Road block(chain): Bit(coin)s for tourism sustainable development goals?

Author(s)

Aaron Tham, Marianna Sigala

Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to discuss the disrupting usage and impacts of blockchains and cryptocurrencies and advocate their role as enablers of sustainable tourism development goals.


Design/methodology/approach Literature on blockchains and cryptocurrencies is critically synthesized, debated and expanded to identify and discuss their implications toward sustainable tourism futures.


Findings As a distributive digital ledger, blockchains have the potential to create a more inclusive tourism future to address debates around tourism as a vehicle for sustainable development that alludes to value accruing to only certain providers and consumers. Blockchains and their cryptocurrencies (as a financial transaction capability) elevate trust and relational capabilities in an expedited and holistic manner, democratize participation in economic systems and re-distribute power and economic relations amongst actors by influencing the way data (the currency of the digital economy and the lifeblood of tourism) is collected, stored, exchange, owned and traded for co-creating value.


Research limitations/implications The paper is conceptual and speculative by identifying ways in which blockchain and cryptocurrencies can support sustainable tourism development goals. Directions for future research are provided for further elaborating and collecting primary evidence on whether the premise and applications of these technologies can deliver the acclaimed sustainable impacts.


Originality/value The paper contributes to the emerging but controversial literature about the trajectories between technology and sustainability by critically debating on how blockchains, through cryptocurrency economies, can be positioned to facilitate sustainable tourism futures.