Tourism and community well-being: social impacts of tourism in Australian tropical communities

Konovalov, Elena (2016) Tourism and community well-being: social impacts of tourism in Australian tropical communities. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Tropical communities often rely on tourism to support and enhance their well-being. However, traditional tourism planning processes rarely take into account the specific needs of tropical destination communities, and instead approach destinations as collection of resources that can be marketed to attract visitors. This approach, however, does not often deliver the tourism benefits expected by communities. This research project examined tourism as resource for communities, and utilised a community-centred research position. The principal aim of this research project was to explore opportunities that are offered by tourism to improve the well-being of tropical destination communities. More specifically, the research project focused on the social aspects of community wellbeing and the main research question was: How does tourism impact social aspects of community well-being in Australian Tropical communities? Secondary purpose of the research project was to establish a research process that would facilitate research of social impacts of tourism in other destinations. The thesis utilised a mixed methods facilitation approach, that is quantitative research (studies one and two) informed the follow up qualitative research (study three). Introduction to the thesis describes the research rationale, the four research questions for the thesis, thesis structure and the three study sites in Tropical North Queensland, Australia, each with a different scale and style of tourism development.

Chapter one provides a literature review on the topic to address the first thesis question: What is community well-being and how can we conceptualise tourism impacts on it? It explores the community well-being concept, and links the discussions on the topic in tourism impact research to the broader social science literature. After a review of the research and relevant theoretical frameworks, a detailed definition of community well-being and a model for understanding tourism impacts on it is proposed. Building on previous research, it is proposed that community well-being consists of three integral dimensions: the external conditions of residents life, residents response to these conditions, and a subjective evaluation of these conditions by residents. Tourism directly impacts the first two of these dimensions, and through affecting these indirectly impacts residents subjective evaluations. It is argued that a holistic assessment of tourism impacts on community wellbeing should assess all the changes in these three dimensions of community well-being that can be linked to tourism. It is further argued that this identification and separation of impacts on the three different dimensions of community well-being can be used to synthesise the findings of the existing tourism impact research as well as pave the way for future theoretical progress in the field.

Chapter two describes study one which investigated second thesis question: How do we measure the style and scale of tourism at a local destination for the purpose of comparison of destinations? The aim of the study was to develop a tourism measures framework which would provide a systematic assessment of the style and scale of tourism development at a specific destination and facilitate comparison of tourism destinations, with particular relevance to the research on social impacts of tourism. The study reviewed relevant research on the topic and identified that tourism can be compared on four facets: (1) Stage of tourism development; (2) Tourist/resident ratio; (3) Type of tourists, and (4) Seasonality. Review of research on each of the four identified tourism facets resulted in the establishment of specific variables and measures of those variables for each facet. Analysis of available secondary data for the three study locations was then undertaken. Results described the degree and type of tourism development at each of the three destinations. The study demonstrated that devised set of measures enables construction of suitably detailed tourism profiles for tourism destinations that are representative of the actual tourism development at a destination. The devised framework of measures for tourism facilitates comparative research and can be applied to destinations in Australia, or other countries (by using parallel measures for the identified variables).

Chapter three describes study two which investigated the third thesis question: Can we identify links between tourism and social aspects of community well-being? The aim of the study was to develop a theoretical framework and measurement instrument to access social aspects of community well-being, as well as assess residents perceptions of tourism impacts, and perceptions of impacts by different types of visitors. Building on the previous research on the topic, a theoretical framework of social aspects of community well-being was proposed. A survey of residents was conducted at each of the three study communities that assessed social aspects of community well-being and residents perceptions of tourism. Results revealed that the proposed theoretical framework of social aspects of community well-being was mostly supported by data. Further data analysis identified specific links between social aspects of community well-being and type of tourism development. Consistent with previous research, a higher scale of tourism development was linked to increased crime, reduced volunteering, less perceived influence over community development, and more/better community services. However, the results for the study community with most developed tourism did not demonstrate a higher emotional connection to place, community pride or needs fulfilment, which are commonly described as benefits of tourism development. Finally, contact with different types of visitors and its links to support for tourism development were investigated. The results indicate that more involved contact with visitors contributes to more positive impact evaluation, which in turn contributes to support for tourism development. However, while the link between impact evaluation and support for tourism was quite clear, only a small proportion of variance in the impact evaluation was explained by the contact variable. This confirmed that, besides contact with visitors, other significant predictors play important role in shaping residents evaluations of tourism impacts.

Chapter four describes study three which investigated that third and last thesis question: How can we devise tourism strategies that maximise tourisms potential to make a positive contribution to social aspects of community well-being? The aim of the study was to use action research to identify ways in which sustainable tourism development could contribute to social aspects of community wellbeing. Workshops were organised with community stakeholders at each study destination. Workshops consisted of a short research findings presentation and a structured brainstorming activity aimed at generating tourism development strategies. The generated tourism strategies addressed specific community issues in the area of social aspects of community well-being, and the process employed provided a useful method for other rural communities to use for tourism planning discussions.

Chapter five consist of conclusions and recommendations and addresses the main research question of the thesis: How does tourism impact social aspects of community well-being in Australian Tropical communities? The findings of the three studies are linked together and discussed relevant to the previous tourism impact research. The relationships between tourism and social capital, human capital, community identity and pride, and community services are discussed. The PhD contributes to understanding of social impacts of tourism on community well-being in destination communities and describes a research process that facilitates in-depth analysis of the relationships between tourism and the social facet of community well-being at specific communities.

Item ID: 49612
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: social conditions; tourism; travel; tropics; well-being; wellbeing
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2017 04:23
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150601 Impacts of Tourism @ 60%
15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150603 Tourism Management @ 40%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900302 Socio-Cultural Issues in Tourism @ 100%
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