Adaptive planning: a flexible tool for resilient tourism destinations

Adaptive planning is a valuable subject for tourism destinations. For this reason, this topic was the focus-point of the 16th meeting of the Thematic Group on Complexity & Planning of the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP). Together with various spatial planning experts, ETFI analysed the subject from various perspectives and disciplines.

Respond to changes in tourism

The essences and the preconditions of adaptive planning became clear during AESOP. This highlighted how we can handle and move with the dynamics and complexity of the current network society and globalising economy. Adaptivity is also an essential asset for tourism destinations to respond to matters such as:

  • Increasing competition and professionalisation
  • Changing consumer behaviour
  • New technologies that bring opportunities and challenges
  • Social call for sustainability
  • Shorter life cycles of concepts
  • Balancing destinations as a result of over-tourism

Destinations can be adaptive

Our perspective is that destinations are complex and open systems that have the potential to be adaptive. They are complex systems, because a multitude of actors and factors influence the development of destinations. They are open systems because many external influences affect developmental directions of destinations in autonomous ways. Adaptivity is the ability of these systems to move with such dynamics through series of step-by-step adjustments.

Building adaptive tourism destinations

My PhD-thesis focuses on adaptivity in leisure and tourism. Our participation in the future research ‘Building Adaptive Tourism Areas’ makes clear what the adaptive capacity of destination means in practice. It contains three steps:

  1. Indicating ‘key conditions’ for adaptivity: elements that are necessary for adaptive capacity and translate these into the context of tourism
  2. Identification of ‘traps’: conditions for adaptivity come with implications and related practical limitations
  3. Explaining ‘practicable strategies’: actions that help to build adaptive destinations.

In my next blog, I will give you an insight into the progress of these three steps. In the meantime, feel free to read my articles about adaptivity in tourism.