The role of stakeholder collaboration in sustainable tourism competitiveness: the case of Auckland, New Zealand
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The competitive environment that global tourism operates in presents exceptional challenges for which tourism destinations are compelled to seek solutions in order to survive and be sustainable. The composite nature of the industry and the multiple stakeholders that are involved in producing satisfying tourism experiences and products complicate the situation for destinations in achieving and sustaining competitiveness. The success of destination competitiveness relies on the efforts of all the stakeholders that contribute to creating the total tourism experience. This makes their collaboration an essential part of sustainable tourism competitiveness (STC). STC is the ability of a destination to increase tourism yield through the growth of a profitable tourism industry that contributes to the welfare of residents while sustaining natural and cultural assets. The significance of collaboration is heightened in areas that have experienced political amalgamation and where previously independent public administrations have been brought under a unitary authority. Political amalgamation is a phenomenon that is increasing in popularity because of the potential benefits of combining resources and avoiding duplication of processes and wastage of resources. An increasing body of research exists on tourism competitiveness, and a range of elements has been reported as contributing to competitiveness. Stakeholder collaboration as a component of tourism destination competitiveness has not been given much attention in the existing literature. This research contributes to filling the gap by focusing on stakeholder collaboration as an element of STC using the case of Auckland, New Zealand, a recently amalgamated city region. The case study method under a constructivist research paradigm has been adopted in this thesis to investigate tourism industry stakeholders’ perspectives on the significance of collaboration in tourism, and specifically for STC. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 41 stakeholders from the public and private sectors and non-governmental organisations in order to gain an understanding of current practices in collaboration, the obstacles that tourism stakeholders face in engaging in collaborative activities, and possible ways to overcome the challenges that hinder collaboration. The findings reveal a number of challenges for Auckland in achieving future STC. Many of the challenges of competitiveness arise from obstacles to collaborative engagements, a lack of clear communication and aversion to collaboration. At the same time, the recommendations that are given by stakeholders for facilitating collaboration show that many of the actions that assist and facilitate collaboration have the potential to enhance STC. These findings are brought into perspective in a proposed new model of stakeholder collaboration and STC. This framework builds upon and enriches existing models and frameworks in the field. Based on multiple stakeholder insights, this study adds to the literature on stakeholder collaboration and STC, by exploring how collaboration is linked to tourism competitiveness and providing evidence and examples of how stakeholder collaboration enhances and contributes to STC. The findings will be especially useful for practitioners, researchers and policy makers interested in stakeholder collaboration in an amalgamated city context. This research challenges existing theories and research that overlook or downplay stakeholder collaboration as a key element in contributing to STC. By identifying that collaboration is vital in all aspects of a successful tourism industry, and determining how it is connected to STC, this research has illustrated that collaboration and STC are interrelated and interdependent.