Cruise infrastructure development networks: power, politics and cohesion

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Lohmann, Guilherme

Burke, Matthew

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Moyle, Brent

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Cruise tourism is the fastest growing sector within the global leisure travel industry. This growth is manifested in the number of passengers and ships being added to the global cruise fleet each year as well as the size of ships. Also, new destinations continue to be added as many coastal cities aspire to deriving economic benefit from cruise tourism. Accordingly, destinations are obliged to consider the (re)development of new cruise infrastructure. Stakeholders within these destinations form networks, initially to advance proposals for that (re)development. These networks may be formal or informal, but each is faced with issues such as the exercise of power within the network, how stakeholders engage with each other, the existence of competing interests and the control over information. In networks where effective governance mechanisms are in place, greater network cohesion and therefore consensus can be achieved, However, where no such mechanisms exist, network fragmentation can result. Network fragmentation can give rise to risks which threaten cruise infrastructure development projects. Previous studies on cruise infrastructure development have focused either on the impacts of cruise infrastructure on host communities and the environment or on stakeholder and community response to cruise infrastructure development. A few have considered the specific issues of cruise port economics and governance. In contrast, studies in the area of public infrastructure development, generally, have recognised that key stakeholders form networks to advance proposals for development and have described those networks. However, limited research appears to have addressed the specific topics of the formation of networks to progress cruise infrastructure development. Moreover, there appears to be an absence of research on the types or characteristics of those networks, the operation of power within them and the potential for risk where there is political debate or dysfunction. Thus, the aim of this research is to understand how stakeholder networks influence proposals for cruise infrastructure development. In the context of this research, the term stakeholder network is used to identify the type of social network which has formed. However, the empirical research undertaken in this study informs a discussion which presents opportunities to further refine the types of networks which form to influence such proposals. Identification of the specific type of network which has formed can assist key stakeholders effectively manage such networks. This research uses a mixed methods approach to address this aim. It uses a media discourse analysis approach to identify the issues of concern to stakeholders over an eightyear period and to build a rich case study based on these issues. In-depth, semi-structured interviews probed stakeholders’ responses to a range of pertinent issues including the exercise of power within the decision-making process, identification of the decisionmakers, sources and sharing of information, governance and risk. A qualitative approach was also used to assess the stakeholders’ roles within the network so that their perceptions of key issues, such as power, could be analysed. Auckland, New Zealand, was chosen as the study site for this research. Auckland is a mature cruise destination which is experiencing significant growth of its cruise tourism sector. However, its cruise infrastructure requires improvements to accommodate bigger ships and more than two ships at a time. Therefore, proposals for its redevelopment are being considered. These proposals are being advanced against the backdrop of a contestable political environment and high profile competing interests. Respondents’ perceptions revealed a network which is neither outwardly identifiable as a network nor cohesive in its organisation. On the contrary, respondents described a network characterised by, for example, the asymmetric exercise of power, the presence of competing interests, a lack of transparency in the decision-making process and the absence of effective governance. They also articulated a wide range of risks which they believed could flow from this lack of cohesion, or fragmentation. Respondents’ perceptions supported recognition of Auckland’s cruise infrastructure development network as a policy issue network, given the network’s openness, instability and the unequal contribution of and control over resources. This research makes several original contributions. Firstly, it presents a conceptual analysis of stakeholder interrelationships and the power stakeholders exercise in relation to cruise infrastructure development. Secondly, it advances a novel framework for analysing power in relation to proposals for cruise infrastructure development. Thirdly, it analyses empirical evidence which conveys how stakeholders perceive the exercise of power within the stakeholder networks formed to advance proposals for cruise infrastructure development. Fourthly, it applies media discourse analysis to analyse the media discourse surrounding proposals for cruise infrastructure development. This approach enables key stakeholders and researchers to construct a nuanced analysis of the key issues as well as reconstruct a cohesive narrative based on media reports. Fifthly, it differentiates between the types of networks which can form to advance proposals for cruise infrastructure development. Applied, original contributions include analyses of the characteristics of stakeholder networks which form to advance proposals for cruise infrastructure development and of stakeholder perceptions of the exercise of power within these networks. This thesis also presents empirically informed insights into the potential for risk where such networks become fragmented. There are limitations to this research which should be recognised. Firstly, this study is based on a single case study. Secondly, a qualitative approach was used to allow for the detailed probing of stakeholders’ perceptions rather than a quantitative approach which can offer precision in describing the structure of the network. Thirdly, this research is based on an informal, open network and not one which has purposely been established. Fourthly, the number of respondents was limited by the small potential pool of respondents. Lastly, this research is limited to the proposal stage of cruise infrastructure development. Several opportunities for future research should be considered. A social network analysis (SNA) approach can be used to provide a more precise view of the contours of similar networks and provide a means for triangulating the qualitative approach taken in this research. While this research was focused on the proposal stage for (re)development in a mature cruise destination, further research could consider other stages of development. A longitudinal study could provide valuable evidence given the protracted time period which is usually associated with large public infrastructure development projects. Another avenue includes extending this research to the broader field of cruise tourism, as destination networks seek to build a sustainable cruise tourism sector.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Natural Sciences

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Cruise infrastructure

Media discourse analysis

Cruise tourism

Policy issue networks

Social constructivism

Network fragmentation

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