Social innovation and sustainable economic development: Participatory tourism destination management
This chapter addresses the role of bottom up innovation to support sustainable local development, in particular in local tourism development as a priority sector for economic development in Western Balkan countries. The case study presented in this chapter is about social innovation for sustainable tourism in a small town in Albania, namely Gramsh. As the findings suggest, sustainable tourism can be developed in peripheral territories with typical problems like high rate of unemployment, lack of infrastructure, emigration, lack of investments, and rather weak local government. Bottom up driven tourism innovation strengthens the endogenous development potential. Such an approach fosters local identity formation and self-identification of the citizens with their own territory and local resources. It is studied through the social network theory, analysing the processes of community organisation aimed at tourism destination development and promotion. The local authority should augment such processes through the provision of the necessary strategic framework, including a shared vision, in order to harvest all benefits. The experiment in Gramsh can now be further elaborated into a model that other small towns can adopt too. As a reflection on literature, this case study provides much needed empirical indications on doing sustainable tourism in the Western Balkans. In a context of the at times over-optimistic or rather critical literature on sustainable tourism, such empirical results should be a welcome contribution.