Tourism Circular Economy: Proposal for a Research Agenda

Tourism Circular Economy: Proposal for a Research Agenda

Alfonso Vargas-Sánchez (University of Huelva, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9885-5.ch001
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The aim of this chapter is to present a research agenda that can help to advance the generation of scientific knowledge intended to support the implementation of circular economy initiatives in the tourism industry. In this line, a decalogue was used as a starting point, which was checked with academics and professionals in this field in order to refine the initial proposal and enrich it with new research opportunities and challenges. As a result, a research framework has been created and organized into four sections, according to their nature: economic/business, social, environmental, and cross-sectional. Nevertheless, in spite of the particular character of each of them, their interconnections are also underlined in order to contribute to the progressive development of a more circular tourism economy.
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Although CE is not a new concept -for Hens et al. (2018) it dates back to late 1970s-, its application to the tourism industry is still in an early stage of development. Originally applied to the environmental sustainability of industrial activities, the CE approach is also being spread into service sectors such as tourism (Hens et al., 2018). Nevertheless, in spite of its relatively late arrival to this model shift, it is important to note the potentially significant role that tourism companies and destinations can play in the transition from a linear (unsustainable) economy to a circular (sustainable) economy, since the tourism industry is, undoubtedly, one of the most impactful socio-economic activities at the global level.

Similarly in the academic field, Vargas-Sánchez (2018, 2019) has recently begun to address the challenge to systematize the state of the art of scientific research in the intersection between Circular Economy and Tourism, through the identification of the topics and methodological approaches used by researchers when studying the implementation of circular economy initiatives in the tourism sector. Thereby, the connections among the keywords utilized by authors, displayed in Figure 1, can show how the intersection between CE and tourism has been mostly addressed in the academic literature, from a conceptual point of view. Thus, the most numerous keywords are those related to sustainability issues, followed by eco and green topics; low carbon, renewable energy and development matters are next in quantitative importance.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Circular Tourism Economy (or Tourism Circular Economy): The application of circular economy principles to tourism companies and destinations.

Circular Economy Principles: Originally known as the 3R’s (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle), others have been added over time, such as Redesign, Repair, Refurbish, Recover, and others.

Linear Economy: An economic model based on the sequence take (raw material), make (products), use (consume), dispose (of non-recyclable waste), which has demonstrated to be unsustainable for both its resources consumption and its environmental impact.

Exploratory Research: A type of research aimed to understand and describe, in a preliminary way, a mostly unknown subject of study, increasing the level of knowledge on it.

Circular Economy: An economic model oriented to eliminate waste generation, reuse/recycle products and materials, reduce as much as possible resources consumption as well as other actions to close material loops, and in sum, minimize the environmental impact.

Sharing Economy: A peer to peer model of socio-economic interaction that has extended its reach to non-members of a certain community (such as a family, group of friends, etc.) and even to physically distant people through Internet-based platforms, which allow the access (use) to goods and services with excess capacity. It is based on shared access to them instead of their ownership.

Research Agenda: The proposal of research lines to guide researchers' efforts towards certain priorities aligned to opportunities and challenges that have been identified in the area under study.

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