Becoming smart: exploring tourism suppliers’ perspectives on smart tourism destination engagement

Johnson, Abbie-Gayle (2021) Becoming smart: exploring tourism suppliers’ perspectives on smart tourism destination engagement. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis examines suppliers’ perspectives on engagement in smart destinations. Research on technologies in tourism follows a long-held tradition of lacking diverse theorisation and this has influenced knowledge development of smart tourism, which continue to draw on narrow perspectives of engagement. In order to provide a more holistic understanding of engagement in smart tourism, a collaborative approach was applied to this thesis. Power was identified as not being extensively discussed in tourism collaboration and smart tourism research, which is necessary for exploring smart contexts. This thesis applies Michel Foucault’s ideas on power, namely discourses and governmentality. This was done in order to unravel power relations and their effects on multiple individual suppliers in a destination that facilitates a participatory, bottom-up approach. This move can aid in understanding challenges experienced by suppliers within a smart context.

The aim of this research is to examine suppliers’ perspectives on engaging in smart destinations, which is achieved through the following objectives: to understand the rationale for developing smart tourism, examine how smart tourism was developed, explore perceptions on the factors that influence engagement, examine supplier engagement through an analysis of discourses and governmentality. Methodologically, the research design employs a case study approach to Ljubljana, Slovenia, a 2019 and 2020 European Capital of Smart Tourism. Data collection focused on online material, printed documents and semi-structured interviews with suppliers, which are analysed using thematic and Foucauldian discourse analyses.

Findings indicate that organisational and relational factors can influence suppliers’ decisions on engagement. While these factors are important, power underpins engagement in smart tourism. This power manifests through individuals and organisations, discourses of sustainability, technology and marketing as well as specific technologies of power such as space, data and assessment procedures, and a culture of collaboration. The findings also reveal the smart tourism development process as being complex but also as an occurrence within a context of neoliberal discourses. The study provides a clear link between smart tourism engagement and the operation of power and represents one of the first studies to do so, and as a result makes contributions to both academic research and practice.

This thesis is one of the few studies that has attempted to provide a deeper theoretical underpinning to an understanding of the piecemeal and variable ways that smart tourism has been deployed as a mechanism through which to develop a more sustainable and attractive destination. The conceptual contribution highlights the elaboration of discursive and technologies of power within collaboration and smart tourism literature. This study infuses a much-needed critical theory perspective to smart tourism and collaboration literature as well as a greater understanding of governance in networks. It reveals how suppliers’ level of involvement or exclusion is based on underlying power mechanisms associated with discourses linked to smart tourism. For practitioners that wish to implement smart initiatives, this thesis illustrates that smart engagement is not only concerned with the deployment of technology but also takes into account individuals, networks, suppliers’ meanings and technologies of power.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Rickly, Jillian
McCabe, Scott
Keywords: power; smart cities; smart tourism; tourism collaboration
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 65778
Depositing User: Johnson, Abbie-Gayle
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2021 04:43
Last Modified: 18 May 2023 11:15

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