Sustainability has become a concern in the travel and tourism industry. Stakeholders need to fully understand the issues, identify the root causes of the problem, and create interventions that will involve multiple sectors. However, understanding how sustainable tourism works is complex due to the compounded issues persisting. Hence, we use the systems thinking approach because of its ability to identify the underlying structures that influence sustainable tourism development.
Applying Systems Thinking to Sustainable Tourism
More than an industry, tourism is considered a system characterised by complex relationships among interacting actors, stakeholders, environments, as well as the actions done in the past and in the present, and future trends. This includes factors such as government policies, economic competition, and local community participation, among others. Thus, tourism is best understood using a Systems Thinking (ST) approach. By providing a systemic and holistic view of tourism, ST shows how the industry relates with other systems in relation to the whole. Through this approach, the nodes at which intervention is needed, the modes, and the actors to be involved in an intervention are properly identified.
Tourism has emerged as a critical sector generating economic growth and development across countries in the world. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2017, tourism accounted for about 10.4% (USD 8 trillion) of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 5% (USD 1 trillion) of total investments, 7% (USD 1.5 trillion) of the world’s exports, and 1 in 10 jobs (313 million jobs) in the global economy. Also, in 2017, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer reported that international tourist arrivals increased by 7%, which is expected to continue in 2018 at a rate of 4% to 5%. To support this momentum, efforts and initiatives have been made to pursue sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism here is understood as the triple bottom line framework (i.e., people, planet, profit) defined as the synergy between and among the social, environmental, and economic facets of tourism. This requires concerted and cooperative efforts among stakeholders in the industry.
About the Author
Fernando Martin Roxas, D.B.A. is a Full Professor at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). He teaches Operations Management, Quantitative Analysis, Systems Thinking, Project Management, and other basic modules in the Degree and Executive Learning Programs of the Institute. He is also the Executive Director of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) – Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism. He obtained his Doctor in Business Administration from De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Paolo Rivera, Ph.D. is the Associate Director of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) – Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism. Prior to joining AIM, he was Associate Professor at the School of Economics of De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines, where he also obtained his Doctor of Philosophy in Economics. Email: email@example.com
Eylla Laire Gutierrez is a Research Coordinator of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) – Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism. Prior to joining AIM, she served as intern at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Philippines. She is currently completing her Master of Arts in Development Policy at De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Arnold, R.D., & Wade, J.P. (2015). A definition of systems thinking: A systems approach. 1. Procedia Computer Science, 44, 669-678.
- Aronson, D. (1996). Overview of Systems Thinking. Retrieved from http://www.thinking.net/
- Mai, T., & Smith, C. (2015). Addressing the threats to tourism sustainability using systems thinking: A case study of Cat Ba Island, Vietnam. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 23(10), 1504-1528.
- O’Riordan, T. (2013). Sustainability for wellbeing. Environmental Innovation and Societal 6. Schiuma, G., Carlucci, D., & Sole, F. (2012). Applying a systems thinking framework to assess
- knowledge assets dynamics for business performance improvement. Expert Systems with Applications, 39, 8044-8050.
- Serrao-Neumann, S., et al. (2016). Marine governance to avoid tipping points: Can we adapt the adaptability envelope? Marine Policy, 65, 56-67.
- World Economic Forum. (2017). The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017. Retrieved from http://ev.am/sites/default/files/WEF_TTCR_2017.pdf