This is the introduction to Tourism Geographies, volume 16 (2014), no. 4, page 535-539; DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2014.947315
This special issue of Tourism Geographies explores the relationships of tourism to economic development from geographical perspectives. Tourism studies, of course, provide significant insights into the cultural identities of people and places (Lew, 2014), as well as human mobilities and life experiences (see the forthcoming Tourism Geographies 16 #5). However, it is the economic importance of tourism to destination livelihoods that drives most of the motivation of entrepreneurs, destination managers, and local and national governments to invest money, time and effort in its development and promotion. As such, it is often the most visible aspect of tourism in public policy discussions and hospitality industry initiatives.
The first half of this special issue defines and expands the conceptual perspective of evolutionary economic geography (EEG) as it applies to tourism, which was originally identified in Tourism Geographies 16 #1 as an emerging research paradigm (Brouder, 2014a). This section was commissioned by the two guest editor of this issue, with all of the accepted papers having been submitted to a double blind review process. The second group of papers were submitted independently by authors and included in this issue because of their focus on economic development. Although not explicitly EEG in their conceptual frameworks, they provide a broad understanding of the relationship between tourism and the economies of destination places. An EEG perspective can give readers even further insights into these geographic studies of tourism development from across the globe.
Tourism dynamics through the lens of evolutionary economic geography
The evolutionary nature of tourism resorts has long been a topic of preoccupation for scholars, including geographers and regional scientists. In the early 1960s, Walter Christaller (1963) argued that a resort's development progresses through predictable stages and a number of scholars at that time attempted to theorize various aspects of how places change through time as they relate to both tourists and destinations. Undoubtedly, the most noted contribution on how destinations develop, decline or become revitalized has been Butler's (1980) Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC). In over 30 years this model has been used in numerous studies, including those emphasizing spatial perspectives (Hall & Page, 2009), and both its strengths and its shortcomings have been analyzed in depth (Butler, 2006a, 2006b).
A fundamental problem with evolutionary perspectives of resort development, such as these, is their heavy reliance on single case studies, failing to offer explicit assessments as to the detailed endogenous and exogenous mechanisms triggering changes in particular destinations (Brouder & Eriksson, 2013). Arguably they also perform poorly when taking into account both spatial and historic contingencies that may have varying influences on different destinations.
Recently, Ma and Hassink (2013) have pointed out that the TALC framework would benefit markedly by incorporating key concepts that have been fleshed out in what has been termed one of the latest ‘turns’ in economic geography, namely that of EEG (see also Brouder & Eriksson, 2013). Simply stated, EEG provides a fresh perspective, borrowed from evolutionary economics (Nelson & Winter, 1982), for exploring regional development issues, which have long been a theme of interest in economic geography (Boschma & Frenken, 2006). To be sure, although thinking in an evolutionary way is hardly new in economic geography, it is the large amount of attention that concepts such as path dependence, the origins of entrepreneurs, prior experience, and knowledge transfer that has led to the marriage of economic geography to evolutionary economics for better understanding economic space (Coe, 2010).
Among its goals, EEG seeks to explain the appearance and evolution of spatial clusters, not as a result of rational decisions but due to the accumulation of knowledge that over time emerge in organizational routines (Boschma & Frenken, 2006). The approach postulates that in any given locality the survival or failure of companies depends on the knowledge gathered by entrepreneurs. For instance, if one starts up a firm following years of experience-gathering in a similar line of business one is likelier to see the firm succeed. This happens because ‘the routines of the old firm are successfully transferred to the new firm which increases the staying power of the entrant’ (Brouder & Eriksson, 2012, p. 4).
This incorporation of EEG to better understand how tourism evolves through time and influences regional development offers a promising avenue of research and theory building in the economic geography of tourism (Halkier & Therkelsen, 2013; Ioannides & Debbage, 1998, 2014). Specifically, it goes a long way in terms of reinvigorating a political economy approach in tourism research, especially by seeking to better account for agency, various levels of power, and capital accumulation in destination regions (Bianchi, 2012; Britton, 1991; Gibson, 2008).
The acknowledgement of the promise that EEG holds for gaining a superior understanding of a tourism region's evolutionary dynamics served as the foundation for the organization of three special sessions related to the theme of tourism and EEG at the 2013 annual conference of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in Los Angeles, California (9–13 April). It was here that the idea for creating a special issue of Tourism Geographies on this important topic was launched and discussed and as such, the four EEG-centered articles that start off this special issue originated from presenters at that conference.
The main driver behind the organization of the AAG research presentation sessions was Dr Patrick Brouder, who also made a solid case for launching this special issue of the journal. It is, therefore, appropriate that he should commence this special issue with an overview article where he examines eight papers (including three in this issue) that have explicitly explored links between EEG and tourism in recent years (Brouder, 2014b).
From our own perspective we believe the emergence of EEG offers a truly exciting opportunity for reinvigorating the study of tourism through the lens of economic geography. Importantly, we are convinced that this new avenue of research is important in terms of legitimizing and strengthening the theoretical underpinnings of tourism's role in regional economic development. Although the papers in the second half of this special issue were not written with the EEG framework in mind, we believe that the EEG perspective that is clearly laid out in theory and empirical research in the first half of this issue provides an insightful expansion on the more traditional economic development frameworks found in the second half of the book.
For example, Hillmer-Pegram (2014) uses a resilience framework to identify the underlying influences shaping the dive economy of the US Virgin Islands, which were found to include operator relations to both the local social-political system and global economies, a changing ecosystem, and operator knowledge structures. Similar models of the role of local actor networks and knowledge transfers are analyzed in this issue of Tourism Geographies for community economies in Thailand (King & Dinkoksung, 2014), Cambodia (Mao, Grunfeld, DeLacy, & Chandler, 2014), and Ghana (Adam & Amuquandoh, 2014). These types of phenomena readily lend themselves to EEG modes of analysis. In a different focus, Yrigoy (2014) examines how capital accumulation has shaped the development trajectory of Spanish resorts, and at a different scale, Sánchez-Rivero and Cárdenas-García (2014) identify how fundamental characteristics of a destination's population influence regional tourism development paths, which has implications for more effective economic policy formation.
Tourism does not exist in isolation as an economic activity and is embedded in numerous highly complex internal and external networks. As such, understanding tourism's relations to places and regions is a challenging task. We sincerely hope that readers of the contributions in this special issue find them both intellectually stimulating and are able to use them as a basis for instigating further fruitful and insightful dialog on the relations among tourism, development, and place.
1. Adam, I., & Amuquandoh, F. E. (2014). Hotel characteristics and location decisions in Kumasi Metropolis, Ghana. Tourism Geographies, 16(4), 653–668.
2. Bianchi, R. (2012). A radical departure: A critique of the critical turn in tourism studies. In J. Wilson (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of tourism geographies (pp. 46–54). Abingdon: Routledge.
3. Boschma, R. A., & Frenken, K. (2006). Why is economic geography not an evolutionary science? Towards an evolutionary economic geography. Journal of Economic Geography, 6, 273–302.
4. Britton, S. (1991). Tourism, capital, and place: Towards a critical geography of tourism. Environment and Planning D. Society and Space, 9, 451–478.
5. Brouder, P. (2014a). Evolutionary economic geography: A new path for tourism studies? Tourism Geographies, 16(1), 2–7.
6. Brouder, P. (2014b). Evolutionary economic geography and tourism studies: extant studies and future research directions. Tourism Geographies, 16(4), 540–545.
7. Brouder, P., & Eriksson, R. H. (2012). Staying power: What influences micro-firm survival in tourism? Tourism Geographies, 15(1), 125–144.
8. Brouder, P., & Eriksson, R. H. (2013). Tourism evolution: On the synergies of tourism studies and evolutionary economic geography. Annals of Tourism Research, 43, 370–389.
9. Butler, R. W. (1980). The concept of a tourist area cycle of evolution: Implications for management of resources. Canadian Geographer, 14(1), 5–12.
10. Butler, R. W. (Ed.). (2006a). The tourism area life cycle: Vol. 1: Applications and modifications. Clevedon: Channel View Publications.
11. Butler, R. W. (Ed.). (2006b). The tourism area life cycle: Vol. 2: Conceptual and theoretical issues. Clevedon: Channel View Publications.
12. Christaller, W. (1963). Some considerations of tourism location in Europe. Paper of the Regional Science Association, 12, 95–105.
13. Coe, N. M. (2010). Geographies of production I: An evolutionary revolution. Progress in Human Geography, 35(1), 81–91.
14. Gibson, C. (2008). Locating geographies of tourism. Progress in Human Geography, 32(3), 407–422.
15. Halkier, H., & Therkelsen, A. (2013). Breaking out of tourism destination path dependency? Exploring the case of coastal tourism in North Jutland, Denmark. German Journal of Economic Geography, 57, 39–51.
16. Hall, C. M., & Page, S. J. (2009). Progress in tourism management: From the geography of tourism to the geographies of tourism – a review. Tourism Management, 39, 3–16.
17. Hillmer-Pegram, K. (2014). Understanding the resilience of dive tourism to complex change. Tourism Geographies, 16(4), 598–614.
18. Ioannides, D., & Debbage, K. (1998). The economic geography of the tourist industry: A supply-side analysis. London: Routledge.
19. Ioannides, D., & Debbage, K. (2014). Economic geographies of tourism revisited: From theory to practice. In A. Lew, C. M. Hall, & A. M. Williams (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Tourism (pp. 107–119). Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.
20. King, R., & Dinkoksung, S. (2014). Ban Pa-Ao, pro-poor tourism and uneven development. Tourism Geographies, 16(4), 687–703.
21. Lew, A. A. (2014). Introduction to special issue: Cultural geographies of tourism: image, identity and place. Tourism Geographies, 16(2), 171–173.
22. Ma, M., & Hassink, R. (2013). An evolutionary perspective on tourism area development. Annals of Tourism Research, 41, 89–109.
23. Mao, N., Grunfeld, H., DeLacy, T., & Chandler, D. (2014). Agriculture and tourism linkage constraints in the Siem Reap-Angkor region of Cambodia. Tourism Geographies, 16(4), 669–686.
24. Nelson, R., & Winter, S. (1982). An evolutionary theory of economic growth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
25. Sánchez-Rivero, M., & Cárdenas-García, P. J. (2014). Population characteristics and the impact of tourism on economic development. Tourism Geographies, 16(4), 615–635.
26. Yrigoy, I. (2014). The production of tourist spaces as a spatial fix. Tourism Geographies, 16(4), 636–652.