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The Capitalist Dilemma in Modern Tourism Development

Maria Della Lucia and Ernestina Giudici

1. Opening Remarks

Capitalism has received a fair share of appreciation as well as criticism, and tourism has been identified to be vital for its sustainability (Fletcher, 2011). Tourism’s predominant neoliberal structure is evident in its marketization and corporatization. These two factors have served the interests and profit-making agendas of the tourism industry’s powerful players. Increasing international flows, mass tourism, and overtourism evident in many places manifest this approach as well as environmental impacts and concerns about livability of places and their loss of identity and culture (Gonzalez Tirados, 2011).

Capitalism and tourism have shown a dilemma as a result of recurring crises. On the one hand, profits have become necessary to economic growth by increasing the number of tourists (the growth of the middle class in China and India). On the other hand, dynamic conservation and protection of human, natural, and cultural ecosystems has become crucial (Pung, Gnoth & Del Chiappa, 2020) to maintaining long-term sustainable development (Della Lucia, 2018). Therefore, these systems urgently require rethinking (Mele, 2016), but transition to alternatives remains an open debate.

This chapter discusses the foundation and contradictions of the economy and tourism’s neoliberal structures and how their paradoxes are addressed through virtuous processes that multiply the nature and sources of value generation (Higgins-Desbiolles, Carnicelli, Krolikowski, Wijes- inghe &c Boluk, 2019; Pirson, 2019; Porter &c Kramer, 2011, 2012). This chapter retraces the meaning and evolution of capitalism and further presents the relationship between capitalism and tourism and between tourism and sustainability. Finally, it introduces shared value as a notion that interconnects sustainability, social responsibility, and humanistic management and addresses capitalism and tourism challenges. The concluding section recommends a transition to new development models through these positive dynamics.

  • 2 Maria Della Lucia and Ernestina Giudici
  • 2. Capitalism: Meaning and Evolution

Capitalism has been the dominant economic system of Western economies since the end of World War II, evolving over the decades (Kaze- roony, 2014). It is defined as a system based on individual rights, which serve as the basis for unethical behavior (Dettori & Giudici, 2014). Politically, legally, and economically, capitalism is a laissez-faire system (Scott, 1997), a system of objective laws (Bacher, 2007) and freedom applied to production, resulting in a free market (Phillips, 2013).

Batsch (2002) highlighted three phases of economic capitalism evolution. First, in “family capitalism, families own and manage companies”. Second, under “managerial capitalism”, management and ownership are separated (Berle & Means, 1932). Third, under “financial capitalism”, economic and political domination is exercised by financial institutions rather than industrial capitalists (Gainet, 2014). This evolution reportedly emerged at the beginning of the 1980s in the United States.

Friedman (1962) strongly believed in free-market capitalism and argued that a business is mainly responsible for making profits for shareholders. In contrast, Freeman (1984) extended the scope of company objectives to stakeholders: “Any group or individual can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives” (p. 46). Freeman further specified that “dividing the world into ‘shareholder concerns’ and ‘stakeholder concerns’ is roughly the logical equivalent of contrasting “apples” with “fruit”. Shareholders are stakeholders, and it does not get us anywhere to try to contrast the two unless we have an ideological agenda that is served by doing so” (p. 46).

Capitalism has pros and cons. On the one hand, capitalism is seen to foster competitive advantage by stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation, and cost reduction in the product and labor market (Michael, 2014). On the other hand, capitalism has been identified to have endogenous irresponsibility (Johnston &c Talbot, 2018), that is, it is less likely to generate responsible behavior (Streeck, 2016). “Capitalism only improves social and environmental conditions if this accidentally coincides with this goal” (Streeck, 2016, p. 2) as social behavior is subordinated to profit maximization.

Because of economic, financial, social, and environmental challenges, capitalism is faced with a dilemma that requires change. Its nature of being “irresponsible” needs to be transformed into a “responsible” system that is attentive to social responsibility and sustainability. This requirement does not indicate that capitalism has never changed. It has a dynamic, flexible nature and assumes different connotations (chameleonlike). Flowever, these changes are more formal than substantial, such as those enunciated by Tomasi di Lampedusa in the book “The Leopard”: “For everything to remain as it is, everything must change”.

Capitalism needs substantial change as global challenges are deeply affecting its components: institutions, sectors, and actors in different roles (stakeholders, politicians, business owners, managers and employees, and academics and individual persons). Stakeholder interests must be addressed in a “sustainable and humanistic way” (Michael, 2014, p. 313).

The notion of “sustainable capitalism” (Gore & Blood, 2011) has been introduced to highlight the new connotation of the capitalist economic system given the ongoing crises and inequalities, and climate change threats. However, Tavanti (2014, p. 163) revealed that the “sustainable capitalism paradigm is a new and necessary solution which allows to maximize (only) long-term economic value creation”. Sustainable capitalism may also provide adequate social (and environmental) responses by adopting a multi-stakeholder approach. In contrast, a shift of “focus from individual stakeholders to relationships among a range of stakeholders” (Martin, Roxas, Rivera & Gutierrez, 2020, p. 6) allows capitalism to create multidimensional values (Porter & Kramer, 2011, 2012).

A multi-stakeholder approach to sustainability emphasizes the capitalist system’s complexity. This complex system can be interpreted by adopting a systems-thinking approach (Martin et al., 2020). Based on Von Bertalanffy’s (1956) seminal study, many scholars have contributed to this approach and formulated various definitions, including Senge (1990); Forrester (1994); Richmond (1994); Sweeney & Sterman (2000); Stave &c Hopper (2007); Kopainsky, Alessi & Davidsen (2011); and Squires, Wade, Dominick & Gelosh (2011). Arnold &£ Wade (2015) performed a synthesis of these studies and built on their experience to define systems thinking as “a set of synergetic analytic skills used to improve the capability of identifying and understanding systems, predicting their behaviors, and devising modifications to them in order to produce desired effects. These skills work together as a system” (p. 675).

The systems-thinking approach has been determined to capture sustainable capitalism complexity, that is, a large system of interdependencies among institutions, companies, and human beings. They are involved in addressing the world’s economic, human, social, and environmental issues and evolve to a socially responsible and sustainable form. However, sustainable capitalism does not have a “human face”. Thus, it “exploits” new connotations of social reality to pursue its objectives, increasingly becoming aware of environmental and social problems.

3. Capitalism and Tourism

Tourism marketizadon and corporatization over the past half-century is a function of capitalist expansion (Fletcher, 2011). Demand- and supply-side dynamics explain tourism’s dramatic growth. From the supply side, interests and profit-making agendas of the tourism industry’s powerful players have driven tourism growth. Mobile infrastructure development and innovation, and marketing and communication services and digitalization have fostered this trend. Governments, international organizations, and development planners have also expanded tourism as an economic growth strategy, especially in under-developed countries (Weaver, 2000). From the demand side, an increasing number of people with the desire and economic accessibility to travel, particularly the middle class, have nurtured tourism flows (MacCannell, 1999). Additionally, natural changes in industrial labor (paid vacation time, short working hours, less physically taxing jobs) and improved education have also allowed people to travel more.

Extending a systems-thinking approach to tourism interconnects capitalism and tourism (as a form of capitalism) in a single capitalist process. This process recalls the dynamics and challenges presented in the previous section. In other words, tourism’s components interrelate and interact within the context of larger capitalistic systems. Moreover, the “capitalist world-system harnesses the tourism industry in order to sustain itself and attempt to resolve the internal contradictions of the present era” (Fletcher, 2011, p. 446).

This approach not only allows reframing tourism contradictions in a wider context but also examines sustainability and human dignity from the capitalism perspective. Tourism development fosters capitalism’s continuous growth by way of finding outlets for other sectors’ excess production, which may provoke an overproduction crisis. For example, tourism development requires manufacturing goods and industrial food in global value chains. Service workers in this production are often poorly paid, unskilled, and unsecured (Winchenbach, Hanna & Miller, 2019), thus extracting surplus value from workers’ labor. Tourism expansion may also help address overtourism through displacement of capital from overdeveloped locations to newly developed ones. For example, spatial differentiation/distribution strategies may be adopted in solving these tourism issues (Haraldsson & Olafsdottir, 2018). These strategies can be accomplished also through international tourism development. In this perspective, sustainability reflects the internalization of natural (and cultural) resources as integral production conditions to be managed by capitalists to ensure their future exploitation (Fletcher, 2011). Anthropogenic climate change mitigation is part of the same phenomenon.

4. Tourism and Sustainability

The core argument in sustainable tourism primarily focuses on the interlink among development, governance, and management models (Della Lucia, 2018). Tourism development is shaped by norms (Weaver, 2012), namely, pro-growth and sustainability-conducive regulation, and hybrid norms, connected to stakeholder participation forms, which are deemed coercive, induced, and spontaneous (Tosun, 2006). These forms of participation empower players and interests in decision-making processes and related managerial strategies. Thus, these processes foster (or impede) shared value creation (Porter & Kramer, 2006, 2011), connecting (or disjoining) organizational success with social and environmental wellbeing over time.

The interplay among pro-growth development, top-down governance approaches, and managerial tools shapes the enduring agency and profit-making agendas of the tourism industry and governments’ powerful players amid social and environmental challenges. Hence, expanding overtourism and mobility beyond a capacity threshold reveals ethical and environmental implications of uneven systems (ATLAS, 2020). Communication and marketing (Zeng & Gerritsen, 2014; Zuboff &c Maxmin, 2002) and transport’s (Hernandez Luis, 2008) technology-driven democratization have further exacerbated tourism and transport access of different social groups, particularly the middle classes. This situation is observed to add pressure to social and environmental issues.

On the contrary, sustainable development positively correlates with integrated and participatory governance models and managerial practices (Della Lucia &t Franch, 2017). Shared governance (Borrini-Feyerabend et al., 2013) entails institutional mechanisms and/or (in)formal processes. Thus, a coordination mechanism shares tourism management authority and responsibility with several actors, who are entitled to participate in planning and implementing of initiatives.

This collaborative governance model involves either weak (indirect participation) or strong (direct participation and information and consultation on decisions) forms of stakeholder engagement that combines top-down and bottom-up management approaches in different measures. Under weak stakeholder engagement, shared governance empowers participation of stakeholders who had previously been marginalized (e.g. local communities and indigenous people) by powerful interest groups to the extent that they are informed and consulted on decision-making and actions. These powerful players may have pro- and anti-growth goals (Della Lucia, 2018), such as the static conservation of protected areas and natural World Heritage Sites (WHS) (Mose, 2007). In strong stakeholder engagement, intensive active participation is encouraged and reinforced by sustainability goals but readapted for additional growth (Polnyotee & Thadaniti, 2015).

Widening participation allows shared governance to combine different goals in management strategies: suitable economic development and employment opportunities, environmental preservation and protection, and local community prosperity (Sotomayor, Arroyo & Barbieri, 2019). Examples include innovative and dynamic conservation strategies for protected areas and WHS (Mose & Weixlbaumer, 2007) and sustainable mass tourism strategies of spatial differentiation (Weaver, 2012). These tourism strategies also include regulated protected areas and WHS within large mass-tourism destinations.

5. Shared Value: The Nexus Between Sustainability, Responsibility, and Human Dignity

Amid the pandemic crisis, the paradoxes and tensions in the dominant neoliberal capitalist context and tourism growth model are gaining new insights. Shared Value (SV) (Porter & Kramer, 2011, 2012) is a notion that captures the multifaceted nature and value sources that allow the interconnection of sustainability, social responsibility, and humanistic management in order to address the paradoxes of these complex systems.

By questioning the purpose of business (Handy, 2002) and the ability of capitalism to foster prosperity (Jackson, 2011), Porter & Kramer (2011, p. 64) redefined the mission of business as “creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society' by addressing its needs and challenges”. Shared Value identifies this redefined purpose. Companies can gain competitive advantage and address social progress by treating social and environmental challenges as business opportunities—and responsibilities—pursued through corporate strategies (Porter Kramer, 2006,2012).

Although SV is a new concept, it reportedly overlaps significantly with established concepts, such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) and (corporate) sustainability. Shared Value may be assimilated to the gradual shift of business (Pirson & Lawrence, 2010) and social responsibility toward strategic-oriented approaches (Farmaki, 2019) because of global challenges. In this approach, CSR is integrated into firms and value chains. As a result, the company and society are mutually benefited by reconciling different interests (Goodwin, Font &c Aldrigui, 2012). Previous responsive approaches focused on businesses’ responsibility for their impacts on social, environmental, and ethical issues, and integrate CSR into organizational strategies and operations (Camilleri, 2014) to enhance competitive advantage and minimize business activities’ negative impacts.

The ecosystem of SV (Kramer & Pfitzer, 2016) links it to sustainability. It captures the variety of sources—the different stakeholders participating in firm ecosystems—and the multifaceted nature—economic, social, and environmental—of SV. Their combination shapes the collective-impact efforts that enhance value co-creation (economic) and reduce value co-destruction (environmental and social). The coordinated efforts of players—from businesses to government agencies and charitable organizations and community members—can mobilize resources and capabilities from many entities sharing social transformation costs and new economic opportunities arising from social progress.

Business model innovation—the development of new visions and new architectures of organizational value proposition, creation, delivery, and capture—effectively overcomes structural market barriers to simultaneously gain profit and benefits from the natural environment and society. Business models for sustainability (Boons & Lildeke-Freund, 2013;

Rauter, Jonker &t Beumgartner, 2015) innovate business model value pillars by embedding sustainability. For example, hybrid organizations (social enterprises) incorporate value systems and action logics of various social sectors into their business models, thus exhibiting qualities of nonprofit and for-profit enterprises (Haigh, Walker, Bacq & Kickul, 2015).

A humanistic management approach may also innovate business models (Pirson, 2019). This approach examines traditional business purposes and capitalism’s ability to foster prosperity by promoting unconditional human dignity as a core organizational goal (Spitzeck, 2011). In turn, this goal is also a necessary condition for societal wellbeing (Pirson, Martin & Parmar, 2017) and thus sustainability (Dettori &c Floris, 2019). In strict connection with justice, equality, and autonomy, recognizing and respecting individual value involve different processes of value creation for organizational and social progress. These processes entail recognizing people’s will, consent, and decisionmaking capacity. They require people’s active participation in decisionmaking processes in order to obtain fair (and sustainable) outcomes. They make possible that people can benefit from basic resources and societal goods, participate in their integral and holistic growth and fulfillment, and interconnect with the environment and all living beings (Mele, 2016).

Recognizing and respecting individual value in uneven systems provide principles of morality (Waldron, 2013) and capacity building (Nuss- baum, 2011). These factors allow people to overcome violations and “to do” and “to be”. The unlatching protection and development of these capabilities are conceived as substantial freedoms “from” constraints/ violations and “to” thrive, and conditions for moral rights, x and у wellbeing, and social justice. Developing capabilities requires government expenditure and economic and social rights allocation to all citizens (Nussbaum, 2011).

Combined with sustainability, these principles can inspire uneven systems transformation at different levels (Jacobson, 2009), from the organizational to socio-economic and political contexts. Moreover, they guide actions toward alternative models based on re-discovery of what it means to be human and what matters most to humans.

6. Concluding Remarks

Recalling Mai and Smith (2015), Martin et al. (2020) observed that “tourism is not simply an industry but rather an entire system - complex and dynamic” (p. 3) characterized by interdependent relationships (Baggio, 2008). Tourism growth has been seen as a capitalist world economy function that facilitates temporary resolution of its contradictions (Fletcher, 2011). The persistence of challenges and contradictions requires longterm resolutions through systems change.

In rhe perspective of a systems-thinking approach, a weak element can determine a system’s weakness given that multilateral interdependencies link each part. By contrast, a strong factor strengthens the system, that is, the strengths of tourism may positively affect tourism structure and, in turn, affect economic capitalism, and vice versa. Sustainability; social responsibility; humanization of businesses, economy, and society; and human behaviors may trigger pervasive shared value generation processes and foster the transition to new tourism models (Walter, 2016).


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