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

Article


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. https://doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2015.1045514
Article Title

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

ERA Journal ID5856
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsMai, Thanh (Author) and Smith, Carl (Author)
Journal TitleJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Journal Citation23 (10), pp. 1504-1528
Number of Pages25
Year2015
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN0966-9582
1747-7646
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2015.1045514
Web Address (URL)https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09669582.2015.1045514
Abstract

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.

Keywordsdynamic complexity, feedback loops, systems, sustainable development
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020350803. Tourism management
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Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Queensland
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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