Complexity in Tourism Policy

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Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. xx, No. xx, pp. xxxxxx, 2011 0160-7383/$ - see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Printed in Great Britain


COMPLEXITY IN TOURISM POLICIESA Cognitive Mapping ApproachIoanna Farsari Technological Educational Institute of Crete, Greece Richard W. Butler University of Strathclyde, UK Edith Szivas University of Surrey, UK

Abstract: The paper discusses a study of policies for sustainable tourism developed at all four policy making levels in Greece using a complex systems approach. Complexity was examined between policy issues i.e. the elements constituting policy considerations. The mental models of policy makers were elicited, built and analyzed by applying appropriately developed cognitive mapping methods to reveal key policy considerations, valued outcomes and perceptions of complexity. Individual map analysis and comparisons of policy making at each level revealed greater structural differences than similarities. These ndings indicate a complex domain with various ramications perceived in different ways by individual policy makers. Despite structural differences, policies at all levels in Greece contained a clear focus on the economic sustainability of tourism, reecting a rather parochial perspective on sustainable tourism. Keywords: sustainable, policy, cognitive mapping, complexity, Greece. 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

INTRODUCTION Complexity is being increasingly used as an organizing notion to address and study non-linearities inherent in tourism systems (Abel, 2003; Baggio, 2008; Farrell & Twining-Ward, 2004; Faulkner & Russell, 2002; Jamal, Borges, & Figueiredo, 2004; McDonald, 2009; McKercher, 1999; Twining-Ward & Butler, 2002; Walker, Anderies, Kinzig, & Ryan, 2006; Zahra & Ryan, 2007). Tourism policy-making is a complex phenomenon involving various actors and institutions in the negotiation of power distribution and organizational complexity (Stevenson, Airey,

Ioanna Farsari is an Assistant Professor at the Technological Educational Institute-Crete. Her research interests include policy, sustainability, indicators, knowledge representation and enhancement. (P.O. Box 1939, Estavromenos, 71004 Heraklion, Crete, Greece. Email ). Richard Butler is Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde. His research interests include destination development, seasonality, carrying capacity, tourism in peripheral areas. Edith Szivas is Senior Lecturer at the University of Surrey. Her research interests include tourism development and policy, human resources development, poverty reduction. 1Please cite this article in press as: Farsari, I., et al. Complexity in tourism policies. Annals of Tourism Research (2011), doi:10.1016/j.annals.2011.03.007


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& Miller, 2008). Moreover, the contested political character of sustainable development with its meaning along with its ethical considerations still being debated in policy, industry and academic circles, has complex ramications for decision making (Macbeth, 2005). Similarly, sustainable tourism has long been shown to be a malleable concept, tting different perceptions and adjustable enough to have different meaning to different people or groups (Butler, 1999). Ethical stances and ideologies also inuence the way that sustainable tourism is interpreted, resulting in many different perceptions of the term (Bramwell, Henry, Jackson, & van der Straaten, 1996). Complexity in sustainable tourism policies is also visible through the various issues and actions which have to be managed simultaneously to achieve a holistic approach integrating social, environmental and economic dimensions (Walker, Greiner, McDonald, & Lyne, 1999, p. 60). Sustainable tourism policy is what has been called in the planning literature a complex, messy or wicked problem, characterized by interrelatedness of policy areas, with implications from one spreading into other (Hall, 2000). Complex messy problems involve different value systems with no right or wrong solution but rather different paths to often unpredicted outcomes (Rittel & Webber, 1973). As such complex messy problems do not follow the rational science paradigm, their outcomes cannot be predicted with certainty and it is only through studying and understanding policies that insight and understanding of implications can be gained (Mysiak, Giupponi, & Rosato, 2005). Complexity studies in tourism policies have concentrated on organizational complexity and actors relations. Interorganizational relations and collaborative policy making have formed a eld of inquiry in tourism policy research (Bramwell & Sharman, 1999; Dredge & Jenkins, 2003; Lovelock, 2001; Vernon, Essex, Pinder, & Curry, 2005). Policy networks and actors relations have also attracted a large share of research interest in complexity and tourism policy during the last decade to explore the factors that inuence policymaking (Bramwell, 2006; Bramwell & Meyer, 2007; Dredge, 2006; Pforr, 2006; Scott, Baggio, & Cooper, 2008; Tyler & Dinan, 2001). Most of these studies draw from social science related theories such as social representation theory, social constructivism, interorganizational collaboration theory and network theory, or political economy theory. Their common characteristic is that tourism policy-making is seen as a social activity with the focus being placed on examining how actors (institutions, groups, organizations, individuals) relate to each other, or on the factors that inuence perceptions of policies. Although complexity is revealed in these studies between the actors and the way they interact in complex networks of power, almost no studies have examined complex relationships between the policy issues which form the policy considerations (Farsari, Butler, & Prastacos, 2007). This research instead, draws from complexity theory as an emerging framework for inquiry to examine how policy issues, i.e. the elements constituting policy considerations, are related to each other, and how complex these policies are as perceived by those directly involved in their formulation. It

Please cite this article in press as: Farsari, I., et al. Complexity in tourism policies. Annals of Tourism Research (2011), doi:10.1016/j.annals.2011.03.007

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examines tourism policies in Greece in order to better understand intentions as expressed in valued outcomes (goals), complexity, and adaptive processes perceived by policy makers. Complexity theory is used to describe situations where simple linear models cannot adequately address the complex relationships found in a system as a result of large numbers of interacting elements (Roe, 1998). Holling (2001, p. 391) argues that there is a requisite level of simplicity behind complexity that, if identied, can lead to understanding. Thus, complexity of living systems of people and nature is not a matter of a random association of a large number of interacting factors, but a smaller number of controlling processes. These different perspectives of complexity reect the differences between chaos and complexity theory. Chaos is not used in its everyday sense but rather in its deterministic one, meaning that there are some simple processes behind certain magnied, unpredictable phenomena. That is, chaos theory focuses on the manner that simple systems result in complex, unpredictable behaviors and manifests that there is some underlying order waiting to be discovered (Cilliers, 1998; Mitchell, 2009). Complexity, as described by complex systems on the other hand, comes about as a result of a large number of interacting components and how they can lead to well-organized and possibly predictable behaviors (Baggio, 2008, p. 7). Chaos theory is related to the grand idea of a unied world, to the universality of that world, while complexity is more related to postmodernism and the idea of several local realities which can hardly combine into a single unied reality (Cilliers, 1998). Chaos and complexity theory have been used interchangeably in the literature (Eve, Horsfall, & Lee, 1997; Faulkner & Russell, 2002; McDonald, 2009). For Manson (2001) the different perspectives on complexity are nothing more than different divisions in complexity research namely, algorithmic (related to mathematical complexity theory and information theory), deterministic (related to chaos theory) and aggregate complexity (emphasizing holism and synergy between a large number of elements). According to Manson, deterministic complexity is characterized by features often used to describe chaotic systems such as initial conditions and the buttery effect, bifurcation, and feedback. Aggregate complexity on the other hand, is related to complex systems theory. Complex systems are characterized by the following properties (Cilliers, 1998; Manson, 2001; Mitchell, 2009; Norberg & Cumming, 2008):i) Relationships: complex systems consist of a large number of relationships between entities which are most often from the immediate surrounding thus lacking an overarching control or unied purpose; Internal structure: these local interactions dictate that sub-systems of close entities are formed within the system; Open system: interactions are apparent also with the environment of the system making it an open system;

ii) iii)

Please cite this article in press as: Farsari, I., et al. Complexity in tourism policies. Annals of Tourism Research (2011), doi:10.1016/j.annals.2011.03.007


I. Farsari et al. / Annals of Tourism Research xxx (2011) xxxxxx

iv) v)


Learning and memory: complex systems are capable of