Circular Economy


ATLAS Special Interest Group
Circular Economy and Circularity in the Space of Tourism and Hospitality

The coordinators for this Special Interest Group are:
Lucia Tomassini
NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences
The Netherlands
Elena Cavagnaro
Professor at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences
The Netherlands


The Circular Economy is at the centre of a growing debate and legislative initiatives both within Europe and globally. In 2015, the European Commission adopted the Circular Economy Action Plan as a policy to accelerate Europe’s transition towards a Circular Economy. The Action Plan has been renewed in 2020. The United Nations identified the Circular Economy Action Plan as a best practice to prompt the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is striking, therefore, that despite the increasing interest in the circularity paradigm, academics and professionals in the tourism and hospitality sector seem only partially involved in the discussion.


The Circular Economy has been so far investigated predominantly with regards to products and framed in terms of eco-effectiveness and eco-efficiency, with benefits at both environmental and economic levels. The implications of the Circular Economy for the space of tourism and hospitality have remained largely unexplored and under theorised, especially with regards to its social implications in a complex service-oriented sector like the one of tourism and hospitality. The idea of an economy that can become ‘circular’ is grounded into an ancient understanding of the cyclic patterns of continuous regenerative processes where ‘circularity’ appears as a principle of order and continuity. Hence, the idea of ‘circularity’ is an ancient archetype that human beings have used through the centuries to make sense of life on Earth, of the biological processes of our ecosystem, and of the cyclic nature of materials.


Framing circularity as a means to contribute to sustainable development in the space of tourism and hospitality implies being able to simultaneously create value in the environmental, economic, and social dimensions. While the latter is usually overlooked in studies and theorisations of Circular Economy, the creation of circular regenerative processes can generate new value in the social dimension by enriching it with a multiplicity of novel relations, connections, and networks among human and non-human stakeholders. This means also localising the tourism and hospitality economy and supply chain in the local space by creating ‘smaller’ loops prompting the active involvement of human (and non-human) stakeholders and re-designing new power-relationships, networks, and connections among them. This can happen because the ‘space’ of tourism and hospitality is not just a flat surface that people, capital, and products transit, but a multidimensional situation within which different types of relationships, networks and connections take place, together with different type of practices and behaviours. With regards to the latter, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the pivotal role played by individual choices and behaviours in adopting new paradigms and – consequently – the need to focus on behavioural informed interventions. Therefore, a critical reflection on Circular Economy and a further exploration of the notion of ‘circularity’ in the space of tourism and hospitality can be interweaved with theorisations of degrowth – and a-growth – as well as with features of sociology of space, pro-social and pro-environmental behaviour, network theory, posthumanism, and collaborative economy.


If you want to contact the SIG coordinator, please fill in the form HERE
If you want to join this SIG, please fill in the form HERE


Annual review of activities 2022

The provision work plan for 2022 / 2023 consists of:

  • Dec 2022 – Launch the novel Special Interest Group and enrolment of new members
  • Feb 2023 – ATLAS Webinar on Circular Economy and Circularity in the Space of Tourism and Hospitality to be organised on annual basis at least once per year, possibly twice
  • During 2023 – Organising an additional track or thematic session in the coming ATLAS Europe Conference and/or with an event organised, preferably by another ATLAS SIG, to stimulate cooperation
  • End of 2023 / beginning 2024 – Call for papers for a Special Issue based on the additional track / thematic session and/or ATLAS SIG Webinar Circular Economy and Circularity in the Space of Tourism and Hospitality 
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