Collaboration Theory Applied to
An Examination of a Case Study in
Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Doctoral
Resource Management and Environmental Studies
Vancouver, B.C. May 18, 2001
Tourism can be seen as an activity that involves the use of natural resources
within a specific geographical zone. While tourism is viewed primarily as a leisure
activity, hotel developers and service-providers (aimed at specific target groups) are
interested in making money through touristic activities. However, many times these
developments are located in communities that are affected; at times negatively,
sometimes positively. Any situation where there is use (or misuse) or exploitation of
natural resources, and where those resources are shared by different stakeholders is
almost certain to provoke conflict. Interconnectedness is just one reason why people
who share the same resources often collide. There are many others, such as opposed
views on the same issues, confrontational attitudes and the use of adversarial strategies
to achieve self-interested goals.
Tourism is a booming industry all over the world. It has been touted as "the
fastest growing industry in the world"
. As a result of this growth, appropriate
management of the resources affected by the tourism industry becomes an increasingly
complex task. An overwhelming quantity of stakeholders (many of them "invisible" or
"diffused"), significant fragmentation of the industry and inevitable dependence on
resources available in tourist destinations are just a few factors that add to the
complexity. For this industry to survive and thrive, a change of paradigms is deemed the
most appropriate response. It has been suggested that ecotourism may be one approach
to sustainable tourism that might help overcome these complexities and address
problems of sustainable management of resources within the tourism domain. Planned
well, ecotourism may benefit host communities through the adoption of sustainable
resource management practices. It also has the potential to help tackle the eternal
conflict of economic growth to the expense of environmental deterioration, through the
establishment of linkages between societal needs and protection of ecosystems. This
paper, however, is not concerned with ecotourism as "the" approach to sustainable
tourism. Instead of investigating the concept of ecotourism, I use three dimensions of
the sustainability paradigm (economic, social and environmental goals) as an
overarching frame of reference to address the need for citizen participation in tourism
planning and policy-making. Citizen participation in environmental decision-making
has been quoted as one of the pre-requisites for a sustainable development. It is, in fact,
embedded in the Agenda 21 text as one of the 27 principles for sustainable
development. However, this societal intervention often is not significant and members
of the community are relegated to a non-participant, irrelevant role in governmental
decisions that will deeply affect their lifestyle. Issues of inequity, power imbalances and
social injustice arise if citizen participation is not meaningful. This is the case in many
policy arenas, and tourism policy-making is not the exception.
The challenge tackled in this paper is how to address these issues from a
progressive planning perspective. Progressive planning is a new planning paradigm that
attempts to bring together theories of collaboration for sustainable development and
theories of communicative action, in a concerted effort to address power imbalances
that arise from a decline in community participation in policy-making. These challenges
of power imbalances are most noticeable in the context of a developing country, where
historically citizens have not had a say in governmental decisions that deeply affect
their lives. In this paper, I develop a conceptual and an analytical framework to analyse
a hypothetical case of tourism development in a Mexican coastal zone. I am mostly
interested in issues that arise during implementation of a multiple stakeholder,
roundtable initiative, sponsored by a coalition of disadvantaged people.
In analysing the conflicts that arise from this common pool resource situation, I
draw on literature from the collaboration theory realm (works by Barbara Gray, Patsy
Healey and Tony Dorcey among others). This body of knowledge addresses situations
where conflict arises and explains under which conditions collaboration best occurs. I
also draw on Forester's ideas of power imbalances and progressive approaches to
planning. I justify my choice of Forester and the related literature by arguing that these
writings speak to the need to correct information distortions and power inequities. For
disadvantaged stakeholders to be empowered, power imbalances need to be corrected.
Forester's ideas speak to the notions of asymmetric distribution of power. Therefore, his
concepts would provide insights on how to correct these distortions. I have added a third
component to my theoretical framework, which explicitly addresses the notion of
adaptive cycles. I also address the notion of "diffused" stakeholders within the paper.
For the analytical framework, I draw on Gray (1989) and Gray and Wood's
collaboration theory (Gray and Wood 1991). I also looked for specific criteria to
evaluate how collaboration may be best achieved in the domain of "shared decision-
making" literature (Duffy et al 1998). I make use of these concepts because tourism is
an industry that strongly affects communities where touristic activities take place. As a
result, shared-decision making seems to be necessary in order to reduce the negativity of
these impacts. The analytical framework presented is different, however, of Duffy's.
It is necessary to remember that evaluation of multistakeholder processes
(MSPs) has traditionally posed enormous challenges to theorists and practitioners. It is
not my aim to provide a new framework to evaluate the effectiveness of a MSP. My
purpose is to use an iterative approach to investigate what key factors can be put
forward that can help make a MSP work, with a special emphasis on implementation.
This iterative approach will examine what criteria have been discussed regarding MSP
effectiveness and from those criteria, I examine what factors may lead to achieving a
high score in the chosen criteria. Then, I provide reflective arguments on design and
implementation strategies through the examination of a case study.
The paper is distributed as follows: I begin with a brief discussion of the tourism
industry and its relevance to developing countries. I then outline the need for
collaboration amongst relevant stakeholders in the tourism industry. This serves as a
prelude to introduce my conceptual and theoretical framework. I then introduce the
components of my analytical framework. These conceptual and analytical frameworks
are then used to analyse a hypothetical case study of tourism development planning in a
coastal zone in Mexico. Gray (1989) identifies three main stages in collaborative
initiatives: problem definition, direction setting and implementation. I am most
interested in the implementation stage. As a result, I identify key issues to be addressed
at the implementation level by the sponsor of the collaborative process and by other
relevant stakeholders. Finally, I conclude with a view to the future of this theoretical
Tourism, resource management and collaboration
Tourism development is peculiar in many ways. While it may be viewed from a
business perspective as a profitable venture (often entrepreneurs), many others envision
it as a source of income and survival (residents of the zone). Furthermore, government
officials and policymakers also face a challenge in reconciling common pool resource
management with the need for a sustainable development. Therefore, for tourism to
flourish it is necessary that all stakeholders collaborate towards such shared goal
(sustainable growth). Collaboration amongst stakeholders in any industry often is seen
as an unattainable goal. However, cooperation in natural resource management is
needed if humankind is to thrive and survive. A basic assumption throughout this paper
is that stakeholders in a policy issue should and can intervene in policy design and
implementation. This basic assumption underlies the analysis presented in this paper.
While opposing viewpoints and arguments may be found in the literature, my analysis
will follow a stream of thought based on the premise that collaboration is possible,
under certain specific circumstances.
It would seem unlikely that individuals who want to realise personal gains and
make use of shared resources would cooperate to avoid overexploitation of these
resources. Garret Hardin (1968) cautioned about the "tragedy of the commons" that
could occur when common-pool resources were being consumed by numerous parties.
Hardin indicated that it would be likely that overconsumption would lead to exhaustion
of shared resources. Therefore, the cooperation of self-interested individuals to manage
their common-pool resources in a sustainable manner was not deemed likely. However,
a large body of literature on common-pool resource management has addressed this
issue both at the theoretical and empirical level, finding that collaboration and
cooperation to solve conflicts among stakeholders over the management of shared
natural resource is possible. Buckles and Rusnak (1999) indicate that conflict may be a
catalyst for positive social change. If appropriately managed, they argue, this change
would likely lead to a more sustainable management of resources, through the
recognition by all interested parties of the opportunities for equitable resource
distribution, adequate resource extraction and consumption and increased wellbeing of
all stakeholders. In this paper, I will examine collaboration for tourism resource
management and planning. I will address this notion in later sections of the paper. I now
turn to a brief examination of tourism, development and collaboration.
Tourism and development
Different researchers have analysed tourism activities in developing countries
through a varied number of theoretical lenses. Some have argued that increased revenue
from tourism leads to economic growth and therefore, societal wellbeing. Stonich
(1998) indicates that tourism had been recommended as a good strategy for economic
development for Honduras. During the 1980s, the government of Honduras pursued
aggressive advertising campaigns and marketing strategies in order to boost economic
performance at the national level. Other Latin American countries have shared this
approach to development
and Mexico has not been the exception. Mexico is a very
important (if not the most important) tourist destination amongst Latin American
countries. Data from the World Tourism Organisation indicates that Mexico is ranked
seventh among the world's leading tourism destinations (WTO 1997, as cited in
Cothran, 1998). Amongst the countries in the Americas, Mexico held a comfortable
15.5% market share in international tourist arrivals in 1999, while raising $ 7,223
million US in international tourism receipts (WTO 2001). Clancy (1999), in an analysis
of tourism and development in Mexico, indicates that the industry is the second largest
employer in Mexico (only agriculture employs more people). Therefore, tourism is very
important in Mexico because of its potential and promise for economic growth, and the
Mexican government likely regards it as the most profitable industry of them all.
Cothran and Cothran (1998:479) argue that Cancun, Mexico, "ranks as the most
popular resort in the Western Hemisphere". Apparently, the prestige of Cancun outranks
many other popular beach resort destinations, such as Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and
Ixtapa. Paradoxically, Cothran and Cothran (1998) find that Mexico City attracts the
largest number of tourists, Cancun ranks second and Acapulco is in third place, while
Guadalajara is fourth. Both Mexico City and Guadalajara are inner-city destinations,
while Cancun and Acapulco are coastal-zone destinations. This seems like a paradox,
because traditionally, Mexican tourist destinations have been the coastal zone
destinations such as Cancun and Acapulco (the beaches in Mexico are considered
amongst the most beautiful and pristine in the world) while both Mexico City and
Guadalajara are inner-city destionations. Mexico City and Guadalajara's status as the
two bigger cities in Mexico may be a factor that foreign tourists take into account when
choosing their travel destination. It can be thus argued that the potential that the tourism
industry shows to boost economic performance in Mexico is very high, and therefore, it
is an industry that is most relevant for the Mexican government. However, with this
increased attractiveness comes the downside. Congestion, increased traffic and noise
pollution are just a few of the negative impacts of increased tourist travel to these
coastal zone destinations. Also, because many resorts are located within a reasonably
short distance of host communities, the livelihood of these communities is also
impacted. Not to be overlooked, as the number of resorts being built increasees to
satisfy the constantly increasing demand from foreign and domestic visitors to these
destinations, so does the impact on the natural resources of the area where these
developments take place. Ecotourism notwithstanding, increased tourist traffic most
likely leads to some negative environmental effects and could potentially contribute to
societal unrest and mobilisation. Therefore, a perfect opportunity presents itself for
collaboration to occur. Gray (1989:10), in her seminal works outlines several
characteristics of a problem that could potentially be suitable for collaboration
The problems are ill defined, or there is disagreement about how they should
All of Latin America, Mexico included, has been categorised in the development literature as
"developing" or "the South".
I quote all these characteristics as Gray indicates them. However, they may be clustered in different
criteria which I present in my analysis.
Several stakeholders have a vested interest in the problems and are
These stakeholders are not necessarily identified a priori or organized in any
There may be a disparity of power and/or resources for dealing with the
problems among the stakeholders.
Stakeholders may have different levels of expertise and different access to
information about the problems.
Technical complexity and scientific uncertainty often characterize the
Differing perspectives on the problems often lead to adversarial relationships
among the stakeholders.
Incremental or unilateral efforts to deal with the problems typically produce
less than satisfactory solutions.
Existing processes for addressing the problems have proved insufficient and
may even exacerbate them.
The tourism industry problems with sustainability share many of these
characteristics. I will examine them through the theoretical lenses of my conceptual
Conceptual and theoretical framework
My conceptual (theoretical) framework encompasses three components. The
building block that I use to explore collaboration for tourism policy making is the work
on collaboration theory explored by Gray (1989). Collaboration is defined by Gray as "a
process through which parties who see different aspects of a problem can constructively
explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited view
of what is possible" (Gray 1989:5). The case study examined in this paper seems clearly
well suited for the use of collaboration theory. Applications of Gray's work into the
tourism planning and policy-making have been explored by a number of researchers
(Jamal and Getz 1995; Bramwell and Sharman 1999; Jamal and Getz 1999; Parker
1999; Reed 1999)
At the theoretical level, the most thorough examination of collaboration theory
applied to tourism is the work of Jamal and Getz (1995) and Bramwell and Sharman
(1999). Jamal and Getz (1995) develop a set of six propositions, based on a literature
review and using Gray's collaboration theory as a stepping stone. These propositions are
intended as prescriptive measures or a "how-to" guide to implement collaboration for
community-based tourism planning. These propositions include:
1. The recognition of a high degree of interdependence.
2. The recognition of individual and/or mutual benefits of collaboration.
3. A widely held belief that decisions will be binding and implemented (i.e.
the process is legitimate and powerful enough to influence planning
4. The assurance of inclusiveness (i.e. making sure that all stakeholder
groups are included)
5. There should be a convener to initiate and facilitate this collaboration.
6. An effective process requires ongoing support and cooperation by all
parties involved (including governmental bodies).
More than building an explanatory framework, Jamal and Getz aim to identify
prescriptive measures and guidelines for managers and planners. However, the
recognition of issues that are of utmost relevance to planners for the design and
implementation of successful, collaborative initiatives is very important. Once
established, the above-mentioned guidelines could be used to build a checklist or a set
of criteria to help evaluate whether the process has been successful and effective. This
criteria could then be coupled with other frameworks available in the literature.
Bramwell and Sharman (1999) introduce an analytical framework to assess
collaborative initiatives. Two main criteria are highlighted in their framework:
inclusiveness and collective learning. A third relevant criteria for them, is the reduction
of power imbalances between stakeholders. Their analytical framework is comprised of
three sets of issues: the scope of collaboration, the intensity of collaboration and the
degree to which consensus is reached. They build the notion of "partial consensus" as a
tool to advance the notion that complete consensus (i.e. everyone agrees on an issue) is
sometimes impossible to achieve and therefore a "partial consensus" should be reached.
Although it is a very interesting framework, Bramwell and Sharman fail to address what
happens if a stakeholder does not have the power/resources to intervene in the
collaborative process. That is, intensity of collaboration and scope of collaboration are
irrelevant if an important stakeholder group does not have the power or resources to
participate in the collaboration process. If, for instance, a group exclusive control over
the decision to be reached and the level to which such decision is implemented,
collaboration efforts will likely be useless and a waste of effort.
Gray identifies three stages for a collaborative process: problem setting,
direction setting and implementation. There are different stages according to a number
of authors, but I will follow Gray's three stage model for simplicity purposes. As in any
interorganizational collaboration, different authors suggest similar process.. Table 1
(extracted from Pacheco-Vega, 1998, p.8) outlines the variety of models available in the
literature. I have included Gray's three stages model (not originally in the table).
Number of Stages
Summary of the Model
Lorange, Roos and Bron
1. Initial analytical phase.
2. Intensive phase.
1. Pre-alliance stage.
2. Alliance agreement
3. Implementation stage.
1. Problem setting
2. Direction setting
Bronder and Pritzl (1992)
1. Strategic decision.
2. Configuration of the alliance.
3. Partner selection.
4. Management of the alliance
Baughn et al (1997)
1. Prior assessments.
2. Bargaining stage.
4. Monitoring of evolution.
Table 1. Stages in Collaborative Alliances
(Source: Pacheco-Vega 1998 and from
implies the definition of the
collaboration. It also attempts to identify
is to participate (stakeholder
this participation is going to take place.
the stage when agendas are built, interests are explored, options are created, and
agreement on these options is sought. In other words,
is to be implemented and
of the proposed
actions established in the direction setting stage requires establishing links with
constituencies and structuring methods and ways in which compliance with the
agreement may be sought, monitored and ensured. This stage identifies,
agreement is to be implemented and
. Also extremely important in this last stage;
is to take
Given that collaboration involves building a common understanding of the
problems or issues at stake, Habermas' notions of discourse and communicative action
fit perfectly within this literature domain. I use progressive planning and
communicative action theory as proposed by Forester (1989). It is through dialogue that
a common ground can be reached, and the Habermasian notion of "perfect speech"
provides avenues and ways to constructively find common interests (those interests that
lie behind the positions that each party brings to the table).
The second component of my framework utilises the theoretical lenses of
Forester's concept of progressive planning. Forester draws most of his theory from the
German sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas, who developed the notion of
"perfect speech" and communicative action. Habermas argued that it is through
"deliberative democracy" that citizens can engage in a realistic and meaningful dialogue
with policy-makers. This deliberation is achieved through two-way communication and
information sharing. If this situation of "perfect speech" is attained, (in theory) the
decision reached through shared decision-making should be not only sustainable but
also legitimate and accountable. Most interpretations of Habermasian theory agree that
through a reasoned dialogue amongst all the diverse parties in the public sphere will
lead to reaching a shared understanding of the problem, likely increasing the chances
that a common solution for all parties will be established
Forester (1989) argues that the progressive planner's role is to correct
information distortions and power imbalances through appropriate mechanisms to
empower citizens. The progressive planner is able to recognise that:
political-economic power may function systematically to misinform affected
publics... the progressive view anticipates such regular, structurally rooted
misinformation and organises information to counteract this `noise' (Forester,
Forester's ideas can be applied through a careful analysis of sources of
misinformation during the collaborative process. In each of the three stages of a
collaboration process we can identify sources of misinformation. Once these sources are
identified, a progressive planner may be able to correct information distortions and
empower disenfranchised citizens, thus giving them the opportunity to have their voices
heard. To analyse sources of possible mismanagement of information, Forester outlines
a framework through which each particular situation may be viewed [Forester, 1989
#18:38-39, Tables 2 and 3]. The four main sources of mismanagement of information
Managing comprehension (problem framing)
Managing trust (false assurance)
Managing consent (illegitimacy)
Managing knowledge (misrepresentation)
The above-mentioned sources of mismanagement of information provide a
starting point to identify manners and ways in which a progressive planner can correct
these information distortions and realign power imbalances. A carefully designed policy
for the stakeholder selection processes should take into account these possible sources
of information mismanagement. By tackling these information distortions, progressive
planners should be able to design a process that is accountable, legitimate and fair. As
Dorcey and McDaniels (2001) indicate, a progressive planner is able to empower
citizens through "deliberative democracy".
The third building block of my framework builds on my previous research work.
The notion of adaptive management in tourism has been examined by several authors
(Hunter 1997; Reed 1999), yet no one has explicitly addressed interorganizational
collaboration as the result of iterative cycles of adaptation. In Pacheco-Vega (1998), I
examined asymmetric strategic alliances in the biotechnology industry. I argued that
these alliances were deemed to fail if the weaker firm didn't perform due diligence and
examine the potential sources of its own weakness. I proposed a theoretical model for
the implementation of strategic alliances between pharmaceutical companies and
biotechnology firms. This model explicitly considered this evaluation and
implementation process as an iterative, adaptive cycle. This notion of adaptive cycles
forms the third block of my theoretical framework. I argue that in order for a
collaborative process to be properly implemented, careful evaluation of the results
should be performed and adaptive adjustments should be continuously implemented.
This learning process is a common feature of adaptive management strategies.
Reed (1999) argues that collaborative tourism planning can be considered as an
adaptive experiment, and that adaptive management could be used as a framework for
learning and improving policy decisions in the tourism domain. However, Reed's
analysis falls short of realising its full potential, as she does not explicitly test adaptive
management as an overarching strategy for collaborative tourism planning. She
illustrates potential ways of applying adaptive management, yet she does not test her
model (and she makes that explicit in her writing). Hunter (1997:864) examined the role
of sustainable tourism as "an
paradigm capable of addressing widely different
situations, and articulating different goals in the utilization of natural resources"
(emphasis in the original". However, he does not explicitly address how this learning
process occurs, nor the conditions/level of collaboration necessary for this learning
process to occur. In this paper, I will examine the role of adaptive cycles to improve
outcomes of collaborative processes.
My analytical framework arises from the application of the concepts outlined in
the theoretical framework to the design of criteria that could be used to evaluate
implementation efforts. The analytical framework unfolds in three components. The set
of criteria shown arises from an in-depth analysis of Gray's theoretical requirements for
a problem to be ripe for collaboration. Which indicators can we use to identify this
"ripeness"? I propose three sets of indicators (see Table 2).
Who convenes the
process? Who decides?
Who holds more power?
Who loses more as a
result of the decision?
Scientific and technical
Diverse and uneven levels
of knowledge and
What is the issue at hand?
How can we narrow the
problem? What is the real
Who knows about the
issue? What resources
does he/she bring to the
Who is against whom?
What does each
stakeholder want and
What are the interests that
lie behind positions?
Table 2. Baseline Criteria Used to Examine Collaborative Processes in Tourism
By answering the indicated guiding questions, it is possible to identify whether
the problem is ripe for collaboration. The above shown framework also helps identify
is to participate and
he/she will participate. It also identifies
be implemented and
. Although not explicitly included in the above-
mentioned indicators, the questions of
is the agreement to be implemented and
are also relevant.
An additional criterion that should be used to supplement those shown in Table 2
arises as a result of the peculiarities of the tourism industry. In this industry, the main
target (or client) is the tourist. The mere reason why tourism exists and why tourist
destinations are created is because of the tourist. However, in the collaborative tourism
literature, the role of tourists is often neglected. Most of the literature analysed indicates
that all relevant stakeholders should be included in all stages of the collaboration
process (Keogh 1990; Jamal and Getz 1995; Bramwell and Sharman 1999; Jamal and
Getz 1999; Medeiros de Araujo and Bramwell 1999; Parker 1999; Reed 1999; Reed
1999; Ritchie 1999; Sautter and Leisen 1999). However, no author makes explicit the
role of the tourist nor do they provide any guidance as to how to involve the tourist in
the multistakeholder, collaborative process.
A possible explanation for this apparent oversight lies in the concept of
"diffused" or "invisible" stakeholders. I coined this notion of "invisible" stakeholders
because the nature of the tourist activity does not allow him/her to participate in these
processes in a conventional way. Whereas constituencies such as environmental non-
governmental organisations (ENGOs), disadvantaged groups, the host community
and/or the government are stakeholders or participants that are always present in the
destination (geographically speaking), the tourist travels to the destination and leaves
within a very short period of time. Therefore, even though a tourist may have a stake in
the tourism development process, there is no way one can identify
single type of
tourist. Tourists come from all parts of the world, have completely different worldviews
and interests, and the time they spend at the tourism destination is minimal. That is why
they are "invisible" or "diffuse". Therefore, it is important to recognise that stakeholder
participation in policy-making is dependent on the interest that such stakeholder has on
the process and the extent to which that stakeholder or stakeholder group is able to
participate. Visitors are diffuse stakeholders because they change by the
hour/minute/week. One possible way to overcome this issue is to look for stakeholder
input from tourists through focus groups or surveys, according to the specific market
niche being targeted. For instance, for ecotourism destination planning, it would be
advisable to survey ecotourists in other regions and catalyse their input in the
roundtable. Therefore, an additional criterion would be the
who is relevant and why? The guiding questions would be: Who holds a stake in the
issue? Who is relevant to be considered?
Who convenes the
process? Who decides?
Who holds more power?
Who loses more as a
result of the decision?
Who should participate
What is his/her stake in
the issue at hand?
Scientific and technical
Diverse and uneven levels
of knowledge and
What is the issue at hand?
How can we narrow the
problem? What is the real
Who knows about the
issue? What resources
does he/she bring to the
Who is against whom?
What does each
stakeholder want and
What are the interests that
lie behind positions?
Table 3. Expanded Criteria Used to Examine Collaborative Processes in Tourism
These are proposed criteria that are open for discussion. I pose them here to
analyse the case study at hand. The value of these criteria lies in identifying
what not to
throughout the three stages of collaboration, and most importantly, during
A hypothetical case study of coastal zone tourism development
Sayulita, a municipality of 1,370 inhabitants in the southeastern part of Mexico,
is a very beautiful and pristine area. Located about 20 kilometres northeast of Puerto
Vallarta (a major tourist destination in Mexico), Sayulita enjoys the same warm and
comfortable weather as Puerto Vallarta, without the inconveniences of a continuous
stream of tourists (mainly Canadian, European and American citizens). Sayulita is
located about three kilometres off the shoreline and as a result, the beach was named by
the residents "Sayulita Beach". This was the reflection of the sense of ownership felt by
the residents of Sayulita. Until recently, this area was considered one of the most
beautiful non-explored regions in the Mexican coastal zones. The water is clear and the
quality of the sand is superb. The local community bases its economic development on
two major activities: shrimp fishing and services to Puerto Vallarta. Approximately
32% of the community's workforce devotes most of their time to fishing activities while
49% travels every day to Puerto Vallarta to work in restaurants, hotels and tour
operations. The remainder is scattered among a number of activities. Traditionally,
Sayulita had enjoyed relative quietness and had been successful in avoiding tourist
overflows. Occasionally, a few tourists would show up, with little disturbance of the
community's day to day activities.
In the last few years, however, there has been a steady change in the Sayulita
community. Puerto Vallarta seems to have exhausted its carrying capacity for tourists
and more often, visitors have started to spread out and visit other destinations along the
same shoreline (the State of Jalisco coast). As a result, Sayulita has slowly started to
become a tourist destination that caters to the roaming tourist. Tired of the Puerto
Vallarta scene, the new tourist has recognised in Sayulita the opportunity to find
relaxation and solitude while enjoying the warm weather and the sunny, clean beach.
Thus, Sayulita's inflow of tourists has steadily increased from a few hundred in 1992 to
about 25 000 in 1999. The municipal government sees this as an opportunity to boost
economic performance, job creation and increased revenue. However, many residents
have voiced their concern that this increase in tourist flow may be detrimental for the
community livelihood. Pedro Gonzalez, from the Union de Ciudadanos Preocupados de
Sayulita (Union of Concerned Citizens of Sayulita, UCPS) said in an interview with the
local newspaper in September of 1999:
My only concern is that we don't want to become Puerto Vallarta, the
Sayulita Branch. I can only see our beach being damaged by the
irresponsibility and careless attitude of these "
". All they want is
to come, enjoy the sun, have a few beers and get a tan. I am worried that
they will leave their bottles on the sand, or break them causing a potential
damage to people who walk on the sand without any sandals. What about
our houses? If the government wants to bring more tourists in, it needs to
build new hotels, or at least hostels. Tourists won't want to backpack, and
I don't want them camping on the beach. Also, what would happen to our
beautiful forest? I just don't want them (the tourists) to come here. They
can stay in Puerto Vallarta.
Other members of the community also shared this concern. They feared that, if
tourism flourished as the main industry in Sayulita, shrimp fishing would not be as
productive as it used to be. Concerned members voiced fears of change and angst over
possible ecological damages to the coastal zone. They were also preoccupied with the
lack of infrastructure for tourist activities in Sayulita. If tourist destination developers
were to build new facilities to accommodate tourist requirements, they would surely
need to ask residents to move and the government would likely expropriate their land.
Even though Sayulita has the potential to be an emerging tourist destination, many
residents and stakeholder groups are concerned with the ecological and societal impacts
of these new developments.
In May 2000, a group of investors headed by Mr. Luis Perez of Show-Me-The-
Money, Inc., a tourist destination development firm based in Boston, MA, USA, visited
the office of the Municipal President, Mr. Dario Villa. They told Mr. Villa that they
were interested in developing a new hotel within a few metres of the shore, and very
close to downtown Sayulita. This development, Mr. Perez argued, would bring
economic spillovers and boost Sayulita's image as an emerging tourist destination. He
also emphasised that, given the town's dependence of shrimp fishing, it would be in the
best interest of the community to switch economic activities and start working in the
hotel industry. Mr. Villa was quite surprised that anyone would want to build new
hotels in the Sayulita area, mostly because he felt that the town was better off without
any new buildings. After all, they had been able to cope with the increased flow of
tourists in the last few years, hadn't they? He was also quite worried that Mr. Gonzalez
would oppose quite strongly. And the last thing Mr. Villa wanted in this, his last year as
Municipal President, was to engage in any sort of legal battle with the UCPS.
After a three-hour long lunch meeting (all costs on Mr. Perez' tab), Mr. Villa sat
down and thoughtfully meditated on the options which were available, and what he
could do to deal with all the relevant interests. While he was thinking about these
issues, a researcher from the Universidad del Mar (University of the Sea) asked Villa's
secretary to announce her arrival. Dr. Karla Garcia was a specialist in Tourism and
Hospitality Management and her research was focused on the ecological impacts of
tourism and sustainable tourism strategies. Dr. Garcia was looking for approval from
Mr. Villa to initiate a six month long study on the ecological impacts of tourism in
Sayulita. After hanging up from a short phone conversation with his assistant, Villa
pleasantly thought to himself :
"I have an opportunity to be involved in this study, which could help us
understand the ecological impacts of tourism. ) I will ask Dr. Garcia to
assess ecological damages and perform an environmental impact
assessment for the Show-Me-The-Money project. If everything goes
smoothly, and impacts are negligible, I might be able to convince
Gonzalez that this is actually a really good opportunity for Sayulita...
Hmmm, I need to keep my fingers crossed!"
Dr. Garcia sat down in Mr. Villa's office and gracefully thanked him for
taking the time to meet with her. "It's my pleasure, Dr. Garcia", Villa quipped. After a
brief introduction, Mr. Villa asked her directly "Dr. Garcia, would you be interested in
performing an environmental impact assessment of a proposed hotel development in
Sayulita? The Municipal government would be willing to pay for the study, and you
also could combine it with your own research. However, this matter is very urgent, so I
ask you to consider my offer and get back to me promptly". Dr. Garcia thought for five
minutes and responded "Ok, sounds like a good idea. However, I think that you might
be in a better position to tackle this complex issue if you convened a consultation
process. Have you ever heard of multistakeholder processes...?". Mr. Villa promptly
focused all his attention and listened. "Multi... what?", he thought. Dr. Garcia explained
to him that multistakeholder, round-table exercises were being used in Canada and the
US in order to craft policy so that citizens could voice their concerns and take a more
meaningful role in designing and implementing policies that would affect their lives.
These MSPs, as they were called, had many shades and there were a number of different
schemes that could be operationalised. She knew someone who might help design and
implement this process. She took her cell phone and rang her old friend, Mr. Rodrigo
. Mr. Perales was an expert in collaboration for natural resource management
and he happened to be about to take a vacation in Puerto Vallarta. After a quick
briefing, Mr. Perales was on his way to Sayulita. "What are the most pressing issues I
In this short hypothetical story, no character is real. And of course, Rodrigo Perales is Raul Pacheco, in
reality. I thought this would be a good way to present the case study without making it blatantly clear that
I was embedded in the case study.
need to consider at the design and implementation stages?", he thought to himself. He
then turned to his briefcase and opened a book... "Planning in the Face of Power...
.hmmm, yeah I remember. Forester. He was so keen on power relations. Hmmm... I
guess I could use some collaboration theory... ok, now I really need to put my brain to
work". He quickly took the shuttle that left Puerto Vallarta and in less than 2 hours, he
was on his way to his first real challenge: how to design and implement a
multistakeholder process for tourism destination development in a coastal zone in
Mexico. This was going to be a real challenge....
Case Study Analysis
I applied the set of criteria outlined in Table 3 to the case of Sayulita. As it can
be seen, the convener/sponsor of the process is the government. This could (potentially)
lead stakeholder groups to perceive the process to be
if the Municipal
President fails to show that his decisions will be collectively designed and implemented
rather than being the result of unilateral decision-making.
The process was somewhat initiated by Mr. Gonzalez, from the coalition of
concerned citizens (most probably, disempowered citizens in a community as small as
Sayulita with a central municipal government that might have a lot of power). It might
be argued, however, that the coalition would gain power through participation in a
collaborative effort with the municipal authorities and other stakeholders. As a result of
his lobbying efforts and the interview, it seems likely that the Municipal President
would be interested in implementing a collaborative effort. Therefore, the overall score
for perceived illegitimacy might be low if the government decides by itself (which
might be unlikely). In all of these indicators, the goal is to achieve a low score in all
A big problem in this case study is that tourists as stakeholder group are not
involved in the collaborative process. As the case study indicates, stakeholder
constituencies include academia, government, NGOs representing disadvantaged people
and representatives from the business sector. However, the tourist is not present
(therefore it is "invisible"), thus scoring high in perceived
Although the problem is rather complex (sustainable tourism), there are high
chances that the participation of all relevant stakeholders will likely lead to a shared
understanding of what is needed to develop the new hotel without exerting such a big
impact on the shrimp fishery. Therefore, the score for perceived
although likely to be low if participants in the collaborative process take an opportunity
to bring forward their knowledge and expertise.
The case study presents a number of stakeholders with quite antagonistic
positions. Mr. Gonzalez seems to be very concerned with environmental issues and
quite eager to block any new hotel development through lobbying. Mr. Villa seems to
be very eager to please business interests and therefore, likely might gain himself a few
enemies and increase the chances that collaboration will not occur. Therefore, I assigned
a high score in the perceived
criterion. Table 4 summarises my analysis.
The coalition is
High if the
groups are not
High as the tourist
The problem is
to a shared
Medium as there is
still a certain level
of complexity to
Likely NGOs vs
NGOs vs business
clearly defined by
each party and laid
High level of
conflict might be
expected unless a
third party helps
High as the case
take a rather
Table 4. Scores of the Case Study(Sayulita) in Expanded Criteria Used to Examine
Collaborative Processes in Tourism
It can be seen that these criteria provide a guiding framework of issues to take
into account in all three stages of collaboration processes. I have addressed in my
theoretical framework what is the role of a progressive planner in designing and
implementing a MSP. By providing information and correcting distortions and
communicative "noise", a progressive planner is able to correct power imbalances
within the tourism domain. For the analytical framework to work, the adaptive cycle
component of my framework should be taken into account. That is, after going through
the exercise of applying the analytical framework during all three stages of
collaboration (more importantly, during implementation), we should step back and
reflect. What can we do to improve the chances of achieving a low score in all four
criteria? What opportunities can we seize to provide constructive feedback to all the
different stakeholder groups in such a way that learning is fostered and stakeholder
dialogue is more oriented towards the Habermasian notion of "perfect speech"? These
are questions that the progressive planner in charge of implementing this MSP should
reflect upon and find opportunities to perform a catalytic role, thus leading to a more
sustainable tourism industry.
Mr. Perales sat down on his desk, exhausted after a long three-month period.
"Phew! I can't really believe I did survive this process. I thought they would kill me five
minutes into the round table meeting. However, they all seemed genuinely interested in
finding a solution to the basic common-pool resource dilemma they were facing. These
weeks of dialoguing, gathering data, sitting with them to revise options, finding what
they really wanted (not what they thought they wanted), providing feedback, I can't
really believe I did all of that! I just hope I can move forward soon. Only one thing
worries me... what am I going to do about those 'invisible stakeholders'? After all, I
can't reach them all. I need to identify a way to fill in the blanks. They should have a say
in this matter. And... how can I ensure that ecological damages will be minimal? Oh,
yes! I forgot... the results of the environmental impact assessment will be in tomorrow
morning. Dr. Garcia is a great fellow. I should seriously consider hiring her. Or was it
her who hired me? Whatever. I just hope that next time I am in Sayulita it will be as
pristine and beautiful as it is right now. Anyhow, we are working towards that shared
goal. And now... where were those evaluation forms?"
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