Chapter 16 A research strategy to understand what biophysical and social conditions are appropriate and acceptable in tourism destinations
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Every day, protected area and destination managers struggle with important questions about the quality of visitor experiences and how to ensure they continue. Managers of natural and cultural heritage must also wrestle with protecting the values for which an area, monument or site is designated while integrating them with providing opportunities for high quality visitor experiences. These challenges have not diminished over time despite the growing abundance of research, refereed publications and scientific conferences on management of tourism. This is partly a result of well known gaps in knowledge transfer, but deeper down, research has generally failed to produce knowledge useful in practice, in knowledge focused on the fundamental question of management of tourism at heritage sites, understandings that help managers make trade-offs between visitor access and protection of heritage values and the lack of a generally accepted vision of tourism for destination marketing and management. The two fundamental questions at the root of much of society’s concern over tourism are: 1) what are the appropriate and/or acceptable conditions at a site; and, 2) how can the site and visitors be managed so as to avoid conditions that do not achieve these objectives. In addition, rarely have destinations attended to other questions such as what it is that tourism will sustain or how can tourism development lead to more resilient destinations and/or communities. This paper discusses a proposed research strategy to develop the knowledge and understanding at the foundation of more effective and equitable destination management. It emphasizes a more holistic, systems thinking approach. The paper begins with diving deeper into the background to these questions since research approaches are highly dependent on the questions asked, reviews some of the principle barriers to application of research to management and then provides an outline of a research strategy adaptable to different contexts that is scale and area independent.

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Editor: Anna Spenceley
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