A New Perspective on Quality Control Tool Diversity and Organisation in Sustainable Tourism Practice: Evidence from Park City, Utah
Embargoed until: 2020-04-19
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Tourism can degrade the very environments that attract visitation. A sustainable trajectory is therefore essential. Sustainable tourism quality control tools (QCTs) are mechanisms that translate sustainable tourism concepts into practice, voluntarily adopted at business discretions. Conceptualised on a weak-to-strong continuum, they include policies, codes of conduct, awards, and certification programs. Certification programs, although recognised as the aspired trajectory of sustainable tourism practice, attract low industry uptake. Various structural and perceptual factors influence this low uptake, but this apparent conundrum implicates another critical, yet under-researched question; if businesses are not adopting certification programs, what QCTs are they adopting, if any? Accordingly, through six research questions and a multi-method qualitative methodology, this study identified the diversity of contemporary QCT practice to inform a more optimal mode of engagement with sustainability. The most recent attempt to structure this knowledge, in 2006, consisted of just four QCTs organised along the single dimension of strength, without further specification (Weaver, 2006). Addressing this major gap in the literature, the first research phase inductively and content analysed the extant literature to identify QCT diversity as per the literature (RQ1), and creates an organisational framework that captures this (RQ2). Building upon these outcomes, the second empirical phase employed a case study approach in the ski resort destination of Park City, Utah to identify QCT diversity (RQ3), refine the framework to capture the revealed diversity in the literature and industry practice (RQ4), and identify QCT prevalence in industry practice (RQ5). Data collection techniques included semi-structured interviews, online and documented material review, observations, and site visits. These materials were coded, thematically and content analysed. The third propositional phase leveraged the collective insights and presents a framework for practical and theoretical progress of sustainable tourism (RQ6). The first phase culminated in a three dimensional framework that effectively organises the diversity emerging from the literature, entailing 15 QCTs organised across five function categories (how QCTs primarily progress sustainable tourism), three “toolboxes” (expressions of conceptual strength), and two “menus” (expressions of conformance) (RQ2). Diversity was subsequently assessed across these key barometers. This revealed that conceptually weak, opportunistically adopted QCTs constituting a metaphorical QCT “Buffet” were the most numerous and diverse in strength and function compared to the conceptually strong, highly structured QCT “Set Menu” (RQ1). In the second phase, the organisational framework was refined to accommodate another empirically added 11 QCT showing new diversity that warranted new classifications. The revised framework capturing the diversity revealed collectively in the literature and empirically entails 26 QCTs organised across five function categories, four toolboxes, and three menus (RQ4). The rudimentary, opportunistic Buffet QCTs, again, were the most diverse across central barometers (RQ3). Investigation of QCT prevalence revealed the ubiquity of a proposed Buffet Effect in the case study site (n=27). Unlike conventional thought advocating standardised models of singular, homogenous practice, the contemporary situation in Park City reveals an adaptable model of multitudinous and heterogeneous practice, with each business using multiple QCTs and all combinations unique (RQ5). In the third phase, collective insights informed a framework for the subsequent progression of sustainable tourism theory and practice. Underpinnings of sustainable tourism theory and practice were aligned with QCTs themselves. In the spirit of dialectal interchange, the relative merits of the revealed standardised and adaptable models of QCT practice were fused. The proposed new model encourages (a) flexibility and idiosyncratic QCT practice, (b) diverse, multitudinous QCT practice for synergistic effects, and (c) guidance rather than conformance sustainability (RQ6).
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dept Tourism, Sport & Hot Mgmt
The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.
Quality control tools
Sustainable tourism theory and practice