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Assessing tourism sustainability in an ancient town: the case of Lijiang, China

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

As a key part of modern human society, and subject to multidisciplinary perspectives,tourism plays a significant role in the exercise of human activity across the globe and on a substantial scale. Tourism is therefore capable of conditioning the quality of the natural environment, traditional cultures and heritage sites attractions. In order to both sustain economic growth and retain the resources, the integration of sustainable management within tourism development is now recognised as the fundamental guideline to managing tourism. Despite the large volumes of academic papers that have already been published in this field of study, it can, however, be persuasively argued that the extent of practical understanding and experience in managing successful sustainability within tourism development remains relatively limited.Inevitably, any successful and practical tool or application in sustainable management would enjoy high exposure and be open to considerable scrutiny because it was seen as being at the cutting edge of this area. In recent times, using indicators to assess sustainability that has been identified as key. However, thus far there have been relatively few practical approaches developed with the capability to routinely assess tourism sustainability and using a systematic approach. So a set of practical methods that enjoy broad consensual support is still to be developed.
The relative dearth of practical application using indicator along with a broadly acceptable methodology for sustainability assessment that drives it is the focus of this study. Some aspects of methodology and assessment that have previously been overlooked in earlier works are scrutinised. This research offers an arguably more innovative and practical route map for assessing tourism sustainability in both a systematic and feasible manner. A real application regarding the ancient town of Lijiang, the top tourism destination in China, is undertaken to help formulate, specify and refine the operational methods proposed by this study.
Firstly, a list of indicators was determined that was appropriate for a viable and structured evaluation relevant to the ancient town of Lijiang. This involved the selection of thirty-three specific indicators in eight core dimensions being selected by tourism experts. Questionnaires were then sent to obtain responses from those experts. Secondly, the Analytic Hierarchy Process method was chosen in order to determine and weight the various indicators. Finally, to complete the survey process,residents and tourists located within the ancient town were asked to complete the third round questionnaires. The results were then computed and presented in two heuristic charts, the maps of ―Barometer of Tourism Sustainability‖ and ―Amoeba of Tourism Sustainability Indicators‖. Subsequently, and based on the obtained results,a series of proposed recommendations was presented with the purpose of addressing both existing challenges, and identifying perceived or potential threats, together with prescriptions for their remedy.
The approach proposed in this study is also applicable to wherever historic destinations are facing similar challenges, and more generally in formulating civic and social policies in respect of city planning and management. This research provides an exemplary approach to the integration of practical assessment on tourism sustainability and arguably more acceptable, systematic methodologies, which have been lacking undertaken in earlier studies in this area of tourism.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Alan Collins (Supervisor)
Award dateAug 2017

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