Tourism is capable of distributing wealth and participating substantially in the economic development of many countries. However, to ensure these benefits, the planning, management, and monitoring of a sustainable offer become crucial. Despite the increasingly widespread attention to sustainability in this sector, however, the concept of sustainable tourism still appears fragmented and fuzzy. The theoretical frameworks used in many studies often reduce sustainability to its environmental or social aspects and consider such pillars as separate issues. Furthermore, although most studies acknowledge that a potentially wide number of stakeholders play a role in sustainable tourism production, they have so far focused on host communities, tourism producers, or tourists themselves independently. Fewer explorations have addressed simultaneously different stakeholders, their perceptions of sustainable tourism experience, and the various concerns and tensions that may arise. This study aims to investigate sustainability issues in tourism by considering the voices of two relevant stakeholders involved in “co-producing” the tourism experience: tourists and tour operators. Based on a qualitative study conducted in Italy, the article critically discusses how travelers and tour operators craft the sustainability idea, the implicit assumptions that rely on their different perspectives, and their practical implications. The results highlight four different narratives on sustainable tourism, which are related to different assumptions on sustainability and actions legitimated to generate sustainable value. Finally, the article offers insights into how to develop a more holistic and critical approach to sustainable tourism through education and communication.
- narrative research
- stakeholder dialogue