Sustainable Water Management in the Hotel Sector: A Policy Network Analysis of Singapore

Author: Hu, Xiao

Publisher: University of Otago

Type: Thesis

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University of Otago


Tourism has become one of the most profound economic, social and environmental phenomena since World War II. Over-exploitation of resources in the tourism context, however, can lead to breakdown or collapse of the resource base and harm to ecosystems. Freshwater is one the most critical and scarce natural resources for sustainable tourism development as all tourism activities heavily rely on adequate and quality water resources. However, an ever-growing global population, urbanisation and rapid tourism development are compounding water scarcity problems in many destinations. In particular, substantial volumes of water are used directly or indirectly by the accommodation sector – one of the essential subsectors of tourism. Subsequently, there is a need for sustainable tourism policies, including water policies, to be established at tourist destinations in order to prevent overuse of this resource. In essence, such policymaking should reflect the values of sustainable tourism in a dynamic system in which policy stakeholders reach consensus on issues concerning water use through interactive engagement. It could be argued that stakeholders’ behaviour is influenced by multiple and interdependent relationships among all the other stakeholders in policy formulation and implementation. Consequently, it is suggested that formulating and implementing sustainable tourism policies is based on understanding the multiple relationships among the policy stakeholders and identifying their positions in the sustainable tourism policy network. Therefore, based on a case study of water demand management (WDM) in Singapore, this research explores, using a network approach, how the structure of relations among policy stakeholders can influence water policymaking in the hotel sector – a critical and important user of water in this water-constrained destination. To achieve this goal, the study examines relationships among stakeholders to determine the roles and contribution of salient stakeholders in policymaking. The study was conducted in three stages. The first two stages used a qualitative approach and the third stage employed a quantitative methodology. The first stages involve a preliminary document review (hermeneutic) and participant observation to collect data on ‘seed’ policy actors. A snowball sampling technique was conducted in the second stage to compile a complete stakeholder list. The sample of policy stakeholders in this study includes 33 stakeholders/stakeholder groups from three clusters – the public, private and third sectors. Policy document analysis and questionnaire survey were then used concurrently to collect data in the quantitative stage. Both network analysis and statistical analysis were applied to examine the data. Social network analysis (SNA) longitudinally examines the structural changes in the sustainable policy system on the basis of a content analysis undertaken of public policy documents produced from 2001–2015. Main policy document contributors (i.e. policy stakeholders) and key ‘policy topics’ were identified in this dynamic and interconnected policy system. Following this, the connections between policy stakeholders and between ‘policy topics’ were documented and presented in correlation matrices. The study also discusses the associations between policy stakeholders and ‘policy topics’ in the policy field over the 15-year time span. Results of the longitudinal network studies reveal the structure of the policy system and illustrate the evolution of sustainability issues in the tourism water management policy domain. Data on the current relationship among policy stakeholders were collected by survey instruments. The relationship structures are visualised and measured from the perspective of social network theory. Core attributes identifying important stakeholders were also employed in this study based on the stakeholder approach. The structural positions of the most central stakeholder across current and longitudinal networks suggest that the Public Utilities Board (PUB), the national water agency of Singapore, has been taking a significant leading role in sustainable tourism policymaking. Moreover, the policy leader is identified as a broker stakeholder that should shoulder the role of bridging the stakeholder network relationships. The findings make a contribution to sustainable tourism policymaking by exploring the multiple relationships and interdependent relationship patterns of stakeholders for water policymaking within a tourism context. A policymaking framework is introduced by identifying critical stakeholders of sustainable tourism through the stakeholder approach and the network analysis. This study argues that achieving sustainable tourism would depend on the extent to which tourist destinations develop a participative policymaking framework in which divergent stakeholders – both those who can affect or be affected by sustainable tourism development – are engaged and their issues are included into a policy system. This might be instrumental for the formulation and implementation of sustainable tourism policies and the sustainable development of tourism, both in theory and practice.

Subjects: Water demand policy, Hotel sector, Document analysis, Network analysis, Longitudinal analysis, Singapore

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