Research Proposal - Sustainable tourism certification in Biosphere Reserves


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This is my research proposal presentation. Conducted 19 June 2013 at CQUniversity

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  • Welcome to my presentation today and thank you for taking the time to listen to my proposed research project.My name is Cath WithymanAs you can see on the powerpoint – The title of my project is – A Case Study of Sustainable Tourism Certification within a Biosphere ReserveMy proposed research centres on –theprocess of sustainable certification from the tourism operators perspective.This morning I will give you anOverview of my topic area and the rationale for conducting this researchI will present an overviewsome key definitions of my topic area and associated literature identifying some gaps in the current knowledge.I will introduce my the research aims and questions I will discuss the significanceof this project along with the proposed outcomes. Following that, I will give an overview of my proposed research methodology and design . Lastly, I will touch on the comments made by my reviewers and then provide time for questions and comments at the end of the presentation.So moving on to my topic area and introduction to the topic
  • So it is an area that I know something about – But I am keen to know more…….After working on a sustainable tourism development project for Noosa Biosphere Ltd, Iidentified that sustainable tourism certification could be a viable tool to assist in the development and promotion of Noosa Biosphere Reserve as a sustainable tourism destination.However, further research is necessary to gain: a deeper understanding of the processes and interactions involved with certification; understand the barriers and catalysts for businesses to gain or not gain certification To understand the business changes that result from the certification process. The ultimate goal and rationale for the project is a more sustainable and marketable tourism destination that clearly demonstrates and articulates sustainable activities and achievements.“WALKS THE WALK”So I am seeking to identify ‘how’ certification might be used as a tool to develop asustainable tourism industry within Biosphere Reserves.The CASE STUDY SITENoosa Biosphere reserve has been identified as an appropriate case study sitefor this research for a number of reasons – as it has a developed tourism industry, A strong and active local tourism organisation– Tourism NoosaandBiosphere management organisation – Noosa Biosphere LtdAdditionally, the tourism industry that has indicated a desire to improve sustainability. – Through the development of the Noosa Sustainable Destination Action Plan. It also, helps that I live here in Noosa, so it is a easy site for me to access to conduct my research, as I live here. So lets take a look a the Literature surrounding my topic area
  • Sustainable Tourism –Simply it refers to Tourism that seeks to minimise negative impacts and maximize positive impactsMore comprehensively theUnited Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as“tourism that takes into account the full, current and future economic, social and environmental impacts. It addresses the needs of visitors, the industry, environment and host communities”(UNWTO 2012, p.1).So that is it looks at current & future impacts and not just one areaie - economic, social or environmental – but all areas as in Triple bottom line – People, Planet & profitCertificationCertification within the tourism industry refers to the procedure of auditing and giving “written assurance that a facility, a product, service or management system meet specific standards” (Honey, 2002). Generally, it is considered to be a mark of a high quality as well as an indication of environmentally, economically and socially sound products. Thirdly, I am looking at sustainable tourism within Biosphere Reserves. So what is a Biosphere Reserve?Biosphere Reserves are areas designated under UNESCO's (That is United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) So Biosphere Reserves are designated under UNESCO’sMan and the Biosphere Program (MAB). Biosphere Reserves have three basic functions, these being conservation, sustainable developmentand logistical support which includes research, education and training They provide the context in which communities can explore and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development on a regional basis. They are considered `living laboratories` for testing out and demonstrating integrated and sustainable management of land, water and biological diversity. So when we delve into the literature and research around these three areas we find some gaps in the knowledge
  • Firstly Sustainable TourismThere is a wide range of literature surrounding the concept of sustainable tourism - as it is a concept that has been in existence for close to 3 decades. There is a focus on conceptualisation of the term and the development of framework approaches to the theoretical term.It has now been identified that research needs to move away from the theoretical to focus more on the operational implementation of the concept – It is in this area of operational implementation that my project will contribute to the field of knowledge.Next – when we look at certification - Again there is a broad depth of research in this area. Much of it focuses on the development of global standards for tourism certification or discusses certification in a global context. We now have the GSTC which is a set of globally agreed standards which were introduced in 2008 – there has been limited research since the introduction of these standards.Additionally, there have also been a number of research projects that investigated individual certification programs for example the STEP program, the European VISIT However while they critiqued the benefits and limitations of the programs they did not investigate or include the actual tourism business operation which the program certifies.This leads me on to identify a GAP in the research surrounding certification that this project will fill – It will explore certification from the operators perspective Biosphere ReservesThen when we look at the research surrounding Biosphere Reserves and specifically sustainable tourism within Biosphere Reserves we find very little research. Most of the research conducted on Biosphere Reserves is focused on conservation and land management practices relating to biodiversityand the natural environment. There is limited research that investigatesthe integration of industry, In this case tourism, with the Biosphere Concept. Particularly, how a sustainable tourism approach can be developed and promoted within the ‘learning laboratory environment of a Biosphere Reserve.So if we relate this back to my proposed project. Lets take a look at my Research Aims and research questions
  • Research Aim and QuestionsAim: To identify ‘how’ certification might be used as a tool to develop a sustainable tourism industry within Biosphere Reserves.RQ1: How is certification currently operationalised within NBR? – What is going on the moment, what certifications are available? Who is certified under which program? Which operators are actively promoting themselves as being sustainable? RQ2:Why do operators embrace or reject certification as a means to achieve sustainability? Looking into the certified and non-certified businesses and their motivations and reasoningfor seeking or not seeking certificationRQ3: How does the process of certification impact upon tourism businesses sustainability?Resultsof certification – what changes did business make? Has there been an impact? What are the operators views and perceptions of this impact and the process they went through?RQ4: How can certification play a role in developing a sustainable tourism industry within NBR? – Explore the interactions and engagement between the industry participants –ieoperators and the destination management organisations and the certification bodies –What is happening at the moment? How could it be improved to stimulate increased levels of certification?So Why do this project ? What's the significance and what are my intended outcomes?
  • The research seeks to understand the process across a number of programs and industry sectors.. Ie not just accommodation, tour providers or hospitality – will look at at a range of programs and sectors.Thirdly, the project is significant because the case study setting is a Biosphere Reserve, This project has implications for the development of sustainable tourism within Biosphere Reserves globallythrough knowledge exchangeAdditionally, there ispotential (and intention through later doctoral studies) for this project to be replicated in other Biosphere Reserves around the world that are geographically and developmentally different from this case study of Noosa. That would then further the knowledge sharing and learning opportunities.Both my reviewers and my supervisory team have agreed that the project has the potential to make a “high impact on the field of study” So what are the proposed outcomes?Proposed OutcomesThe research aims to benefit the tourism industry by informing planning and policy development at all levelsThrough the knowledge gained from understanding the tourism operators perspective and theirexperiences of the certification process- I hope that – Certification programs and destination management organisations and government will be better informed as to how they can influence the uptake of certification. And certification can be better targeted and promoted as a sustainable development tool. This information and knowledge generated could be useful forgovernment,destination management organisations, biosphere reserve governing bodies, certification providers and of course the tourism industry operators and providersSo that’s what I hope to achieve….but how am I going to get there??What’s the plan? How am I going to conduct my research?
  • That is founded upon the principle that individuals actively construct knowledge based on their experience and are constantly refining their knowledge of the world by interacting with the environment.The research will draw upon the businesses operator’s constructed knowledge, perceptions and beliefssurrounding sustainable tourism and certification. I have chosen a - Qualitative Research Strategy – Qualitative research and social constructivism are complementary because qualitative research also assumesthat the world is not an objective thing, but rather a function of personal interaction and perception My project is built upon the need to understand the participant’s viewpoints and perceptionsof certification and sustainable tourism.Case StudyI have chosen a Case Study method of enquiry –
  • I have chosen a Case Study method of enquiry – The aim of case study research is to obtain a rich understanding of the case and its complexity, Insights gained during data collection can be used to inform theory or build explanation. – Which I what I am aiming to do.Also, Case StudiesCase Studies allow for multiple sources of evidence – which in turn facilities greater exploration of the case and its complexities – To ensure that the research is reliable and valid I will use multiple sources of evidence and the process of triangulation,I will construct a case study database and be maintaining a detailed chain of evidence to ensure validity.New Area of inquiryAlso, as this is a new area of inquiry - rather than outline preliminary theoretical constructs, I plan to allow the features of the study to inform my theory development during the analysis stage of the project. I also acknowledge that there areconstraintsrelated to this project. One that has been highlighted by one of my reviewers is that the project will not investigate the actual tourist and their understanding and perception of certification. However to research this group of informants is outside the scope of this project, Additionally, I have acknowledged that my involvement in the tourism industry has the potential to bias my research, it is for this reason that I have identified approaches to restrict any bias. Such a using triangulation techniques, I will call on the advice and assistance from my research supervisors, some of who are outside the core tourism area and others who are specialists in the field of tourism research. They will assist with interviews techniques, question design and also the coding and auditing of the evidence trailto mitigate these risks.
  • Data CollectionA range of data collection methodswill be employed I will use Document analysis, survey and interviewsPhase 1 of the data collection will consist of an online survey (Survey monkey) of tourism operators within Noosa Biosphere – Suing the Tourism Noosa member databaseAlso, this phase will involve collection and organisation of documentary evidence relating to certification programs – A comparison matrix will be constructed. Phase 2 will be semi structured interviews with both certified and non-certified operators. The interviews will be semi-structured to allow for discussion and the gain rich detail and insight into the areas being researched. The semi-structured nature will allow for comparative analysis of responses by following the same format for each interview. Phase 3 is semi-structured interviews of other industry stakeholder organisations who are actively involved in engaging with the tourism industry within NBR to gather information regarding their knowledge of, support for and involvement with certification programs.Then the data analysisAll the data gained from the 3 phases will be entered into Nvivo software and content analysis will be conducted to draw out themes and trendsI will then analyse and write up the results of the study, discuss the findings, and draw my conclusions and make recommendations.So the timeline for this research is…
  • Thefeedback from the 2 reviewers on my research proposal was very positive and confirmed the value of the study and its potential contribution to the tourism industry destination management agencies and host communities of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Australia and elsewhere. Thank you to the reviewers for drawing my attention to minor changes required in my research proposal, as such I have made the following changes.I have discussed my reasons why I feel the study in this area is needed and will include a section on this in my thesisMy thesis will include detailed information on current state of tourism within NBR (Word counting limited the inclusion of this information in the proposal)The larger players in Noosa’s tourism industry will also be included in the study as advised by one of my reviewersConsideration was given to the inclusion of tourists in this project, however with consultation with my supervisory team we feel it it outside the scope of this project.
  • Thank you for your interest today.I would like to invite questions or comments about my proposed research.
  • Research Proposal - Sustainable tourism certification in Biosphere Reserves

    1. 1. Master of BusinessA case study ofSustainable tourism certificationwithin a Biosphere ReserveConfirmation of CandidateCathie WithymanPrincipal Supervisor – Prof Mike HorsleyAssoc. Supervisors – Dr. Sue Davis CQU & NBL ChairwomanDr. Scott Richardson – Tourism PHD
    2. 2. IntroductiontotheTopic Seek to identify ‘how’ certification mightbe used as a tool to develop a sustainabletourism industry within BiosphereReserves.Noosa Biosphere Reserve –Case study site
    3. 3. Literature -Key DefinitionsSustainableTourism“tourism that takes into account the full, current and futureeconomic, social and environmental impacts. It addresses the needsof visitors, the industry, environment and host communities” (UNWTO2012, p.1).Certification“written assurance that a facility, a product, service or managementsystem meet specific standards” (Honey 2002)BiosphereReserves“Biosphere Reserves are areas designated under UNESCOs Man andthe Biosphere Program (MAB). They have three basic functions,these being conservation, sustainable development and logisticalsupport which includes research, education and training.” (UNESCO, 1995)
    4. 4. Literature - GapsCertificationOperationalimplementationSustainable tourism inbiosphere reservesSustainableTourismConcept &FrameworkOperator involvementBiosphereReservesConservation&LandManagement
    5. 5. Aim & Research QuestionsAim: To identify ‘how’ certification might be used as atool to develop a sustainable tourism industrywithin Biosphere Reserves.Research Questions:RQ1: How is certification currently operationalised within NBR?RQ2: Why do operators embrace or reject certification?RQ3: How does the process of certification impact upontourism businesses sustainability?RQ4: How can certification play a role in developing asustainable tourism industry within NBR?
    6. 6. Significance & Proposed OutcomesSignificance Focused on the tourism operator Multiple certification programs across differenttourism sectors Knowledge exchange between Biosphere Reserves Potential to be replicatedPotential to make a “high impact on the field of study”Outcome - benefit the tourism industry by informing planning and policydevelopment at all levels Government (at all levels) Destination management organisations Biosphere reserve governing bodies Certification providers Tourism operators
    7. 7. Methodology Social constructivist research paradigm Qualitative Research Strategy Case study method of enquiry Multiple sources of evidence New area of inquiry – features of study willinform theory development Limits and Constraints
    8. 8. Research DesignPhase 1.Survey ofNBR tourismoperatorsCollection ofdocumentaryevidence –CertificationprogramsPhase 2.Semistructuredinterviewsof certified& non-certifiedoperatorsPhase 3.Semistructuredinterviews ofindustryorganisationsData CollectionData entryandthematiccontentanalysisusingNvivosoftwareData Analysis ResultsWrite upresults,findings&Conclusions
    9. 9. Research TimelineJul–Aug2013• Submit for ethics approval• Design and generate industry surveySep-Dec2013• Data collection – survey• Data entry into Nvivo softwareJan-Mar2014• Data collection - semi-structured interviews• Data entry into Nvivo softwareApr-Jun2014• Analyze data• Interpret and write up resultsJun-Sep2014• Revise and edit existing chapters• Write conclusions and recommendation chapters• Finalise dissertation to submit for examination.
    10. 10. Reviewers see potential for thisproject to have a high impact on thefield of studyReviewers FeedbackPositive feedback with some minor changesto be made to the proposal
    11. 11. Questions and Comments
    12. 12. References• Buckley, R. (2012). Sustainable tourism: Research and reality. Annals of Tourism Research, 39(2),528-546. doi: 10.1016/j.annals.2012.02.003• Creswell, J., W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design; choosing among five approaches(2nd ed.). Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.• Denzin, N., K, & Lincoln, Y., S. (2011). Introdution: The discipline and practice of qualitativeresearch. In N. Denzin, K & Y. Lincoln, S (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (4thed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.• Dredge, D., & Hales, R. (2012). Research, Reflexivity and Community Case Studies in Tourism:Implications of the New Age of public management in higher education tourism research. Paperpresented at the CAUTHE 2012 Conference, Melbourne.• Global Sustainable Tourism Council. (2012). Global Sustainable Tourism Council ReconizedStandards Retrieved 19 November, 2012, from• Lu, J., & Nepal, S. K. (2009). Sustainable tourism research: an analysis of papers published in theJournal of Sustainable Tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 17(1)• UNESCO. (2002). Tracking the path of sustainable tourism. Information Sheet. MAB Secretariat,Division of Ecological Sciences. France. Retrieved from• UNEP & UNWTO. (2012). Tourism in the Green Economy - Background Report. United NationsEnvironment Program and United Nations World Tourism Organisation,. Madrid. Retrieved from