Sustainable Urban Tourism (SUT-GOVERNANCE): Provisional Project Results and Implications


Sustainable Urban Tourism (SUT-GOVERNANCE): Provisional Project Results and Implications

This commentary summarises the progress of the SUT-GOVERNANCE project [1] during its first 12 months. Particularly, the main results for the period are described aiming to inform interested parties, including policy makers and public authorities, about the interim outcomes of this international research and policy initiative.

Project background

In the Spring of 2000, a research consortium led by the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) of the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe (Germany) embarked on a three-year European research and policy project "SUSTAINABLE URBAN TOURISM: Involving Local Agents and Partnerships for New Forms of Governance". At the end of the first year, together with its partners, the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, Regional Consulting Ziviltechniker GmbH in Vienna, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, and the Veliko Turnovo University of Bulgaria, ITAS is pleased to report especially productive first twelve months of this new initiative.

The principal aim of the project is to work with public-private partnerships and urban governments in Europe to develop, validate, and deploy a general framework for urban sustainable tourism partnerships that is applicable to a variety of urban municipal and development contexts. Two specific objectives were set up for the first year: (1) To identify framework conditions, agents and factors influencing participatory decision-making for sustainable tourism involving partnership collaboration and (2) To draft a unified framework model of effective partnerships for urban sustainable tourism in the European context.

During the reported period parallel research was carried out in four study countries: Germany, Austria, Greece and Bulgaria. Country analysis focused on: (1) Literature assessment (2) Review of framework factors and country context information needs (3) Country information collection (4) Study context framework development (5) Country context assessment (6) Inventory and analysis of existing partnership cases for sustainable urban tourism and (7) Identification of pilot partnership cases.

Research outcomes

In the course of the national studies and the cross-country analysis, the following tasks were completed: (1) Assessment of contemporary literature in science and policy of "sustainable urban tourism", "governance" and "effective multi-stakeholder partnerships" (2) Evaluation of key European, international and national policies and initiatives guiding the process of partnership formation for sustainable development and their implications on relevant national policies and processes for sustainable tourism practices on multiple spatial and institutional levels (3) Assessment of underlying tourism trends in Germany, Austria, Greece and Bulgaria (4) Identification of policy, regulatory, and institutional frameworks for sustainable tourism development and the promotion of urban partnerships in these countries (5) Identification of the types of partnerships being formed for sustainable urban tourism considering (a) the urban context, and the (b) types of tourist related-activities from the perspectives of the efficiency of the process and the impacts relevant to local sustainability and urban participatory governance (6) Identification of the main agents involved in participatory urban governance for sustainable tourism and the role of local governments in catalysing public-private partnerships (7) Analysis of the stakeholders' perceptions on the factors of success (and failure) of partnerships for sustainable urban tourism and (8) Factors that may have promoted the formation of successful and durable in time partnerships and partnership-based decision-making processes in urban European management of sustainable tourism.

As a result, the following main project products were generated [2] : (1) Draft Project Framework Report (2) Country Framework Assessment Reports (3) Cross-Country Synthesis Report (5) Written Reports of Stakeholder Interviews (60) (6) National Summary Reports of Stakeholders' Perspectives of Framework Conditions.

Provisional project results

Research conducted to-date signifies that the importance of urban tourism in the study countries and in Europe is rapidly increasing due to the size of tourism flows relative to the size of the cities (the number of tourists significantly exceeding the population of most popular urban destinations) and the fact that sustainable tourism, urban renovation, local revitalisation, and institutional innovation and decentralisation of government towards a broad-based governance involving multiple stakeholders are key target areas and policy pursuits of both the most recent 5th Framework Program and the unfolding new 6th Framework Program for Research and Technology Development of the European Union as well as a number of other Union-wide initiatives on tourism and sustainable development.

Furthermore, the study context analysis has brought to a light the significance of linking the issues of "sustainable tourism", "governance" and "multi-stakeholder participation" into a cohesive research and policy framework model of urban sustainable tourism development in Europe. The interim results have underlined the role that public-private partnerships can assume in future tourism management practices as effective means for pursuing sustainability in urban tourism with local and regional governments assuming a central position. The national studies supported by extensive literature review have revealed compelling developments in both the academic and policy discourse of promoting partnerships for sustainable tourism in European cities by all key stakeholders - government, industry and the non-profit sector. First, it has become apparent that, despite recognition of the long-term benefits, European and national governments and institutions are yet to promote integrated sustainable tourism policies involving partnership approaches. Similarly, the private sector and the non-governmental organizations, thus far, have taken limited action in this direction. Second, the empirical review and the evaluation of the existing programs in the selected four states have shown that, despite the fact that a number of public-private partnerships for tourism have been established in all levels of public and industry policy and action efforts, these have had little cumulative impact on policy innovation towards participatory urban governance for sustainable tourism in all study countries and across Europe. However, existing partnership cases demonstrate the enormity of the potential of stakeholder integration in improving current unsustainable practices. To make a further progress, however, much stronger effort on the part of the national governments is necessary in establishing a comprehensive approach in policy, management and implementation of tourism across spatial levels and actors.

Policy relevance and implications

The project's interim results employ a number of potential implications for enhancing European and national policies in the area of sustainable urban tourism. The project context design can serve as guidelines for the study and management of future national and local sustainable tourism practices in the European countries. The local tourism partnership model offers a base line for the integration of its concepts and approaches into the decision making processes on various spatial and institutional levels in both the public and private sectors in different national frameworks, involving countries with generally centralised public policies and funding for tourism development as well as federal states with predominant regionally based policy-making and management.


[1] Research project of Key Action 4 "City of Tomorrow and Cultural Heritage" of the "Energy, Environment, and Sustainable Development" Program within the Fifth Framework Program of the European Union DG/RTD; Contract n° EVK4-CT-1999-000; Report period: 01/03/00 - 15/03/01.

[2] All project reports can be viewed on the SUT-GOVERNANCE home page at:


Dr. Krassimira Paskaleva-Shapira
Institut für Technikfolgenabschätzung und Systemanalyse (ITAS)
Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)
Karlstr. 11, 76133 Karlsruhe
Tel: +49 721 608-26133
E-Mail: krassimira paskaleva-shapira∂kit edu