Systems Thinking in Tourism

ATLAS Special Interest Group
Systems Thinking in Tourism


The coordinator for this Special Interest Group is:
Kyriaki Glyptou

Leeds Beckett University
United Kingdom


The contemporary reality of economy, society and the ecosystem are permeated by unprecedented levels of complexity and uncertainty. Navigating these challenges requires an innovative transition of perceptual, operational and managerial mindset that considers dynamic system interconnectedness and emphasises adaptability, resilience and collaboration. Systems Thinking, conceptualises phenomena as complex interdependent and interconnected entities of elements rather than simple sets of fragmented components linked through linear cause-effect patterns. In fact, thinking in systems extends the Aristotelian stance where the system as a whole is greater than the sum of its components, and it exhibits emergent, adaptive, transformative and evolutionary properties that arise through their ongoing dynamic interactions. Tourism is well recognised as an open system of multiple components and dimensions.


The complex nature of tourism is best studied through the interpretive lens of in between and across system relationships (context and connections), perspectives (stakeholder interests), and boundaries (scope and scale) that drive change management and decision making through feedback loops. Systems thinking allows for the recognition of these dynamic patterns that dictate a tourism system behaviour and supports adaptive strategies that foster its resilience and long-term sustainability. In this regard it is most appropriate to capture system vulnerabilities particularly under adversity (crisis) and uncertainty. Applying systems thinking in tourism management, decision making, and policy allows the simultaneous consideration of the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional aspects of tourism along the multiple stakeholders interests. More importantly it extends to the anticipation of both intended and unintended implications of decisions, and the recognition of the long-term impacts of short-term actions.


Within the contemporary climate, the traditional reductionist approaches achieve the in-depth consideration of selective aspects of tourism on the expense of their long-term impact to the systems equilibrium and behaviour. Instead, there is a clear need for approaches that inherently acknowledge the holistic tourism system dynamics and ensure its long-term resilience particularly under adversity and uncertainty. The proposed SIG on Systems Thinking in Tourism will aim to mainstream the systemic consideration in tourism and to advance the academic discourse in the exploration of tourism systems boundaries, absorptive and transforming capacity, resilience and evolutionary behaviour. It will thus support informed tourism management, policy support and decision making in a variety of complex contemporary contexts.


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

The SIG will consider (but will not be limited to) the following topics:

  • Tourism System Feedback Loops and Boundaries
  • Tourism decision making under uncertainty
  • Tourism Policy Support in times of adversity
  • Dynamic Tourism System Behaviour
  • The complexity of tourism system
  • Methodological advancements in complex tourism systems thinking
  • Systems Thinking Methods of Analysis
  • Modelling and Simulations for Assessing Impacts
  • Scenario Building
  • Tourism Resilience
  • Tourism System Adaptation & Transformation Capacity
  • Conceptualisation of the tourism destination
  • Systems Thinking application in other disciplines (e.g. Leisure)

Aims and Objectives

The SIG aims to advance Systems Thinking in Tourism through the exploration of tourism systems boundaries, tourism system evolutionary behaviour, absorptive and transforming capacity and tourism system resilience particularly under uncertainty and adversity.


Its main objectives include:

  • Advancing the conceptualisation of the tourism system in the current environment through the knowledge sharing and collaborative research between academics, tourism professionals, decision and policy makers.
  • Conceptualising and operationalising the tourism system dynamics in the context of other SIGs (e.g. Climate Change and Tourism, AI and Tourism, Space, Place and Mobilities in Tourism, Urban Tourism, Circular Economy and Tourism)
  • Advocating the value of Systems Thinking in tourism management, policy and decision-support.
  • Networking and fostering a community of scholars and practitioners of System Thinkers in Tourism, to foster connections and build a supportive environment for discussion and collaboration.
  • Exploring and critically discussing the methodological advancements in systems thinking in tourism and the organisation of relevant training and development opportunities (e.g. research design, skills, tools and software).
  • Designing opportunities for collaborative projects, research and funding.
    Advancing academic outputs through webinars/seminars, workshops, conferences, and coordinating special issues in journals and edited books.
  • Mentoring early career researchers (including PhD students) interested in the field, providing opportunities for learning, networking and skill development.


Work Plan for 2024

  • Launch of the SIG and enrolment of new members.
  • Members meeting to discuss: (a) SIG content and networking priorities; (b) SIG housekeeping (roles and responsibilities)
  • Inaugural SIG meeting and Special Track at the ATLAS 2024 Conference
  • Organisation of Webinars/Workshops on selected topics
  • Explore opportunities for SIG members collaborations (funding applications and research papers writing)

Long-term: Special Issue on Systems Thinking in Tourism in a peer-reviewed journal.


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