Local networks, stakeholder dynamics and sustainability in tourism. Opportunities and limits in the light of stakeholder theory and SNA

  • Umberto Martini
  • Federica Buffa
Keywords: tourism sustainability, destination management, stakeholder approach, social network analysis

Abstract

Purpose of the paper: Given the importance of relationships between territorial actors and their ability to make collective decisions in order to ensure the sustainable development of tourism, this paper suggests social network analysis (SNA) as an appropriate method to explain the dynamics of interpersonal relationships in tourist areas.

Methodology: The stakeholder map was reconstructed by using stakeholder theory in conjunction with the identification of actors through snowball sampling. The most important stakeholders were identified by adopting the in-degree centrality indicator referred to the weighted adjacency matrix (quantitative) and the role played by stakeholders (qualitative). The in-degree network centralization indicator showed the distribution of centrality between the nodes of the network.

Findings: SNA enriches the reading of multi-stakeholder relationships in non-hierarchical territorial contexts; it picks up on the evolving dynamic of networks and the relative weights of the decision makers within them, providing a more comprehensive and convincing interpretation than does the stakeholder approach alone.

Research limits: exploratory research was undertaken in order to focus on analytical tools and the general theoretical framework.

Practical implications: the reconstruction of the networks and the interpretation of the relationships provide a sounder basis for the definition of strategies and of instruments that are employed to facilitate processes of participative governance in accordance with principles of sustainability.

Originality of the paper: few applications of SNA to tourism have so far appeared in the literature. However, the results derived from SNA can open new scenarios in destination management since, as well as demonstrating the existence of relationships, they also classify and prioritize them.

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Published
2015-04-29