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Sustainable tourism development

Social sustainability, planning and strategic development for better cities

Time: Tue 2022-10-25 10.00

Location: U1, Brinellvägen 26, Stockholm

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Language: English

Subject area: Planning and Decision Analysis, Urban and Regional Studies

Doctoral student: Anna-Paula Jonsson , Urbana och regionala studier

Opponent: Docentn Jan-Henrik Nilsson, Lund University, Department of Service Management and Service Studies

Supervisor: Professor Hans Westlund, Urbana och regionala studier

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QC 20221006


The main goal of this thesis has been to contribute towards improved understanding of how cities can influence tourism development. A great deal of earlier tourism studies has been concerned with aspects of social sustainability. This has naturally concentrated on potential as well as real anomalies and conflicts related to urban tourism. Inherent in many of such contributions is a dichotomy consisting of residents and social sustainability on the one hand, and negative impacts of tourism development (e.g. overtourism) on the other. 

Research and practice have over time gravitated towards an increased focus on how urban tourism development contributes to desired social impact. This has led to new perspectives in both policy contexts and tourism research. Perspectives for how to manage tourism to mitigate negative impact are therefore being complemented by new, more strategic, questions about how tourism can contribute towards urban development goals. 

Such questions, together with evidence that tourism development and urban development are mutually constitutive processes, motivate integrating policies that influence tourism into processes of urban planning. The research in this thesis has sought to contribute towards this emerging space by studying the intersections of tourism development and urban development and planning. The research questions that have emerged from this goal relate to the decision and policy making that take place in processes of urban planning when they intersect (necessarily or potentially) with tourism development. 

The thesis comprises one cover essay and two research articles. The first article is based on a single case-study of a new urban development in one of the most visited places of Stockholm. The other article is a comparative case-study of Vienna and Amsterdam that studies policy development and practices for sustainable tourism developments. Data was collected primarily through semi-structured interviews with stakeholders from municipalities, academia and Destination Management Organizations in respective city. 

Results suggest that there are important variations in how different stages of tourism development and corresponding impact influence policy making and vice-versa. The cases studied suggest that strategic choices for sustainable tourism development are available up to a certain point. If negative impact on factors related to social sustainability are excessive, policy making aimed at influencing tourism development becomes constrained mainly to mitigating impact. 

Given the intersection of planning theory and tourism studies in this thesis, it can be considered a cross-disciplinary research project. Similarly, the results can hopefully contribute to a development of the understanding of how planning theory and tourism studies intersect in theories of both schools of thought.