Addressing the threats to tourism sustainability using systems thinking: a case study of Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Mai, Thanh and Smith, Carl (2015) Addressing the threats to tourism sustainability using systems thinking: a case study of Cat Ba Island, Vietnam. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 23 (10). pp. 1504-1528. ISSN 0966-9582


Tourism is a dynamically complex system. Planning for sustainability is therefore difficult because past system behaviour is often not a good indicator of future behaviour. Despite this, tourism planning is mainly based on forecasting methods that rely on historical data to predict future trends with the assumption that tomorrow's world will be much like today's. To properly manage dynamically complex systems it is necessary to understand the underlying system structures that influence current as well as future system behaviour. This is the domain of systems thinking, which is not a forecasting method, rather a method used to understand the feedback mechanisms that influence system behaviour over time. This study describes the link between tourism development and systems thinking theory, and uses this to identify underlying systems structures likely to influence tourism development and sustainability within Cat Ba Island, Vietnam. We show that current policies promoting rapid tourism growth on Cat Ba Island are likely to be fixes that fail due to unintended consequences that ultimately undermine sustainability. To ensure sustainability, the policy focus must switch from growth to planning for limits to growth before tourism carrying capacity is undermined, which could ultimately lead to tourism decline.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2018 04:26
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2018 03:45
Uncontrolled Keywords: dynamic complexity, feedback loops, systems, sustainable development
Fields of Research (2008): 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1506 Tourism > 150603 Tourism Management
Fields of Research (2020): 35 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 3508 Tourism > 350803 Tourism management
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): B Economic Development > 90 Commercial Services and Tourism > 9003 Tourism > 900301 Economic Issues in Tourism
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