by Simone Splendiani, Tonino Pencarelli and Mauro Dini

14th Toulon-Verona Conference (ICQSS), Alicante, Spain, September 1-3, 2011.

The aim of this work is to investigate the role of tourism enterprises in sustainable development processes of Destinations.  This includes the way in which tourism services can help local economic development, in line with the needs of all stakeholders: citizens, businesses, local agencies and tourists.

The orientation and cultural awareness of businesses to sustainable development is here considered a precondition to organizational and strategic innovations, as well as product. The innovations resulting from the application of the principles of sustainability, in fact, have important implications for the use of tourism services, generating changes in the processes and patterns of use, even before technological and organizational changes. When companies change the traditional strategic direction and begin working towards sustainability, as described by Normann [1992], patterns emerge in which many innovations are based on social innovations, or “innovations that create new types of social behavior, using ‘human and social energy more efficiently and connect to each other – in new ways – and to social contexts.”  These innovations may originate from the participation of customers in  organizational changes or technical innovation. In the case of tourism marketing, this may play a role in driving awareness and demand, encouraging visitors to use sustainable and responsible tourism experiences.

For this purpose it is necessary to ask the following research questions:

–  What degree of awareness do tourism entrepreneurs have about the issues of sustainability?
– Which policies for sustainability are implemented by firms and with what results?
This study attempts to answer these questions through a qualitative and quantitative survey  distributed in questionnaire form to a sample of local tourism enterprises  of different legal classifications.

This study reveals that the sustainability policies  put in place by these enterprises first require corporate visions and strategic approaches based on a high degree of awareness of tourism entrepreneurs.  Second, policies need cooperation with the public entities, requiring  not only regulation but also economic incentives.

Despite the limitations of the research – especially the small size of the territory investigated and the observed number of firms – the study offers important evidence about the relationship between tourism enterprises and sustainable growth of the area. This relationship is rich in cultural and ethical implications and suggests to companies an effective means making policies to meet challenges related to a new development model and new trends in global tourist demand.

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