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Exploring the antecedents of sustainable tourism development

Niall MacKenzie (Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Martin Joseph Gannon (Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 4 April 2019

Issue publication date: 4 September 2019




The authors use two historical case studies (UK and Costa Rica) to explore the antecedents and legitimisation of sustainable development in hospitality and tourism, demonstrating the value of historical analysis through careful consideration of motivations, context and development type under different circumstances.


Using government and private archival materials, oral history testimonies, industry reports and secondary literature, the authors deploy careful historical analysis of developing and developed country approaches to two cases of hospitality and tourism development and how this impacts on notions of sustainability.


Issues surrounding sustainability in hospitality and tourism are longstanding and impacted by their situated context. In considering “bottom-up” and “top-down” approaches, this study finds that the private-sector is critical in legitimising tourism and hospitality development through addressing sustainability aims.

Research limitations/implications

Issues faced in developing hospitality and tourism markets should not be taken in isolation, and, by drawing upon historical cases, scholars can better-understand how developed tourism markets shape the sustainability of developing contexts.

Practical implications

This study demonstrates how sustainability can be legitimised over time and in different contexts, in both government-led and business-led approaches, providing lessons for understanding the mechanisms by which to address these issues in future.


Historical analyses in hospitality and tourism remain relatively few. This study illustrates the theoretical and practical value of historical analysis of the pathway to legitimacy for sustainable tourism development.



MacKenzie, N. and Gannon, M.J. (2019), "Exploring the antecedents of sustainable tourism development", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 31 No. 6, pp. 2411-2427.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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