Tourism Impacts and Sustainable Development

Abstract: Following the emergence of sustainable development as a new development paradigm, the scope of tourism impacts has increased. There is a call for a more holistic approach, incorporating environmental, sociocultural, and economic impacts of tourism into impact evaluations. The overall purpose of the thesis is to describe and analyze tourism impacts from a sustainable development perspective. Frameworks for reflecting multiple perspectives have been proposed and empirically tested, but predominantly economic arguments are still used to justify or condone investments in tourism. This makes objectives of sustainable development in tourism difficult to achieve. The first research question deals with this problem: What are the advantages and challenges of measuring tourism impacts, from a sustainable development perspective, applying a cost-benefit perspective? Local residents are primary stakeholders in tourism development, both as major recipients of benefits and costs linked to tourism development, but also as part of the tourist experience in their encounter with visitors. The second research question addresses the resident perspective: How can resident attitudes toward tourism impacts be described and analyzed from a sustainable development perspective? Two case studies have resulted in the five articles included in the thesis. The first three articles focus on the first research question and are based on a case study of the music festival Way Out West. Over 2000 respondents, representing both festival goers and local residents, answered the questionnaires. In-depth interviews with festival management were conducted, and secondary data from the festival organization was also included. The second case study, discussed in the last two articles, was conducted at three coastal destinations in West Sweden and comprised questionnaires sent to local residents (528 respondents) and in-depth interviews with stakeholders. Findings show that the concepts of Use and Non-use values shifts the focus from economic impacts to a discussion about value in the evaluation of tourism impacts. The attempt to achieve commensurability between different impact dimensions, in order to establish sociocultural and environmental impacts on an equal footing with economic impacts, is found to be promising. Findings from the second case study highlight the heterogeneity of local communities in terms of resident attitudes, through the application of a segmentation approach and a stakeholder perspective. Furthermore, the level of tourism development and the incorporation of an evaluative component are two factors that are found to facilitate the management of sustainable development at tourist destinations. The methods and tools applied and developed in this thesis emphasize the importance of including local residents in the tourism and event evaluation process, as well as a broader understanding of tourism impacts and the assessment of their value. The thesis findings contribute to the development of knowledge with regard to how the objectives of sustainable development in tourism can be met.

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