how it responds to change. The aim of our book therefore is to provide scholars and practitioners with a multi-layered view of resilience from individual, organizational and destination perspectives. We take a multi-disciplinary approach to develop the first monograph on tourism and resilience. As well as a strong analytical and theoretical focus, and a comprehensive discussion of the literature, the book builds on the authors first-hand tourism research from post-earthquake Christchurch, New Zealand, and other locations, and includes a range of different cases from around the world to illustrate key ideas and concepts.

A key message of the book is that tourism resilience is more than just “bouncing-back” from adversity. Every destination and tourism business goes through incremental and sudden change, and we identify inherent vulnerabilities in the tourism system and how they can be managed. To a certain extent, resilience in tourism reinforces principles and notions inherent to sustainable tourism. Resilience thinking is valuable because of its focus on connectedness and the need to move away from the continual separation of ecological, social and economic impacts. However, while some may see resilience as the “new sustainability” it is important to note that, although related, resilience thinking has its own specific contributions regarding the capacity to absorb change, learning and self-organisation, and adaptation. As part of developing a better understanding of the tourism system, considerations of resilience in tourism therefore need to think of what is happening at scales above and below the main level of focus in order both to explain change and, in some cases, to intervene to create desired change.

The case of the Great Barrier Reef is an emblematic example. The bleaching of the reef as a result of climate change has put a renowned tourist and natural heritage site in grave danger. However, the capacity of the reef to adapt is also affected by pollution and run-off from onshore practices. To understand the problems the reef faces one therefore needs to be able to understand the global dimension of climate change as well as realise that a marine system is deeply affected by what happens on land. System management must therefore be not only multi-scaled but also recognise the very real implications of connectivity to what some may have previously regarded as being “outside” of reef management. The future of many tourism stakeholders as well as the reef ecosystem is at stake and there is a need for systemic long-term destination planning to enhance the resilience of resource and the destination. As we note in the book, sustainable development can only be achieved in sufficiently resilient socio-ecosystems. Resilience allows a system to have a future, but this requires a much better appreciation of the nature of the tourism system and the importance of system thinking than what has usually been the case. In other words, government and other authorities need to see the pressures on the Great Barrier Reef in the context of “joined up” problems rather than seeing land management, reef management, and climate change policy as being separate.

This notion of connecting the pieces is central to the book. Change – moving from one state to another – is actually the norm in tourism as elsewhere. But what is important, from an industry and ethical perspective, is what sort of change and what sort of state we want to move to and how we are going to get there. Hopefully, this book will help provide some sort of frame by which we can inform and improve our thinking about change and direction in tourism as well as how we are going to get there.

Alberto Amore, Girish Prayag and C. Michael Hall

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Crisis and Disaster Management for Tourism by Brent W. Ritchie.

Tourism, Public Transport and Sustainable Mobility

This month we are publishing Tourism, Public Transport and Sustainable Mobility edited by C. Michael Hall, Diem-Trinh Le-Klähn and Yael Ram. In this post, Michael discusses the under-researched relationship between tourism and public transport and the many positives to be found in tourist use of public transport.

Tourism, Public Transport and Sustainable MobilityPublic transport is something that has become a major focus for many cities and regions in recent years. For cities, this is often connected to the need to cut traffic congestion and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet climate change goals. For regions, especially in rural and peripheral areas, public transport is about connectivity and access, and ensuring that people who live in such places have links to shopping, services and schools. Yet tourism is hardly mentioned in any of the usual public transport literature.

In many ways this is really surprising given how visitors and tourists are often substantial users of public transport services. For example, Diem’s research in Munich, which we discuss in the book, suggested that 78.5% of tourists used public transport. In London, the figures are even more impressive, with Transport for London suggesting that 93% of inbound tourists to London use public transport. Of course, in the case of London, the underground and double-decker buses are potentially an attraction in themselves, though this is something shared with many other destinations, for example, ferries in Stockholm, trams in Melbourne and street cars in San Francisco. If you include active transport, you could also now add cycling in Copenhagen or walking the High Line in New York. However, one of the great challenges is that this data is often not collected. Public transport agencies only tend to collect from residents, while many destination management organisations don’t collect data on the type of transport that visitors use, especially once they have actually arrived at a destination.

Nevertheless, a number of cities and destinations are now starting to see great advantage in encouraging visitors to use public transport, as they do permanent residents, in order to reduce traffic congestion. For example, some Swiss cities provide free bus access for hotel guests and for airport transfer. However, there are other benefits as well; tourists get to have a more direct experience with local people and the place they are visiting, which can improve the quality of the destination experience and increase likelihood of return visitation. For many public transport systems though, there is also recognition that tourists are helping to support the maintenance of the system to the benefit of locals. In the case of some ferry services to some of the islands in Finland and Scotland, tourists are clearly important users of the system, especially in summer, and the public transport services are therefore helping to get the tourist to spend out of the main centres in such situations, while also showing tourists more of the country. There are also many benefits for a tourist in not having to drive, as they are able to see more of a destination and not have to contend with unfamiliar road signs and roads.

Given that tourists are not usually seen as a significant market by public transport companies, there clearly remains a number of challenges in encouraging tourists to use public transport in many situations. As we discuss in the book, foremost among these is high quality and up-to-date information that is easily accessible. Ideally this should also be available in languages other than that of the destination and/or be accessible by a translation service. Cost is also significant and this is not just the direct economic cost of using the service but also ease of use, travel times and the extent to which different modes of transport are coordinated so as to make connections easy.

Overall we found that tourist use of public transport at destinations can have many positives, particularly with respect to developing more sustainable cities and contributing generally to reductions in emissions from transport use. However, the real challenge is to try and encourage more tourists to use public transport for longer distance travel. In some cases this is harder for structural and design reasons, i.e. the services just don’t exist or there’s no or insufficient capacity for carrying luggage, but in some parts of the world this is beginning to change. For example, in Europe and China we are seeing the development of new high speed rail routes and in the United States and Australia these possibilities are increasingly being discussed as a focal point of economic development and as a means of reducing both air and car congestion along major routes. In addition, some countries are developing long-distance cycleways as a means of encouraging long-distance active transport.

In terms of the future we are undoubtedly going to continue to see more focus on public transport as a core part of the sustainable mobility mix, and we think public transport, economic development and destination agencies are increasingly recognising that they can work together to encourage and promote tourism. However, as well as ongoing concerns over climate change, congestion and tourist support for public services, we see the other big issue as the growth in autonomous vehicles. This is going to have enormous impacts in the future on employment in the tourist transport sector and visitor experiences, as well as on public transport provision. Uber, for example, has major interests in autonomous cars and that, combined with their disruptive impact on taxi services and public transport, is going to create a whole new set of challenges. And we can imagine that if we are doing a new edition of the book in five years’ time, rather than consider autonomous public transport at the end of the book in the futures section, we will probably have to have a separate chapter allocated to it because it will be happening now!

Tourism and TransportFor more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Tourism and Transport by David Timothy Duval.

Tourism Essentials

This year we have launched our new series Tourism Essentials which complements our existing tourism book series Aspects of Tourism, Tourism and Cultural Change and Aspects of Tourism Texts.

The new series aims to focus on key topics in the field of tourism studies and the books will provide an essential resource for tourism students and researchers.

Tourism and OilThe first book in the series is Tourism and Oil by Susanne Becken which was published in January. It is the first book to examine oil constraints and tourism and offers an analysis of the economic implications of increasing oil prices for tourism and discusses key dimensions relevant for tourism in a post peak oil world. Richard Butler describes it as “a measured and realistic appraisal of tourism in the future in relation to the availability or otherwise of oil.”

Tourism and WaterFollowing this, the next book in the series is Tourism and Water by Stefan Gössling, C. Michael Hall and Daniel Scott which was published earlier in April. This volume is a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between tourism and water. Michalis Hadjikakou from the University of New South Wales, Australia calls the book “a quintessential addition to the sustainable tourism literature.”

For more information about the series please see our website.