Systems Approach to Tourism: A Methodology for Defining Complex Tourism System

Tadeja Jere Jakulin


Background and Purpose: The complexity of the tourism system, as well as modelling in a frame of system dynamics, will be discussed in this paper. The phaenomenon of tourism, which possesses the typical properties of global and local organisations, will be presented as an open complex system with all its elements, and an optimal methodology to explain the relations among them. The approach we want to present is due to its transparency an excellent tool for searching systems solutions and serves also as a strategic decision-making assessment. We will present systems complexity and develop three models of a complex tourism system: the first one will present tourism as an open complex system with its elements, which operate inside of a tourism market area. The elements of this system present subsystems, which relations and interdependencies will be explained with two models: causal-loop diagram and a simulation model in frame of systems dynamics.
Design/methodology/approach: Systems methodology will be shown as the appropriate one, when we discuss complex systems challenges. For illustration, systems approach and systems methodology will be applied to tourism models. With building a qualitative causal-loop diagram we will describe the tourism system complexity in forms of system’s elements relations. Mutual influences among the elements will be presented with positive and negative loops, which forms circles of reinforcement and balance. This will help us to discuss the problem categorically. The final model will follow the causal-loop diagram. This will be a simulation model in a frame of system dynamics as an illustration of the discussed methodology.
Results: The methodology offers the solution of effective and holistic promotion of complex tourism system transformation, which has the potential to go beyond the myth of sustainable tourism and create significant shifts in the approach and acting of the participants (elements of the system) involved. Systems approach brings to tourism and the society, in general, broader dimensions of thinking, the awareness interdependency, interconnectivity, and responsibility for the behaviour of a system, which can be observed by feedback loops.
Conclusions: Findings about meaningfulness of systems thinking presented in the paper, are rarely presented to tourism society systemically and with the aim of designing sustainable complex tourism system. They show new approach, systems awareness and teaches thinking “out of the box”. Consequently, the sustainable behaviour is achieved: tourism supply and demand meet on responsible base and they connect to responsible stakeholders.

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