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Absence and presence of social complexity in the marketization of sustainable tourism

Hultman, Johan, Säwe, Filippa
Journal of cleaner production 2016 v.111 pp. 327-335
European Union, business enterprises, ecotourism, marketing, politics, rural development, stakeholders, sustainable development, Sweden
The EU strategy for rural development 2014–2020 proposes a focus on tourism as a solution to bring economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainable development together. Using the case of fishing tourism in Sweden, we discuss the marketization of sustainable development on a destination market. We focus on the discursive and practical tension between ambitions for development and maintenance. In a two-step analysis, we problematize the win–win consensus of sustainable tourism discourse in relation to different stakeholders' competing uses of limited resources in practice. We show how stakeholders understand the stakes of sustainable tourism as either lost opportunities for development due to failed regulation of a natural resource, or as deteriorating social relations due to failed maintenance of socio-cultural values. We argue for the acknowledgement of social complexity in market theoretizations in order to transfer sustainable tourism from the agenda of business potential and traditional marketing to the domain of participatory politics.