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Current Issues in Tourism

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Taking the Exit Route: Extending the Tourism Area Life Cycle Model Tom Baum

To cite this Article Baum, Tom'Taking the Exit Route: Extending the Tourism Area Life Cycle Model', Current Issues in

Tourism, 1: 2, 167 — 175

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Discussion Web Site: http://divcom.otago.ac.nz:800/tourism/current-issues/homepage.htm

Taking the Exit Route: Extending the Tourism Area Life Cycle Model Tom Baum

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The Scottish Hotel School, University of Strathclyde, 94 Cathedral Street, Glasgow G4 OLS, UK The Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC) model (Butler, 1980) is one of the most robust and widely used conceptual and managerial frameworks to be employed in the tourism area. It has been subject to extensive scrutiny, application and criticism and this debate shows little sign of decreasing. In most respects, the model has stood up well to application and detractors. This paper presents two additional theoretical extensions to the TALC, based on the notion that there are situations where choice or necessity may lead a destination either to abandon its traditional product and market dependencies in favour of an entirely fresh start (linking this strategy to Handy’s (1994) Sigmoid curves from the marketing area). Alternatively, destinations may choose to leave tourism aside entirely as part of its economic development portfolio. Some examples are briefly presented but the extensions to the TALC demand more extensive case testing through further research.

Tourism, in many developed countries, has reached a point of maturity where resorts which flourished during earlier phases of development require urgent and critical assessment as to their future role within the sector. This re-assessment is well recognised as an imperative for cold-water destinations in the UK and the USA (Cooper, 1997) for example but also for some Spanish and other Mediterranean locations. How destinations respond to the challenge of change is a critical issue, and the focus of much academic and practitioner attention has been on reinvention or rejuvenation of the existing concept and product. Little consideration has been given to abandoning tourism altogether or to starting afresh on the basis of alternative tourism resources. This paper seeks to extend the established Tourism Area Cycle of Evolution (TALC) (Butler, 1980) as a means of exploring the tourism abandonment option. The paper is intended as a conceptual rather than an empirical extension to the considerable literature which already exists on the TALC. Much previous work has sought to test the model by reference to case examples and it is the author’s aspiration that the extensions proposed here will stimulate similar application, modification or refutation. Butler (1980) introduced the concept of the TALC as a model which clarifies and extends earlier work by, for example, Cristaller (1963), Noronha (1976) and Stansfield (1978). In doing so, Butler clearly links the development cycle of tourism destinations to that of products in the product life cycle model, dating from the 1950s, which was already established in consumer marketing by the time that Butler adapted the framework to destination development. The TALC has also, as we shall see, been subject to review and development in recent years. Butler himself (1998) places the origin of the model in both the marketing and the tourism literature of the 1970s and earlier, but also notes 1368-3500/98/02 0167-09 $10.00/0 Current Issues in Tourism

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Figure 1 Butler’s Tourism Area Life Cycle model

the influence of the literature which relates to the life-cycle of wild species. The TALC model, therefore, has hybrid origins which befits its influencing role in the theoretical development of an emerging research area such as tourism. Butler reviews the position of a number of resort locations, particularly cold water destinations, and, on the basis of this analysis, theorises that, typically, tourist areas develop through a number of stages, which are shown in Figure 1. Butler’s contribution to the tourism literature, through this 1980 paper, has been seminal and the model is one which has influenced researchers and students greatly over the subsequent eighteen years. It has attracted particular attention as an explanatory framework to assist in understanding the decline process experienced by northern coastal resorts. The TALC has a number of features which give it robustness despite its longevity. According to Butler (1998), the original model included: · recognition of dynamism within the tourism environment — at the time of its inception, constant change was not as widely recognised in tourism as it is today; · a focus on a common process of development within tourism destinations, permitting description and modelling; · recognition of capacity or limits to growth in destinations, again a relatively new concept in tourism at the time but one imported from growing thinking in this area in the recreation literature; · identification of triggers in the environment which bring about changes to a destination; · recognition of the management implications of the model and , in this sense, the practical links to the product life cycle are evident; · an argument for the need to view tourism planning in its long-term context;


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· a spatial component which argues that there would be a series of spatial shifts as development stagnated; and · universal application, namely that the model was essentially true for all tourist destinations (Butler, 1998: 4–5). The TALC, as Butler (1998) notes, has been subject to considerable scrutiny and modification over the years, ‘much of it producing reasonable comment and criticism, improvements and modifications, and alternative models’ (p.4) and he lists a range of contributions to this debate covering the period from the mid-1980s to the present day. Examples of work in this area are particularly plentiful where they draw upon evidence from cold-water destinations, and include Cooper and Jackson (1989), Cooper (1990, 1992, 1995, 1997), TwiningWard and Twining-Ward (1996), Twining-Ward and Baum (1997), and Baum (1998). The model is useful in interpreting and explaining the past and this is one of the prime attractions in the context of coastal destinations in Britain and elsewhere which have reached their existing situation over an extended period of development. In such places the model has been played out over 100 or more years. In this mature destination context, the model can be used strategically to stimulate action against decline. It is arguable that the model has rather less value, except perhaps of a cautionary nature, to newly emerging tourism destinations, particularly in the developing world. Here the development period is likely to have been much more rapid and, with the added force of globalisation and multi-national investment, may well have ‘jumped’ one or more stages within the model cycle. Butler (1998) argues that some of the criticism levelled against the TALC has been based on the application of detail rather than upon recognition of more general attributes and strengths. Nevertheless, he acknowledges the contribution which writers such as Choy (1992), Getz (1983, 1986, 1992), Haywood (1986, 1992), Prosser (1995) and Wall (1982) have made to the debate about the model, and the criticisms of validity and application which are at the heart of their concerns. A number of the criticisms (Agarwal, 1994; Hovonen, 1981, 1982) postulate ‘the possibility of alternative and additional stages after the stagnation stage of the original model’ (Butler, 1998: 6) and considerations of this nature are the essence of the discussion which follows here. This paper is intended as a further contribution to what has become an extended debate. It addresses two possible development scenarios to the TALC which, in the view of the author, are not fully provided for by Butler or subsequent writers. These scenarios appear to have been previously neglected because they lie outside of the destination product paradigm which appears to shape the TALC in its most common interpretations. This paradigm, simply stated, is that tourism development occurs within broadly fixed tourism product (supply-side) and market (demand-side) parameters, and that development strategies operate within these constraints. It also focuses on growth in arrival numbers and revenues as the key indicator and objective of tourism development. Any other outcome (stagnation or decline) is seen as indicating failure. This paradigm mindset makes it very difficult for traditional seaside resorts, for example, to think beyond their specific coastal


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resource and the family market to which it may appeal. In many respects, the reluctance to think beyond the existing tourism paradigm is understandable, given the heavy capital investment in tourism infrastructure in both financial and emotional terms. A pier, for example, can represent a statement of civic pride, part of a town’s tourism heritage and a well loved visitor attraction. A seafront guesthouse in Douglas, Isle of Man, likewise represents a family commitment to a style of tourism and market which, while it may be in decline, is all that the family knows and is their home and perceived security for the future. In this sense, then, abandoning tourism resources may be rather more involved than is the case in some manufacturing sectors. An evident parallel to abandoning agricultural investment can be seen — the emotional and historic family ties which many farmers face in relinquishing their land can also be seen in tourism. The link is, perhaps, the small business structure of tourism (Morrison, 1998) which influences decision making at both the individual operator and destination level. This picture is something of an oversimplification in that new products, new markets and seasonal extensions may all be effectively accommodated within the TALC — indeed, they are essential to some stages in particular development. The rejuvenation period, likewise, necessitates a re-focusing in market or product terms or both in order to avert or arrest decline. Decline, as suggested above, is seen, uncritically, as a ‘bad thing’ (Cooper, 1997), representing a ‘whig’ view of tourism history, in this sense that facing decline is viewed in terms of reversing its perceived ill effects. The TALC model, in its original form, does not acknowledge the possibility of further stages which can take place as related alternatives to either decline or rejuvenation or, indeed, following periods within either of these two stages, although subsequent modifications (for example, Agarwal, 1994) have extended the model beyond its original parameters. In the context of this paper, additional stages constitute the partial or total abandonment of tourism as an economic activity, organised and supported by the collective community within which it has traditionally been located. While Butler, in his original analysis, acknowledged that decline may be terminal and lead to the end of tourism activity, the model in this context appears to be based on gradual decline without any level of strategic decision-making to give direction to the end of tourism. Abandonment, in the context of this paper, is postulated as a deliberate and collective strategic option by a destination or community, which may be enforced but is deliberate nonetheless. Abandonment, in this sense, can be total or virtually total and can be styled the exit stage. This means that the location and its existing supply-side profile, traditionally with a high level of tourism dependence, is no longer perceived as a tourist destination by the community or those responsible for its marketing and image and that this represents a conscious decision by the key stakeholding community. Tourism resources, such as seafront accommodation stock, develop or are allocated new uses (commercial or residential) within the alternative land-use or economic strategy which has evolved or has been adopted. Public sector resources are diverted away from tourism development and marketing to other community or commercial areas in


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keeping with the chosen alternatives. In many respects, this process represents the reverse of that which takes place when a location embarks upon a tourism strategy, when other areas of activity (e.g. agriculture, fishing, manufacturing) may be abandoned (voluntary or otherwise) in favour of tourism. Consideration of abandonment, of course, can represent the politicisation of tourism in that the public authority responsible for the destination (local or national government) may place tourism alongside other economic commitments and opportunities within the policy making process. Decisions to abandon, therefore, can be seen as part of a balancing act alongside decisions relating to agriculture, manufacturing, extractive or other industries. An exit strategy may be enforced due to natural or human-induced change or catastrophe (coastal erosion; volcanic activity; a mega environmental disaster such as Chernobyl; war or sustained civil unrest) or as a result of changing geographical patterns of human habitation or industrial development (e.g. discovery of rich new mineral deposits). Within any of these scenarios, tourism may become marginalised or impossible to sustain. The abandonment of much of the island of Montserrat, involving some of its main tourist areas, represents one example of enforced exit. Creeping urbanisation in the commuter-belt environs of major cities likewise means that traditional coastal resorts such as Bray in Co. Wicklow and Bangor, Co. Down, both in Ireland, have, over an extended period of tourism decline, redefined traditional seaside resort roles to become commuter and retail centres for the prosperous hinterlands of Dublin and Belfast respectively. In some contexts, this process has also involved the gentrification of what were traditionally ‘working class’ resort destinations as towns such as Margate and Ayr replaced tourism with residential communities. In many respects, these changes involving the urbanisation of traditional resort areas are the outcomes of competitive land use. This is also evident in major urban destinations such as Hong Kong and Singapore, where land values have put pressure on the hotel sector to justify its existence alongside alternative and more lucrative uses of real estate for office or residential accommodation. Exit from or decline in tourism may not be enforced on resorts, but may also be a deliberate strategy selected by communities for whom tourism no longer offers the best option in economic, social, cultural or environmental terms. Such strategies can be manifest in the withdrawal of economic and political support for tourism-related activities within the community (e.g. parking, access to resources, landuse, licensing) and through the active promotion of alternatives such as dormitory town status, a focus on high technology industry or, indeed, a return to earlier agricultural land uses. As deliberate and articulated policies, such exit strategies are difficult to identify because, in their starkest form, their overt statement may be politically unacceptable. During the 1980s, a number of communities in Oregon put forward the message that ‘visitors are not welcome’ and this approach received support at the highest levels in the state. This implied, in part, a deliberate ‘exit from tourism’ although none of these commitments were mature destinations in danger of stagnation in the Butler sense. Oregon communities and the state have since reversed their ‘anti-tourist’ stance.


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Partial manifestation may be more readily identified as communities make it increasingly difficult to be a tourist in a specific area. This can be through the imposition of restricted or high cost parking, receiving of liquor or entertainment licences or restricting of access to key tourism resources. Niagara by the Lake in Ontario, Canada is one community which has sought to control tourism development through its access pricing and licensing strategies. In the context of exit strategies, therefore, tourism stagnation or, indeed, decline, may be welcomed by communities as affording an opportunity to change economic or environmental direction. Abandonment of tourism may, in theory, be total. Alternatively it may be directed at traditional resources and markets while new forms of tourism are developed from first principles alongside or in close proximity to the original resort. This reinvention stage may be seen as a sub-set of rejuvenation, but may more usefully be understood to involve a process of exit and re-entry, including the rejection of the resort’s traditional tourism paradigm and the creation of new models, appealing to alternative markets. At a theoretical level as well as in the context of destination strategic planning and development, reinvention as a stage in tourism development fits comfortably into Handy’s (1994) adaptation and extension of the product life cycle model. Described by Handy as the ‘Sigmoid curve’, this adaptation allows companies, in the case of products, to plan strategically for the decline of one line and introduce others in tandem, each commencing at the earliest phase of the cycle. Figure 2 represents Handy’s Sigmoid curves. Shay (1998) describes Handy’s model as organic and proactive by comparison with the static and reactive characteristics of the traditional product life cycle. If the Sigmoid curve model is applied to the context of the Tourism Area Life Cycle, the opportunities for both natural and strategic reinvention of the resort destination become evident. If a destination can recognise which traditional markets are in decline and where the decline process appears to be irreversible (for whatever reason), application of Handy’s principle based on the creation of an entirely new product profile in response to entirely different market demand may be far more realistic than seeking to reverse a decline within the traditional market. The ‘reinvention’ process has taken place in a

Figure 2 Handy’ Sigmoid curves


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number of locations, in full or partial form — Bournemouth’s conference focus and Prince Edward Island’s development of golf, both alongside their traditional but declining family markets, are two good examples. In both cases, the reinvented focus required the strategic recognition that traditional markets were in terminal decline and that alternatives, probably availing of a different supply-side structure, would be required if the destination wished to remain within and expand its tourism sector. In both cases, major public sector investment in the ‘new tourism’ model was made through Bournemouth’s conference centre and related facilities and Prince Edward Island’s publicly owned and managed golf courses and, in parallel to this, a gradual reduction in investment and marketing of the traditional product can also be identified. In many respects, the Isle of Man also represents a good example of a destination which is currently going through this reinvention process and where public policy increasingly recognises and reflects this (Isle of Man, 1996). Traditional family seaside holidays have declined in importance to a level where they have been virtually abandoned within the island’s economic and tourism planning process and, to some extent, by the organised private sector as well. The seasonal activity continues in urban seaside centres such as Douglas, but is in apparent terminal decline with little attempt to rejuvenate that particular product or the market it serves. Reinvention can be seen in the form of the development of ‘high end’ cultural, sporting and other activity tourism, located outside of the traditional resort areas and, as a result, much more rural in focus. The reinvented image has a strong Celtic cultural flavour, is designed to appeal to the short-break market, and offers activities such as walking and golf on a year-round basis. The Isle of Man’s reinvented tourism cannot and, indeed, does not wish to build upon the island’s established tourism reputation. Therefore, the ‘new’ tourism must start again in marketing terms at the exploration if not the innovation stage because the Isle of Man has no market image for its reinvented product and, in addition, must overcome well entrenched market images of its ‘old’ tourism product. Unlike the traditional TALC model where rejuvenation challenges stagnation or reverses decline, reinvention assumes an almost clean sheet following exit from the resort’s traditional tourism paradigm and abandonment of its existing resources and markets. Any model is an abstraction of reality and the two extension stages to the TALC, based on the enforced or chosen abandonment of tourism, are not without problems, particularly as they will frequently only be evident in retrospect or late in the change process. Deliberate overt policy change against tourism is less likely than evolutionary change in that direction. From a political and strategic policy perspective, the options which these extension stages provide may be important agenda items for the future as destinations and their resident communities evaluate their future with or without tourism. What they certainly do is place the TALC firmly within the context of management decision making, something which Butler in his original paper stressed and which has become somewhat lost in subsequent interpretations. Finally, there is little doubt that the extended TALC model requires empirical


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testing through analysis and case presentation in much the same way as Butler’s contribution has been assessed since its inception in 1980.

Correspondence Any correspondence should be directed to Tom Baum, The Scottish Hotel School, University of Strathclyde, 94 Cathedral Street, Glasgow G4 OLS, UK (t.g.baum@strath.ac.uk).

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