The aim of the research is to examine tourism actors’ perceptions of collaborations in Idre, Sweden, and reveal differences and similarities in the way that individual actors value the outcomes of collaborations, in what they consider as important in collaborations and how collaborations in the area take place. This is examined with cognitive mapping taking a social representations theory approach.
Social representations developed by Moscovichi are about a cognitive system at the social level allowing the members of a community to share a common understanding of things communicate and act cohesively (Nicolini 1999). Social representations in tourism have been used so far mainly in examining attitudes of host communities towards tourism. Social representations in the study of tourism place emphasis on the social construction of tourism allowing more power to the members of the community and thus enabling sustainable development (Moscardo, 2011).
Cognitive mapping offers a method to elicit and analyse perceptions an individual holds about a particular domain. Comparisons between cognitive maps can reveal similarities and differences in the way the domain under investigation is constructed and understood while the analysis of the cognitive maps can reveal values and central constructs in individual cognition. These characteristics make cognitive maps particularly attractive in examining social representations. Surprisingly however, hardly any study has attempted to do so.
Using a key informants sampling technique together with snowballing, the study identified eight tourism actors in the area covering several types of tourism stakeholders. A cognitive mapping method based on SODA (Eden and Ackermann, 2001; Farsari, Butler and Szivas, 2010) approach using semi-structured interviews was used to study perceptions of tourism actors in Idre, Sweden, about collaborations. Data were analysed using Decision Explorer’s analytical tools. Value, hieset, potency, domain, centrality and cluster analysis were used to analyse cognitive maps and reveal goals, key issues and clusters in the perceptions of tourism stakeholders about collaborations in Idre. Consequently, the individual maps were compared against these findings to reveal similarities and differences in the perceptions of tourism actors.
This is still a work in progress. Results are expected to reveal key issues in collaborations between tourism actors in Idre, as well as similarities and differences in the way actors construct their perceptions of collaborations. This comparison will allow revealing well established notions in collaborations in the area as well as differences and gaps that might hinder them. Results are discussed in light of representations theory to highlight whether there is some consensus in the understanding of collaborations in the area.
Practical implications include the identification of important aspects in actors’ collaborations. In this way collaborations might be strengthened enhancing sustainable tourism development in the area. Theoretical contribution of the research emanates from the studying of social representations in collaborations and moreover using a cognitive mapping method. Hardly any study has used cognitive mapping to examine social representations. This research aims at exploring the use of a specific cognitive mapping method to this direction and thus potentially offer the ground for more research in the area. Very importantly, with this method, findings are not only based on the content but also on the way actors structure their perceptions allowing a more thorough understanding and studying of them.
23rd Nordic Symposium on Tourism and Hospitality Research, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, 2-4 October 2014