Ecotourism Emergence in Tasmania Through Social Entrepreneurs and Authentic Leaders

Ecotourism Emergence in Tasmania Through Social Entrepreneurs and Authentic Leaders

Matthew Wayne Knox, Joseph Crawford, Sarah Young
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2603-3.ch005
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Ecotourism is one of the fastest growing sectors within the tourism industry in Australia. The southern island state of Tasmania is one of the pioneers in creating sustainable ecotourist ventures. We explore, with a leadership behavioral lens, the role that the embodiment of authentic leader behaviors in social entrepreneurs has on ecotourism emergence. Authentic leader behaviors offer a response to some arguments that numerous ecotourist ventures are only sustainable and environmentally responsive in name only. Entrepreneurial leadership is critical in creating a culture conducive to social entrepreneurial growth and sustainability. This chapter concludes with recognition of the importance of future research into developing authentic leader behaviors in social entrepreneurs.
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In an era defined by debates surrounding the relationship between society and the environment, ecotourism has rose to the forefront in many jurisdictions. For many scholars, considering the environmental implications of economic activities (such as tourism) has become crucial to sustainable futures (Brock & Taylor, 2005). In the first year university economics courses, conversations about negative externalities of production often include modelling carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as a result of an organization’s production. Tourism is no exception (Holden, 2009). While the lexicon of emergent responses and acknowledgments of the environment exist (e.g. climate change, ozone depletion, ecosystem degradation, and global warming), a strong understanding between engagement with tourism and the environment is still limited. The World Travel and Tourism Council (2019) articulates that global tourism grew 3.9 percent in 2018 and contributed 8.8 trillion US dollars to the world economy.

In Australia, the tourism industry houses the second largest number of businesses after construction (Tourism Research Australia, 2016). Hall (1994, p. 137) argues that “in few regions around the world has interest in ecotourism been as pronounced as it has been in Australia, New Zealand, and the countries of the South Pacific”. Ecotourism is considered one of the fastest growing tourism subsectors (Matthews, 1993), despite its lack of conceptual clarity (Buckley, 1994). In 1996, the industry represented a turnover of AU$250 million over 600 operators (Cotterill, 1996). In the 2017/18 fiscal year, the ~500 certified members of Ecotourism Australia had a combined turnover of AU$1.4 billion (Ecotourism Australia, 2018). However, the certified members of that organization are not likely to represent a significant percentage of the industry, given overnight tourist visitor expenditure in Australia was AU$110 billion in the same year (Tourism Australia, 2018).

Tasmania, the southernmost island state of Australia, is one of the world leaders in promoting sustainability and environmental preservation. In a review of Oceanic ecotourism, the Tasmanian wilderness was named one of the three ‘natural tourist icons’ in Australia, alongside the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru (Dowling, 2001). The Tasmanian tourism industry, while only a small part of the national tourism revenue (AU$2.4 billion in 2017/18: Tourism Tasmania, 2018), has unique value in its variety of ecotourism options, from carbon-neutral wilderness cruises, to a 6-star luxury hotel tucked away in a national park. To contextualize, in 2018 Tasmania represented 2.11 percent (531,500) of the total population of Australia (25.18 million: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2019).

The emergence of ecotourism, while offering a largely sustainable and positive approach to environmental engagement in the tourism industry is not, however, without its flaws. Some entrepreneurs operate under the guise of ecotourism without regard for the environment within which they situate their enterprise (Fries, 1998; Siddique & Ghosh, 2017). In this regard, while the face of the organization is ecofriendly, it would and likely does sacrifice environmental health for economic gain. In Tasmania, some research has considered cruise ship effect on water ecologies (Ellis & Kriwoken, 2006), and the effect of tourism on orchid populations (Ballantyne & Pickering, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

R&D: Research and development.

Social Entrepreneur: an individual who “leads social innovation in pursuit of solving wicked problem” (Crawford et al., 2019b)

Social Innovation: the process of applying creative and original ideas to solve social problems.

Authentic: True to self.

Authentic Leader: an individual who “influences and motivates followers to achieve goals through their sincerity and positive moral perspective, enabled through heightened awareness and balanced processing.” (Crawford et al., 2019a).

Authentic Experience: engagement in activities that are perceived to be ‘real’ and ‘genuine’ by the tourist.

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