Improving tourism destination governance: a complexity science approach

Harald Pechlaner, Rodolfo Baggio, Noel Scott, Chris Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The growing interest in complexity science as a framework for understanding social and economic systems has had, in recent times, an influence on the study of tourism destinations. This paper aims to describe this approach and discuss its theoretical and methodological implications in terms of destination governance. Design/methodology/approach Traditional research has adopted a reductionist approach to modelling tourist destinations: variables and relationships are embedded in simplified linear models that explain observed phenomena and allow implications for management or forecasting of future behaviours. In comparison, this paper adopts an adaptive management approach. Rather than imposing lines of action to force the evolutionary path of a system, the effect of different management actions are modelled, producing experimental results that provide information about the system that is being managed, and used to refine strategies and governance styles. Complex systems provide a theoretical framework in which this adaptive philosophy is naturally embedded. After a brief overview of the complexity framework, the paper discusses its validity and applicability to the study of tourism systems by using a set of network analysis methods and numerical simulations. Findings This paper discusses a new perspective useful for the study of tourism destination governance, providing insights into its organisational structure and dynamic behaviour. Originality/value The paper proposes a philosophy and practical toolset to analyse and understand a tourism destination and the relationships between its stakeholders. It discusses the implications of this new approach with regard to the governance methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-60
Number of pages10
JournalTourism Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Qualitative methods
  • Quantitative methods
  • Tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

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