Diverging from stakeholder theory, actor-network theory (ANT) focuses on the relationships between the actors (i.e. stakeholders groups and individuals) and the way in which they link together to pursue goals (Hall, 1999; Albrecht, 2013). The linkages between actors can vary in strength and formality; for example, some may be loose associations of like-minded individuals, while others are institutionalized through structural arrangements such as representatives of NGOs, businesses and government (Dredge, 2006; Saxena et al., 2007). ANT also highlights the multiple levels of social relations and can be used to examine how they influence policy-making and decision-making, and how power is a result of the interactions between the actors (Dredge, 2006). Networks are not controlled by any one actor, yet past research has shown that some actors do wield more influence than others (March and Wilkinson, 2009).
Gray (1985) defined collaboration as ‘a process of joint decision-making among key stakeholders’ (p. 227). This basic idea still resonates in most conceptualizations of collaboration and cooperation within tourism planning, where it focuses on the identification and legitimate engagement of interested stakeholders in a decision-making process (Aas et al., 2005). It is widely recognized that collaboration is needed to address complex issues that require a multi-organizational response as no one stakeholder can address them alone. Characteristics of the collaborative process include that the stakeholders are interdependent, there is mutual benefit to be gained by all stakeholders as motivation to be involved, the process legitimizes stakeholder opinions and perspectives and allows for stakeholders to work through areas of difference, there must be joint ownership of decision-making, and the process is flexible and emergent (Gray, 1985; Jamal and Getz, 1995; Hall, 1999). Thus, in most discussions surrounding integrated tourism planning, methods for facilitating collaboration and cooperation are required because of the diverse stakeholders that are linked into the process.