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Understanding the weak signals of demand in a mature tourist destination: The contribution of a sustainable approach

Simeoni, Francesca, Cassia, Fabio, Ugolini, Marta Maria
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.219 pp. 775-785
data collection, descriptive statistics, lakes, learning, motivation, stakeholders, surveys, tourism, tourists, Italy
Sustainable rejuvenation is often indicated as a necessary evolutionary path for mature tourism destinations. However, the process through which such sustainable rejuvenation can be planned and pursued has been largely overlooked. In addition, available research about sustainable rejuvenation usually applies the triple bottom line framework while neglecting the fourth dimension of sustainability, time.The purpose of this study was to understand the motivations and perceptions of tourists regarding the sustainability of Sirmione (a tourism destination on Lake Garda, Italy) and to discuss the results with Sirmione's stakeholders and decision planners to identify priority interventions for sustainable rejuvenation. In recent times, Sirmione has undergone significant changes (related, for example, to the type of incoming tourists) and even if it is still ‘successful’, planners have started reflecting on the need for the town's rejuvenation.This study was approached through the two-tiered sustainability equilibria framework, which suggests a dynamic view of sustainability combining economic, environmental and social aspects with short-, long- and longer-term views. The study was based on data collected through a survey of 328 visitors to Sirmione and analysed through both descriptive statistics and contents analysis. The results of the survey served as the input for the subsequent collective learning process with local tourism operators. Through this process, Sirmione's destination planners were able to intercept weak signals about the evolution of visitor demand and competition. As a result, they developed a list of five priority interventions to implement through a strategic plan for rejuvenation while the destination is still successful. Embedded in the strategic plan were the two tiers of sustainability—economic, environmental and social, and short-, long- and longer-term perspectives.The results of this study contribute to highlighting the relevance of considering time (in addition to economic, social and environmental aspects) to explain the sustainable rejuvenation of a mature tourism destination. In addition, the study provides suggestions on the role of a destination's public and private actors to adopt a combination of initiatives to pursue sustainable rejuvenation.