Sustainable tourism planning by local authorities : an investigation of the London Boroughs

Maxim, Cristina (2013) Sustainable tourism planning by local authorities : an investigation of the London Boroughs. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Sustainable development has become the main objective of the policy agenda for many governments and a key principle that underpins the planning process in the UK. Likewise, the concept of sustainable tourism has been widely embraced by managers and planners of tourist destinations, as it provides a platform for different stakeholders in the tourism industry to interact and discuss the impacts of their activities. Yet, despite the attention this concept has received, there still seem to be many gaps in the understanding of sustainable tourism development, especially when it comes to its implementation. This process is considered particularly difficult due to the conflicting interests that exist between the main stakeholders involved in tourism. Nevertheless, it has been suggested that local authorities can bring together and facilitate the cooperation between all these stakeholders, and therefore can play an essential role in the sustainable development of tourism in a destination.

However, when it comes to large cities, even though they are important tourist destinations and attract many visitors, the concept of sustainable tourism in urban environments has received little attention from researchers and policy makers. Therefore, this thesis aims to address in part the current gaps in tourism research by offering an insight into sustainable tourism planning in urban areas. Using a case study approach, it seeks to develop the current knowledge and understanding of whether local authorities in London have embraced and implemented strategies and measures to promote sustainable development of tourism. To achieve this, the research uses a comparative framework to examine how the London boroughs have integrated policies for sustainable tourism development into their main planning documents. This analysis is developed further through a discussion of the findings of an online survey conducted with representatives of the local authorities in London, and the results of semistructured interviews with representatives of public and private organisations involved in tourism development in the capital.

The research found that even though most policy makers consider sustainable tourism important and recognise its benefits, only a small number of London boroughs promote its principles in their planning policy documents for tourism, and even fewer have put in place initiatives to implement strategies for sustainable tourism development. To help understand why this is the case, the study identifies drivers of success and constraints perceived by both, the survey participants and interview respondents, which influence the implementation of sustainable tourism policies at the local level. Considering these factors may help local authorities design and enact measures for sustainable tourism development in a destination.

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