Palma, from 23 to 25 October 2013
Celebrating and Enhancing the Tourism
Knowledge-based Platform: A Tribute to Jafar Jafari


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General programme, activity sheet

Friday 25 October, 2013 14:20 to 14:40 Oral Communication
Destination evolution and network dynamics: A new research agenda
Speaker: Sven A. Haugland, NHH Norwegian School of Economics

Authors: Jarle Aarstad, Håvard Ness, Sven A. Haugland


At a critical stage for tourism and travel research, Jafar Jafari provided a sound assessment of previous research as well as he identified future avenues for the field in a series of papers (1987; 1988 – with co-author Aaser; 1990). He had already provided a forceful argument for the need to understand the complexities of the part-whole-relationship that today is ubiquitous in destination research. By drawing on common experiences, Jafari (1983, p. 71) showed that “all components of the industry are interdependent, and that all members in an area can suffer because of the deficiencies of a few. When all components of the tourism industry acknowledge this and coordinate their efforts to produce high-quality goods and services, the result will be the growth of that community as a popular tourist destination”. Today, a common view in destination research holds that destinations represent a community of organizations (actors) and related infrastructure that collectively co-produce the destination product. Thus, we view destinations as co-producing networks where actors are interdependent and resources and capabilities are distributed across organizational boundaries. This paper adopts a network perspective and seeks to understand destination evolution by investigating how the two prominent concepts of scale-free networks and small-worlds act together. Scale-free networks take a so called power law and skewed distribution (Barabasi & Albert, 1999). This implies that the network is structured with one or a few very central actors that other minor hubs (less central actors) and peripheral actors connect to. In terms of co-production, the major hubs play a central role in orchestrating the activities in the destination network. This may resemble a young or small destination where one or a few key actors take a lead position. An internationally known example is the establishment of the Banff Springs Hotel, opened in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway to increase traffic, exploit the thermal springs in the Canadian Rockies, and explore the tourism potential. The hotel was “the hub” for many years. Small-world networks are characterized by local clustering and shortcut ties reducing the path-length between the clusters. Watts and Strogatz (1998) illustrate in their much cited study how peripheral actors can create shortcut ties between clusters, which is contrary to role of major hubs in scale-free networks. In other words, Watts and Strogatz’s small world models represent a de-centralized structure, and in our opinion this may resemble mature destination networks. We argue that the seemingly contradictive notions of Watts and Strogatz’s small-worlds and scale-free networks can actually explain network dynamics in general and destination evolution in particular. We address the role of central actors in scale-free networks as they bridge (connect) between the less central and peripheral actors. This implies that they also can play a key role in reducing path-length and increase the small-world properties of networks (Barabasi & Albert 1999). Furthermore, network scholars have illustrated how transitivity, the tendency of the formation of a new tie between two network members if they at the outset are connected to a common actor (Holland & Leinhardt, 1971), will contribute to more clustering around minor hubs than around major hubs. Thus, the structure of scale-free networks will favor local clustering around minor hubs, and major hubs will play an important role in connecting these local clusters. At a more mature stage, transitivity will further spur direct links between the minor clusters, thus bypassing or complementing the key role of the central actors in scale-free networks. As a function of direct ties between the clusters, resources in the wider network will become more accessible as the average path-length in the structure decreases further in what we can now label as a “mature” small-world network. Banff today is famous because of the nature, including the hot springs and the opportunities for a variety of outdoor sports, and more recently also for shopping. Furthermore, several other resorts are located nearby within the same area (Banff National Park). Thus, by integrating the key mechanisms from two network theories, we can better explain how network dynamics impact destination evolution. While some theoretical progress has been made in understanding destinations as networks, far less is accomplished in understanding evolutionary patterns and dynamics in destination networks. The paper provides a theoretical discussion of these issues based on these recent and seemingly contradictive network theories. We provide an integrated dynamic view, and identify several important areas for future research. The paper also suggests that tourism destinations as a research setting can be particular useful in developing network theories in general.
Further information:

Submited paper (88 KB)

Session 6 – Research development and Jafar Jafari
Place: Main Room

Other activities in Session 6 – Research development and Jafar Jafari
14:00 h. to 14:20 h.Oral Communication

Thematic analysis of tourism research in leading tourism journals

Speaker: Iris Regina Cabral, Universidade do Algarve
Speaker: João  Albino Silva, University of Algarve, Portugal
14:40 h. to 15:00 h.Oral Communication

Jafar Jafari - a modest leader expanding the frontiers of knowledge.

Speaker: Nelson Graburn, University of Berkeley