Stakeholder theory

Originating out of the management and public administration literature (e.g. Freeman, 1984; Donaldson and Preston, 1995), a stakeholder has been defined as ‘any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives’ (Freeman, 1984, p. 46). Tourism stakeholders are broadly considered to be ‘anyone who is impacted by development positively or negatively’ (Aas et al., 2005, p. 31). They include those who are involved in organizations directly providing services to the tourist such as lodging, transportation, tour operators and activity providers (i.e. primary stakeholders), but also those stakeholders who may not directly service the tourists but still contribute to the overall tourist experience (i.e. secondary stakeholders; March and Wilkinson, 2009). For example, farmers who produce the food tourists eat, the environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that protect the natural resources they use, the resident who creates a hospitable and welcoming environment for the tourists, and the municipal and state departments in charge of transportation infrastructure that supports the movement of tourists all affect a tourist experience and can be considered secondary stakeholders. From a business perspective, the strength of involving multiple stakeholder perspectives includes a number of potential positive outcomes including a more cost effective process, better idea generation, increased trust between involved parties, increased legitimacy in the decision-making process, reduction of lawsuits, tension and conflict between interested parties, and a better informed public and interested parties (Byrd, 2007).

While these are important perspectives to consider, the diversity of stakeholders beyond these core groups is becoming increasingly noted along with a growing recognition of the problematic nature of implying that stakeholder groups are heterogeneous (Cawley and Gillmor, 2008).

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