The Changing Structural Dynamics of the Scottish Tourism Industry Examined Using Stafford Beer's VSM

S. Harwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The structure of the Scottish tourism industry underwent a significant change upon the demise of the Area Tourist Board (ATB) on the 1st April 2005. The membership based ATB provided a means for engagement between institutional policy makers and private sector businesses. This engagement appears to have dissolved with the replacement structure being ineffective in bridging between the two parties. The aim of this paper is to examine the structural dynamics of the Scottish tourism industry focusing upon events that rotate around the demise of the Area Tourist Board (ATB) and attempt to explain why there has been an apparent breakdown in engagement. The material is drawn from interviews with industry participants and also primary documentary sources, many of which are available online. The analysis is conducted using Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model (VSM). The findings highlight the current incoherent structure at the level of the ‘Area’. Upon the demise of the ATB, Area Tourism Partnerships (ATPs) were set up, not to replace ATBs, but to provide a mechanism to serve Area needs. However, the demise of the ATB created a vacuum for an effective mechanism to deal with individual practitioner issues. This has led to the formation of groups but at the level of the locality. These local tourism groups are autonomous and analytically viable. The ATP is inadequate to bridge the gap between VisitScotland and these local groups. Whilst direct engagement between VisitScotland and these local groups has been enabled with the Challenge Fund, the conditions attached to an award compromise the autonomy of the groups. However, two ATPs have proposed the need for membership based groups to operate at the Area level. This suggests the return to a pseudo-ATB style structure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-343
JournalSystemic Practice and Action Research
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Scottish tourism industry
  • Destination Management
  • Cybernetics
  • Viable System Model
  • DMO
  • VSM

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