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Reworking tourism for the circular economy paradigm

Project Description

The project seeks to establish the current adoption of circular economy (CE) practice in tourism and identify strategies for accelerating the implementation of circularity within the sector. The CE models promote value creation through the restoration, regeneration and reuse of resources as well as models of consumption that move away from ownership to sharing. CE is a particularly timely concept for tourism where on one hand, new models of collaborative tourist consumption are emerging, as evidenced in the rise of AirBnB ,and on the other, there is growing backlash against the extractive and exploitative form of tourism typified by overtourism and platform capitalism. Furthermore, existing destination governance and planning systems are insufficient or inadequate in addressing the significant and transformative challenges with which tourism actors are confronted. Adopting CE models should make tourism more sustainable in principle, but there remains limited understanding and application of the concept in practice. In addition, transitioning from linear to circular business models necessitates the coordination of many actors in the policy environment and at various levels of public administration.

The project will seek to understand firstly, current corporate engagement with CE in tourism and secondly, will consider the impact of public sector organisations’ plans, recommendations and initiatives on private sector practices to explore the emerging economic spaces and produce typologies or frameworks that can be incorporated in destination management and planning systems.

The project will consider one or more of the following questions
1) How is the CE paradigm currently conceptualised in tourism?
2) How can tourism contribute to the shift towards a circular economy?
3) Which new business models and innovation strategies are required for the adoption of CE practices in tourism?
4) How can tourism SMEs may be supported in adopting CE practices?
5) How can the public sector create a supportive environment and encourage the adoption of circularity in tourism?

Part time applicants are welcome

Academic qualifications
A first degree (at least a 2:1) ideally in a related area or interdisciplinary field such as tourism, planning, governance, business and management studies, economics, human geography or public administration with a good fundamental knowledge of tourism and/or planning and sustainability issues.

English language requirement
IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other equivalent qualifications will be accepted.

Essential attributes
- Experience of fundamental understanding of tourism management concepts
- Competent in applying a range of business related theories
- Knowledge of CE and sustainability issues
- Good written and oral communication skills
- Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project
- Good time management skills

Desirable attributes
- Some competence in research methods gained through undertaking an undergraduate or postgraduate dissertation
- Training in quantitative and/or qualitative data analysis software

Funding Notes

Standard UK R&I maintenance allowance of £14,777 will be offered across three years, if required. £4,680 will be offered annually over three years towards fees. The successful candidate will receive a standard Edinburgh Napier studentship including payment of the equivalent of the Home PGR level of full-time fees for three academic years, plus 36 monthly stipend payments at the prevailing rate set by UK R&I. European students may also apply but take note that should the fee rate between Home and EU/International students change during the studentship, any potential balance of fees will have to be covered by the student.


Alfonso Vargas-Sánchez, (2018) "The unavoidable disruption of the circular economy in tourism", Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 10 Issue: 6, pp.652-661,

Cave, J. and Dredge, D. (2018) Reworking Tourism: Diverse Economies in a Changing World, Tourism Planning & Development, 15(5), 473- 477.

Interreg (undated) CIRTOINNO - Circular economy tools to support innovation in green and blue tourism SMEs, Available from:,

Scottish Government (2016) Making Things Last A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland, Available from:,

UNWTO (2018) Circular economy: exploring an innovative approach for the tourism sector Webinar n°13: Date 6th of June 2018, 14:00-15:00 CEST, Available from:,

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