Guiding Principles of Design for Circular Tourism

Guiding Principles of Design for Circular Tourism

José Miguel Rodríguez-Antón, (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain) and María del Mar Alonso-Almeida (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9885-5.ch002


This chapter analyses the guiding principles that companies in the tourism sector should follow to implement a management model that conforms to the new paradigm of the circular economy. To do this, the authors contextualise this new model in the important sector of tourism, creating the concept of circular tourism, and they argue that many of the innovations being incorporated in this sector are oriented to eco-innovation. They also discuss the case of a Spanish urban hotel that has opted for circularity and sustainability, and finally, they propose, in line with the British Standard BS 8001:2017, that the application of the principles of system thinking, innovation, stewardship, collaboration, value optimization, and transparency will help companies in the tourism sector to focus on the new paradigm of the circular economy.
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Nowadays, governments, economists, activists and other voices are putting on the table the necessity of driving a new economic paradigm in which resources are better used, reused and recycled. In fact, increasing global demand for some resources such as petrol or food, growing population and consuption worldwide, and the price volatility of raw materials, among other things, are putting pressure on future access to resources (Whalen et al., 2017).

In the case of tourism, the pressure is stronger because statistics show that tourists consume more resources and produce more waste and pollution than the destination population. In addition, transportation is one of the fastest-growing industries in all its categories and contributes in a not-small or best sustainable way to tourism.

Therefore, the circular economy (CE) is postulated as a possible solution to these problems. The CE supports the design of economic solutions according to ecological principles. It includes everything from the initial design to the final business solutions that can help satisfy the needs of the environment without causing major imbalances.

Thus, taking into account CE considerations during tourism planning deployment – design, planning, development – implies rethinking the current principles of design in tourism organisations with a holistic view of involvement and operations.

The three main objectives involved in a CE, according to Szita (2017), are protecting environmental capital, optimising resource extraction (use and reuse) and minimising negative externalities. These objectives also are valid for circular tourism (CT).

In this sense, the protection of the natural enviroment has been widely studied by previous researchers with a number of recommendations and success cases. In a lesser measure, how the human hand regenerates natural enviroments also has been studied, but more emphasis is needed on this issue to understand the best practices involved from a CE viewpoint.

Optimisation of resources in tourism is a relevant issue in industries such as hospitality or transportation where different green-friendly business practices have been adopted to reduce and recycle resources (e.g. Alonso-Almeida et al., 2017; Peeters et al., 2006). Nevertheless, research about reuse and practices such as circular redesign, remanufacturing and recovering remain underdeveloped. Some authors advocate for the development of eco-innovations in a wide sense as a way to approach a CE. For that reason, Alonso-Almeida et al. (2016, p. 8) suggest that ‘eco-innovations could include numerous activities that affect businesses and tourist destinations in areas such as energy; recycling; water; new construction development; interior design; engineering projects; responses to external environmental degradation; new products, processes, and business models; adaptations of products and existing materials; new materials; the use of eco-biological products; spatial planning’ and other ideas.

Finally, with regard to minimising tourism’s negative externalities, some research also has been developed from the stakeholders’ perspective, although other issues such as the increase of waste and the reduction of water reserves during high occupation periods (e.g. summer in sun and sand destinations) has been analysed less often.

Therefore the main questions that this book chapter will try to answer are:

  • How could the main principles of CE apply to tourism?

  • What is the role of eco-innovations to push CE?

  • What design principles are the most relevant to drive CT?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Linear Economy: A traditional economic paradigm that consists of extracting raw materials; transforming them; producing and consuming goods and services; and discarding the resulting waste.

BS 8001:2017: A British standard drawn up by the British Standard Institution that is a voluntary guide for reaching the circular economy.

Principles of Design for Circular Tourism: Standards of performance that should apply to tourism companies to adequately implement a model of circular economy.

Hotel Claridge: A four-star hotel in Madrid, Spain that can be considered an example for the implementation of a circular economy model.

3R Model: The basic model of the circular economy based on reducing the level of consumption and waste generation, reusing waste directly as a product or as a component of other products, and recycling or using waste as raw material directly after passing through a recycling process.

Circular Tourism: An economic system that tries to make the tourism sector, in all its manifestations, capable of supporting the economic development of tourist destinations without putting the sustainability of the planet at risk by reducing the use of energy factors and natural resources, reusing the waste generated in the activities carried out, either as products directly or as components of other products, and using waste as direct raw material after of a recycling process.

Circular Economy: A new economic paradigm that consists of extracting raw materials; transforming them; and producing, consuming, and returning the materials to integrate in the process so that they turn into new raw material or new elements of production.

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