The objective of this study was to analyze the evolution of tourism competitiveness over the years, ascertaining the state of the art and the degree of consensus among scholars on its constituent elements to propose an integrative and updated concept.
A set of 130 definitions on tourism competitiveness formulated between 1999–2018 was analyzed and segmented into three periods, allowing its historical evolution to be ascertained. It is a qualitative and quantitative exploratory research that uses a combination of techniques, namely, content analysis, analysis of co-words and consensus analysis.
The results indicated a low use of elements such as the quality of life and the environment in the authors' definitions during 1999–2018, although these elements were present in the first concept of tourism competitiveness by Crouch and Ritchie (1999, 2003). Another finding of this study shows a reduction in the analysis of tourism competitiveness based on the supply and demand side. Nowadays, the research tends to turn on the basis of the population directly affected. It also reveals the enrichment of the theoretical corpus with new lines of research arising and new groups of scholars of the subject, consequently a new frontier in tourism competitiveness.
The authors recommend deepening the analysis in each category of conceptual elements of tourism competitiveness to identify the origins of the low consensus. The authors also suggest conducting further research on the largest invisible schools of thought on this subject to understand their relations and perspectives, and thus to advance in the theoretical streams of the field. Finally, it is imperative to develop research on new models and monitors of tourism competitiveness that meet its renewed concept and integrate dimensions to consider the perspective of supply, demand, tourists and residents, as well as not excluding the economic bias but including the social side.
Owing to the fact that monitors of tourism competitiveness have practically no variables related to the social, most of the surveys are carried out from the supply or demand perspective, leaving the resident distant from the process. In this way, the results allow authors to indicate that new models of competitiveness measurement should be formulated based on the vision of the community impacted by tourism, i.e. a new version of tourism competitiveness not based on productivity but rather on the social aspect.
The findings of this study contribute to the field literature by offering an integrative concept of tourism competitiveness based on the elements with a higher level of consensus among researchers. Furthermore, the results accentuate a worrying fact regarding the operationalization of this concept, as the theoretical basis is not expressed in the monitors of competitiveness. Thus, nor it is possible in the management of the tourism industry.