Sustainable tourism innovation

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Academic Papers Sustainable tourism innovation: Challenging basic assumptions
Gianna Moscardo Received (in revised form): 1st September, 2007
School of Business, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia. E-mail:

Gianna Moscardo is a professor in the School of Business at James Cook University. Before joining the Schoolof Business she had been a principal research fellow and project leader in tourism research in the Cooperative Research Centres for Reef and Rainforest for eight years managing a series of research and extension activities aimed at enhancing the sustainability of tourism activities in Northern Australia. She was recently elected to the World Tourism Organization’s International Academy for theStudy of Tourism Scholars. ABSTRACT KEYWORDS: sustainable development, sustainable tourism, innovation, regional development

ities and development options. These potential synergies are described and illustrated with a range of examples. In addition, the paper sets out a series of additional criteria that could be used to evaluate different potential tourism developments and makes suggestionsabout the development of sustainability performance indicators. Finally, the paper highlights the importance of better knowledge management systems to support innovation in tourism.
Tourism and Hospitality Research (2008) 8, 4–13. doi:10.1057/thr.2008.7; published online 18 February 2008

Although much of the discussion of innovation focuses on new products and technologies, all innovation isbased on challenging existing assumptions and ways of thinking. This paper argues that one option to develop new ways of thinking and innovation in tourism is to argue that there is no such thing as sustainable tourism. If we begin with the assumption that tourism cannot be sustainable in its own right but may contribute to the sustainable development of some regions under some circumstances, then anumber of new approaches to tourism development emerge. In particular, it is argued that stronger links may emerge between tourism and other economic activ-

INTRODUCTION Innovation can come in many forms but all of these share three common elements — creativity, a problem-solving approach and a new way of thinking. This paper proposes that current approaches to tourism and sustainable regionaldevelopment have a number of problems and new solutions to these problems could come from using creative thinking methods. It is argued that challenging basic assumptions can lead to very simple but powerful new ideas. Specifically, this paper will seek to demonstrate that by taking the position that there is no such thing as sustainable tourism, a number of new ways of thinking about the role oftourism in sustainable regional development can be described. Typically discussions of tourism


Tourism and Hospitality Research

Vol. 8, 1, 4–13

© 2008 Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. 1467-3584 $30.00


development concentrate on the resources, skills and infrastructure that a community offers to tourism developers. This paper will take the inverse of this approach and willexplore a number of ways in which regional communities can use tourism developers and tourists to achieve the destination region’s broader goals and aspirations.

assumptions and looking at things from an alternative viewpoint.
THE PROBLEMS FOR TOURISM AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT Tourism is an option chosen by many governments as a key tool for regional development (Forstner, 2004). Despite a relativelylong history of use as a regional development tool and substantial investments of resources, there is considerable debate about the value of tourism for communities in rural and peripheral areas. Numerous evaluations have highlighted many negative consequences from tourism development including

INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY — KEY POINTS Hjalager (1997) argues that there is a tendency to...
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