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Sustainable Tourism Development and Economic Growth: Bibliometric Review and Analysis

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Over the past decade, there has been a growing interest in studying the impact of sustainable tourism development on economic growth. However, despite its recent scope, the scientific literature published so far has not evaluated the performance of the scientific activity of this relationship. Consequently, this study analyzes the 668 articles published to date in the Web of Science database on the effect that sustainable tourism development has on the overall long-term progress of the economy. To this end, we carry out an analysis of the most recognized authors, regions with the highest percentage of scientific production, most influential organizations, the co-occurrence of keywords, most prominent citations, publications, and co-authorship among the most recognized authors. The results obtained show the trend and impact of the literature published to date and the established and emerging research groups. Also, they identify key research topics in a way that provides a planning framework for further research in this field.
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Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042270 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Article
Sustainable Tourism Development and Economic Growth:
Bibliometric Review and Analysis
Ana León-Gómez 1,*, Daniel Ruiz-Palomo 2, Manuel A. Fernández-Gámez 2 and Mercedes Raquel García-Revilla 3
1 Ph.D. Tourism Program, University of Málaga, Campus Teatinos, 29071 Málaga, Spain; ana.leon@uma.es
2 Department of Finance and Accounting, University of Málaga, Campus El Ejido, 29071 Málaga, Spain;
drp@uma.es (D.R.-P.); mangel@uma.es (M.A.F.-G.)
3 Department of Tourism and Marketing, Distance University Madrid, 28400 Madrid, Spain;
mercedesraquel.garcia@udima.es
* Correspondence: ana.leon@uma.es
Abstract: Over the past decade, there has been a growing interest in studying the impact of sustain-
able tourism development on economic growth. However, despite its recent scope, the scientific
literature published so far has not evaluated the performance of the scientific activity of this rela-
tionship. Consequently, this study analyzes the 668 articles published to date in the Web of Science
database on the effect that sustainable tourism development has on the overall long-term progress
of the economy. To this end, we carry out an analysis of the most recognized authors, regions with
the highest percentage of scientific production, most influential organizations, the co-occurrence of
keywords, most prominent citations, publications, and co-authorship among the most recognized
authors. The results obtained show the trend and impact of the literature published to date and the
established and emerging research groups. Also, they identify key research topics in a way that
provides a planning framework for further research in this field.
Keywords: sustainable tourism; tourism development; economic growth; bibliometrics;
literature review
1. Introduction
Tourism is a constantly growing and economically important sector on a global and
local level. It is of vital economic, social, and cultural importance and offers real prospects
for sustainable and inclusive development [1]. Such is the importance of this sector that
the number of tourist trips made each year before the arrival of COVID-19 came to surpass
the world population [2]. International tourist arrivals exceeded 1.5 billion globally in
2019, representing an increase of 3.8% year-on-year [1]. Likewise, this figure is expected
to continue to rise, with a forecast of 1.8 billion international tourists by 2030 [3], although
this may be revised after the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic [4] (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Comparison of international tourists before and after the pandemic.
Citation: León-Gómez, A.;
Ruiz-Palomo, D.; Fernández-Gámez,
M.A.; García-Revilla, M.R.
Sustainable Tourism Development
and Economic Growth: Bibliometric
Review and Analysis. Sustainability
2021, 13, 2270. https://doi.org/
10.3390/su13042270
Academic Editor: Alina Badulescu
Received: 14 January 2021
Accepted: 16 February 2021
Published: 19 February 2021
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neu-
tral with regard to jurisdictional
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tutional affiliations.
Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Li-
censee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and con-
ditions of the Creative Commons At-
tribution (CC BY) license (http://crea-
tivecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 2 of 20
After six decades of steady growth, tourism has been established as an indispensable
engine of economic growth. In this sense, it should be noted that in 2019 the travel and
tourism sector experienced a growth of 3.5%, surpassing the growth of the global econ-
omy of 2.5% for the ninth consecutive year [5]. From another perspective, we can see that
the sector directly contributes 4.4% of GDP, 6.9% of employment, and 21.5% of exports of
services in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)countries
[6]. In this regard, Figure 2 shows the 15 countries with the highest percentage of contri-
bution to GDP in terms of the travel and tourism sector.
Figure 2. Top 15 largest countries in terms of travel and tourism GDP contribution.
However, the negative impacts of COVID-19 are not only limited to the loss of human
lives but also include short and long-term social, economic, and political effects [7]. A
longer and more intensive COVID-19 is likely to reduce global growth to 1.5% in 2020,
which is half the projected growth rate before 2020, with implications for international
tourism [8]. The International Monetary Fund predicts that the COVID-19 outbreak will
cause a global recession in 2020 that could be worse than the one triggered by the global
financial crisis of 2008–2009 [7]. Likewise, the COVID-19 outbreak will have serious con-
sequences for international tourism, with decisive effects on the economic growth and
prosperity of various nations [4,9].
The economic importance of tourism and its growth is an area that has significant
value today, and therefore it is not surprising that there is a large body of literature that
highlights the different impacts of tourism [2,3,7,10]. Similarly, a key aspect for tourism is
sustainability, since it is considered a way to satisfy the needs of the stakeholders, taking
into account economic impact as well as current and future social and environmental con-
ditions [1,11,12]. Consequently, sustainability and the limits of its growth are a constant
concern within the tourism sector [13–19].
In recent years, various reviews of the literature on sustainable tourism development
and economic growth have been completed. These reviews have identified various cur-
rent topics covered in the current research literature. Each study has provided information
about the field examined, but further analysis of this literature using rigorous bibliometric
tools may provide more information that has not been fully understood or evaluated be-
fore. In this way, bibliometric tools can be a powerful way to identify established and
emerging current areas, as well as identifying research groups and researchers to show
how various areas of thought may have arisen based on institutional and author charac-
teristics. Identifying the most influential researchers within a group paves the way for
determining additional emerging fields of study by pinpointing more recent topics cov-
ered by these researchers [20].
The current study, therefore, presents a comprehensive evaluation of the influence of
sustainable tourism development on economic growth, starting with a group of more than
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15,000 published articles and filtering this group to find specialized works on the pro-
posed topic. From these results, additional insights are also gained about current research
interests and possible directions for future research.
2. Conceptual Framework
The empirical literature published so far has not specified a universally accepted def-
inition of sustainable tourism development [13], although recent evidence on the matter
suggests that one of the most widely used definitions of the concept is that provided by
the World Trade Organization (WTO), which defines it as a “development that meets the
needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity
for the future” [21]. However, the empirical literature continues to analyze a series of fun-
damental questions for the development of sustainable tourism, and many relevant ques-
tions in this area remain unresolved. Without forgetting that its genesis is associated with
the maintenance of environmental quality [22,23], it is of particular importance that eve-
rything done now will not harm future generations [22]. Therefore, the assessment of
long-term economic, environmental, and community health is deemed necessary [24].
Thus, recently, researchers have examined the effects of sustainability within tourism [25]
since it is considered a paradigm that characterizes the future of this sector [16]. For this
reason, in recent years, there has been growing interest in studying this relationship, high-
lighting the importance and difficulty of improving sustainability in tourism [10,26] but
also identifying it as a fundamental tool for competitiveness [14,27].
Studies on economic growth demonstrate the impact of the tourist impulse on the
general progress of the economy in the long term [28]. To this end, many governments
have been involved in the development of tourism for economic growth, because it has a
great capacity to distribute wealth, contribute to the development of emerging economies,
and generate income through exports [10,28–32]. However, it can also exert long-term
negative impacts on the environment [33] and damage the future economic development
of tourist destinations [10]. Therefore, tourism is a transcendental tool to promote a devel-
opment proposal according to sustainability criteria [10,19,34].
In recent decades, many researchers have tried to determine the effects of sustainable
tourism development on economic growth [15,19,35]. In general, this approach has been
used to show the growing importance of this relationship by identifying research gaps
and specific areas of interest. Linking of the literature between authors, topics, and re-
search fields has been completed through content analysis and descriptive statistics. Alt-
hough we can verify that this relationship has been widely studied in the previous litera-
ture, we consider it interesting to carry out a study of the size, growth, and distribution of
existing scientific documents, as well as to delve into the structure of the groups that are
interested in these documents. Therefore, the present study aims to recognize the various
research currents in the literature on the influence of sustainable tourism development on
economic growth. In this way, the results will make it possible to identify areas of interest
for current research and possible directions for future research.
3. Research Methodology
The main purpose of bibliometric reviews is to assess the body of existing empirical
literature to determine possible research gaps and highlight the limits of knowledge [20].
The bibliometric analysis uses quantitative methods to classify data, produces representa-
tive summaries, and is recognized as a useful approach to analyzing the performance of
journals, institutions, authors, and the characteristics of research topics [36]. In our study,
to quantify the influence of publications, authors, and journals, we have analyzed various
bibliometric indicators, including the number of publications, total citations, citations per
article, the main journals, most relevant universities, and the most influential countries in
the matter.
Search terms used for data collection include “Sustainable Tourism”, “Tourism De-
velopment” and “Economic Growth”. Three combinations of these keywords were also
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 4 of 20
used, including (1) Sustainable Tourism AND Tourism Development, (2) Sustainable
Tourism AND Economic Growth, (3) Tourism Development AND Economic Growth, and
(4) Sustainable Tourism, Tourism Development, AND Economic Growth.
3.1. Initial Search Results
We use the search “subject, title, abstract, keywords” in the Web of Science (WoS)
database because it is one of the most-used databases in the academic field, compiling
data on a large scale and producing statistics based on bibliometric indicators [37,38]. In-
itial search attempts resulted in a total of 14,993 articles. A breakdown of the search results
for the four sets of keywords is shown in Table 1.
Table 1. The initial search results.
Search Keywords Search Results
(no. of Papers)
Sustainable Tourism AND Tourism Development 10,394
Sustainable Tourism AND Economic Growth 1132
Tourism Development AND Economic Growth 3467
Sustainable Tourism AND Tourism Development AND Economic Growth 976
Total 14,993
3.2. Refinement of Search Results
Of the 14,993 articles in Table 1, we decided to refine the search so that, in our data-
base, only articles in English, belonging to the categories of Business Economics, Social
work, Social Sciences, Environmental Sciences Ecology, Sociology, Computer Science, En-
gineering, Mathematics, Government Law, Social Issues, Education Educational Research,
and Women Studies, appear. These adjustments reduce the total number of items to 9,549.
Table 2 shows the number of articles after refinement for each of the four search catego-
ries. Although we observe that Sustainable Tourism, Tourism Development, and Eco-
nomic Growth are topics that are highly analyzed in the existing empirical literature, we
also perceive that the combination of the three terms had hardly been studied.
The concept of sustainable development has been based initially on the premise of
economic growth [17]. Likewise, the sustainable development of tourism has been consid-
ered a dynamic process that constantly experiences new challenges as applied technolo-
gies and the consumption aspects of tourism change [39]. Consequently, we decided to
focus our analysis on the development of sustainable tourism and economic growth, so
that our research aims to develop a bibliometric study of the influence of sustainable tour-
ism development on economic growth.
When carrying out bibliometric analysis of a research field, the first step is to evaluate
the available databases, their suitability, and the consequences of the use of one or the
other [40]. For this purpose, 668 articles resulting from the search for the keywords Sus-
tainable Tourism AND Tourism Development AND Economic Growth were selected. In
this way, a database with 668 references in the WoS was created, which is the basis for the
empirical study (Table 2).
Table 2. Search results after refinement.
Search Keywords Search Results
(no. of Papers)
Sustainable Tourism AND Tourism Development 6424
Sustainable Tourism AND Economic Growth 774
Tourism Development AND Economic Growth 2351
Sustainable Tourism AND Tourism Development AND Economic Growth 668
Total 9549
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 5 of 20
3.3. Data Analysis
To observe the evolution of the field of empirical knowledge analyzed in this re-
search, we have adopted an inductive approach through bibliometric analysis of scientific
production [41]. Likewise, classification of the literature in this study is completed with
the analysis of real data through the use of a deductive approach [20]. Therefore, the pur-
pose of this study is to combine inductive and deductive approaches through the data
collection method called triangulation, incorporating different data sources and different
authors (e.g., current authors, academic experts, and industry experts) [42]. Data analysis
is carried out through bibliometric analysis, the results of which are presented in Section
4.2. This analysis was performed with a VOS viewer due to its ability to work efficiently
with large data sets and provide a range of visualization, analysis, and innovative research
[20]. It is also an effective tool for performing scientific map analysis of journal publica-
tions as it has a powerful graphical user interface and maps display capabilities [38]. For
this reason, we decided to complete the bibliometric analysis with two analyses of net-
work visualizations: map density based on co-occurrence of keywords and map density
based on network data connected by co-authorship items. Keyword term co-occurrence
analysis represents the number of times that two terms occur together in a set of posts
[43]. For this, map density based on the co-occurrence of keywords was used. Specifically,
the full count method was applied, which means that each co-occurrence link had the
same weight [44]. For its part, co-authorship network analysis shows the number of pub-
lications co-authored by at least two authors [38]. The vision of density is convenient to
glimpse the common structure of the authors and highlight the most significant authors
in this field [45]. For this purpose, the aforementioned map density based on network data
connected by co-authorship items was used. Thus, each point in the item density display
has a color that indicates the consistency of items at that point. By default, the colors are
blue, green, and yellow. The greater the number of elements in the vicinity of a point and
the greater the weight of the contiguous elements, the closer the color of the point will be
to yellow [46].
4. Results
4.1. Initial Data Statistics
Figure 3 shows the trend in the number of articles published since 2005 because this
year began a growing interest in the study of the influence of sustainable tourism devel-
opment on economic growth. Although this field is still in its period of growth and ex-
pansion, these results show that there is a gradual growth in publications.
Figure 3. Articles are published every year.
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Initial statistics show that 285 journals have contributed to the publication of 668 ar-
ticles. Also, it was found that 25 journals (represented in Table 3) have published 353 ar-
ticles, which represents approximately 53% of all published articles. Similarly, Appendix
A1 shows the number of articles each year from the top 10 editorial journals that contrib-
ute to the area of sustainable tourism development and economic growth.
Table 3. The top 25 journals that contribute to the area of sustainable tourism development and
economic growth.
Titles Records
Sustainability 42
Tourism Economics 34
Tourism Management 32
Current Issues in Tourism 30
Environmental Science and Pollution Research 23
Journal of Sustainable Tourism 23
Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research 20
Journal of Travel Research 19
Annals of Tourism Research 17
Tourism Analysis 13
Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes 13
International Journal of Tourism Research 10
Anatolia International Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Research 9
Tourism Planning Development 9
Journal of Cleaner Production 8
Tourism Management Perspectives 8
Tourism Planning and Development 8
Anatolia 7
International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology 7
Journal of Destination Marketing Management 6
Journal of Policy Research in Tourism Leisure and Events 5
Science of The Total Environment 5
Tourism 5
4.2. Bibliometric Analysis
This study is inspired by the methodology used in the previous literature on biblio-
metrics [47–50]. This methodology has been used to perform bibliometric analyses of spe-
cific journals [18,49–51] and research areas such as tourism [10,52], Kuznets environmen-
tal curves [53], environment [54,55] and economy [56–58]. As a consequence, a systematic
quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the literature of 668 WoS publications related to
the study of the influence of sustainable tourism development on economic growth was
carried out. In this bibliometric analysis, we determine the interconnections between arti-
cles by analyzing the frequency with which other articles cite another given article related
to a specific study domain. Subsequently, the file was imported into a VOS viewer, and
the most influential authors, articles, journals, research papers, institutions, and countries
were extracted. Likewise, a mapping of appointments related to sustainable tourism de-
velopment and economic growth was carried out. These results allowed us to explore the
research streams of articles related to the influence of sustainable tourism development
on economic growth. Similarly, we have carried out two network analyses to complete
our study, the aforementioned map density based on co-occurrence of keywords, and the
map density based on network data connected by co-authorship items.
To find the most prolific and influential authors in the field of this research, the num-
ber of articles published by each author based on the influence of sustainable tourism de-
velopment on economic growth was extracted from the database. Table 4 indicates the top
ten contributing authors and the number of articles in which they were authors or co-
authors. The results indicate that Zaman and Croes occupy the first and second positions
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 7 of 20
on the list, respectively. It should be noted that Croes and Nijkamp are co-authors of a
large number of articles with each other. Likewise, Nijkamps and Romao are co-authors
of the work entitled: “Spatial impacts assessment of tourism and territorial capital: A mod-
eling study on regional development in Europe” [59].
Table 4. The top 10 contributing authors and the number of published articles.
Author Number of published articles
Zaman K. 12
Croes R. 10
Kumar R.R. 8
Alola A.A. 7
Sharif A. 7
Hall C.M. 6
Nijkamp P. 6
Paramati S.R. 6
Romao J. 6
Although all the authors have experience in Hospitality, Leisure, Sport, and Tourism
research, there are also two large subdivisions in terms of subject matter, because Hall and
Nijkamp have a greater dedication in the field of Green, Sustainable Science, and Tech-
nology. In contrast, Kumar, Alola, and Romao focus their analysis on the Environmental
Sciences area. Zaman, Croes, and Paramati are the authors with the greatest diversifica-
tion, and their studies cover both segments. In general, the breadth of methodologies and
disciplines, even among the most prolific academics, exemplifies the interdisciplinary na-
ture of research on the influence of sustainable tourism development on economic growth.
Figure 4 shows the geographic locations of the organizations with the greatest con-
tribution to the literature in the field of research analyzed in this study. The intensity of
color in each country is proportional to the degree of participation of each organization.
A higher density of contributing organizations can be found in China, with a participation
percentage of 19.97%, followed by the USA (13.06%), Turkey (10.14%), England (8.14%),
Spain (7.37%), Australia (6.14%), Pakistan (5.53%), Malaysia (5.38%) and Italy (4.3%). In
general, the geographic dispersion of these organizations indicates that the research and
practice of analyzing the contribution of sustainable tourism development to economic
growth have attracted organizations and research centers from all over the world. It is
also possible to make a further breakdown of these contributions for different regions.
Appendix A2 shows the contribution of each region to the literature on the contribution
of sustainable tourism development to economic growth (note that articles with authors
from different organizations may have been assigned to multiple regions).
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 8 of 20
Figure 4. Geographic allocations of all contributing organizations.
The organizations with the best performance (according to the number of articles
published), their geographic location, and the number of articles contributed are shown
in Table 5.
Table 5. The top 20 contributing organizations.
Organization Location Number of
papers
Eastern Mediterranean University Cyprus 22
State University System of Florida United States 14
University of the South Pacific Fiji 12
Southwestern University of Finance Economics China China 10
University Utara Malaysia Malaysia 10
University of Central Florida United States 10
Chinese Academy of Sciences China 9
Hong Kong Polytechnic University China 9
King Saud University Saudi Arabia 9
University of Wah Pakistan 9
University of South Carolina United States 9
Griffith University Australia 8
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University China 8
Istanbul Gelisim University Turkey 8
Bournemouth University United Kingdom 7
SunYat Sen University China 7
Universidade Do Algarve Portugal 7
University of Canterbury New Zealand 7
Furthermore, in Figure 5 we can see that the continent with the highest number of
contributing organizations in Asia.
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Figure 5. Contribution by university and region.
Table 6 shows a comparison of this list with the 10 most influential main authors
previously analyzed. It is observed that the University of Wah, University of Central Flor-
ida, University of the South Pacific, Istanbul Gelisim University, Universiti Utara Malay-
sia, and the University of Canterbury are represented respectively by the most prolific
authors: Zaman, Croes, Kumar, Alola, Sharif, and Hall. Therefore, it may only take the
work of one or two researchers for an organization to be classified as high performing.
Table 6. Universities of the top 10 contributing authors.
Author Organization
Zaman K. University of Wah
Croes R. University of Central Florida
Kumar R.R. University of the South Pacific
Alola A.A. Istanbul Gelisim University
Sharif A. Universiti Utara Malaysia
Hall C.M. University of Canterbury
Nijkamp P. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Paramati S.R. Central University of Finance and Economics
Romao J. Yasuda Women’s University
For its part, joint word analysis offers information on the most-studied topics and
concepts [60]. This analysis links the most-used keywords in published manuscripts to
describe the conceptual framework of a research field [61]. To do this, we have created a
co-occurrence map of author keywords in the analysis of the influence of sustainable tour-
ism development on economic growth (minimum threshold of 15 keyword occurrences),
where 58 keywords (of the 2512 analyzed) have resulted. Figure 6 shows the evolution of
the most-used terms.
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Figure 6. Map density based on the co-occurrence of keywords.
After analyzing a set of 881 expressions (extracted from a total of 668 articles), we
made Table 7, which shows the 20 main keywords used in the articles. The keywords that
appeared most frequently in the literature were: Economic Growth, Tourism, and Tour-
ism Development. The location of these three terms on the map (Figure 6) suggests their
centrality as organizing concepts in the existing empirical literature. The structure of the
three central groups of the map come together to form an image of the literature that is
mainly concerned with the “Sustainable Development” keyword (with an occurrence fac-
tor of 44).
Table 7. The most frequently used keywords in papers.
Keyword Occurrences
Economic Growth 184
Tourism 161
Tourism Development 97
CO2 emissions 73
International Tourism 65
Impact 61
Energy Consumption 54
Sustainable Tourism 50
Sustainable Development 44
China 42
Growth 39
Demand 36
Financial Development 29
Countries 29
Carbon emissions 29
Renewable Energy 20
Consumption 25
Environmental Kuznets Curve 24
Malaysia 23
Carbon Dioxide emissions 17
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Finally, the 10 main articles with the highest number of citations are shown in Ap-
pendix A3. The most-cited author (Hall, CM), with 612 citations, coincides with the author
of the most-cited work: “Policy learning and policy failure in sustainable tourism govern-
ance: from first- and second-order to third-order change?” [62], who in turn ranks number
six as a highly relevant author in the study of the influence of sustainable tourism devel-
opment on economic growth. Likewise, the most recent work with the highest number of
citations is: “The Effects of Tourism Economic Growth and CO2 Emissions: A Comparison
between Developed and Developing Economies” [63]. In Figure 7, we make a graphic
comparison between the most influential authors in this field and the authors with the
most citations. In this sense, we can conclude that all the authors with the most contribu-
tions are among the most-cited authors, except Sharif and Romao. Finally, Figure 8 shows
us the timeline of the most relevant contributions.
Figure 7. Comparison between the number of citations and number of publications.
Figure 8. Timeline of the most influential studies.
Below, we also present a map based on researcher networks [46]. The elements of
these networks have been connected through co-authorship links. To build the network
we have used the WoS database’s bibliographic files to provide them as input to the VOS
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 12 of 20
viewer. Figure 9 presents the analysis of 10 related co-authors according to the number of
articles published jointly. The elements included in this map are researchers, and the link
between these elements is the co-authorship links between them. Likewise, each link has
a strength that indicates the number of publications in which two researchers have been
co-authors [46]. The total strength of the bond is described as standard weight attributes
that indicate the strength of an element’s bonds with others [46,64]. Four different clusters
can be detected, where the largest sets consist of three elements. Zaman has the highest
total bond strength, followed by Sharif, Shahbaz, Paramati, and Kumar. In turn, Zaman,
Shahbaz, Paramati, and Kumar are considered influential authors in the field studied, and
Zaman is the author with the greatest impact on sustainable tourism development and
economic growth. In turn, these five authors are among the 13 most-cited authors in this
field. Therefore, through the constructed map, it was verified that the relevance of the
influence of the analyzed relationship may be due to the co-authorship between the pub-
lished works. For example, Paramati and Shahbaz are especially related by their common
field of research (Environmental Sciences) and have published “Does tourism degrade
environmental quality? A comparative study of Eastern and Western European Union”
as co-authors [65].
Figure 9. A map density based on network data connected by co-authorship items.
5. Discussion
This research presents a structured review of the literature that studies the influence
of sustainable tourism on economic growth. Bibliometric studies on sustainable tourism
and the impact of tourism on the economy are found in the previous literature [10,66,67].
However, bibliometric analysis has not been completed that relates sustainable tourism
and economic growth and identifies analytically and objectively emerging works, authors,
and research groups.
The results of our bibliometric analysis on sustainable tourism and economic growth
indicate that there is a relative concentration of the most influential works among a certain
number of researchers. Authors Zaman K., Croes R., and Kumar R.R. are the ones with
the highest number of publications. Other authors also have a high number of publica-
tions, such as Sharif A., Hall C.M., Nijkamp P., and Romao J. However, as the field con-
tinues to mature, numerous authors are joining this line of research, expanding the work
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 13 of 20
in a variety of areas (for example, “Green and sustainable science and technology” and
“Environmental science”). As a consequence, the number of citations is progressing up-
wards, having increased by 28% in the last five years, which shows the current signifi-
cance of the analyzed relationship. These results are in line with those obtained by previ-
ous studies on sustainable tourism [25].
Furthermore, our analysis of the geographical dispersion of publications showed that
China has the highest number of works (25%), followed by the United States (20%). These
results are similar to those of Yoopetch and Nimsai [19] on sustainable tourism since they
indicate that this research is located in emerging regions of the world (e.g., Asia). How-
ever, our results are different from those obtained by other bibliometric studies also in the
exclusive field of sustainable tourism, by indicating that the United States is the country
that contributes the most literature [10,66]. This difference may be because our study also
considers aspects of economic growth, which is attracting organizations, research centers,
and researchers from the vast majority of countries, mainly in Asia and Europe [38].
Our study also indicates that a growing interest in the study of the influence of sus-
tainable tourism development on economic growth began in 2005, similar to that sug-
gested by other previous studies on economic research [38] and on sustainable tourism
[10], which confirms that there is a recent and successful period of related academic liter-
ature, specifically from 2005 to date.
On the other hand, our results detect the breadth of methodologies and disciplines
used, even among the most prolific academics, which exemplifies the interdisciplinary
nature of research on the influence of sustainable tourism development on economic
growth. Also, it is possible that only the work of one or two researchers is necessary for
an organization to be classified as high performance, and that the influence of the ana-
lyzed relationship may be due to co-authorship between published works. These results
coincide with those obtained by previous studies on economic research, indicating that
co-authorship analysis shows that the associations between countries/regions are rela-
tively fixed and limited [38].
Finally, the results obtained also suggest future lines of research. We have found that
research on the impact of sustainable tourism on economic growth has mainly focused on
the areas of hospitality, green and sustainable technology, and environmental sciences.
Therefore, it would be interesting to address new areas of study that extend the results
obtained. For example, the economic impact of sustainable events, sustainable tourist des-
tinations, and sustainable maritime tourism remains to be studied. Likewise, given that
current experience is concentrated in a certain number of countries, it would be necessary
to expand the number of investigations into a broad set of experiences that offer a multi-
cultural and globally relevant points of view.
6. Conclusions
Research on sustainable tourism development and economic growth is increasing
and maturing. However, there is still a significant gap, given the small number of influ-
ential articles. The evidence emerging from this study suggests that sustainable tourism
development is indispensable for economic growth. Countries like China and the United
States have developed this relationship, but for European countries, it is still an issue that
needs further research. Likewise, and in the context of the current crisis derived from
COVID-19, our findings suggest that measures to promote the development of sustainable
tourism and thus improve economic growth, currently slowed by the pandemic, should
be investigated. Additionally, we have also found that this relationship should be pro-
moted from the point of view of environmental sciences.
On the other hand, an expansion of the results that we developed in this study seems
necessary. The number of keywords could be expanded to include trade openness, pollu-
tion, energy consumption, globalization, and a wide variety of other relevant terms that
could contribute to a more comprehensive review of the analyzed relationship. For exam-
ple, pollution and globalization were the first precursors to the field of sustainable tourism
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 14 of 20
development and economic growth. Expanding future research in this direction would
identify many other contributions and potentially change core research areas even further.
However, the inclusion of additional keywords will result in a broader set of articles that
will later require innovative bibliometric analysis tools and approaches. Therefore, future
research should consider that there are opportunities for further content analysis of spe-
cific and influential studies to more concretely identify research gaps and directions.
From an empirical perspective, the results of this study have implications for research
that promotes policies to stimulate the development of sustainable tourism. This can be a
solution to the scenarios of economic slowdowns, such as those caused by COVID-19 to-
day. In this sense, there is a need to use more effective statistical models that allow for
adequate decision-making with high impact on final results.
Author Contributions: This study has been designed and performed by all of the authors. D.R.-P.
collected the data, A.L.-G. and M.A.F.-G. analyzed the data. The introduction and literature review
were written by D.R.-P. and M.R.G.-. R. The research methodology and initial data statistics, data
analysis, and bibliometric analysis were written by M.A.F.-G. and A.L.-G. All of the authors wrote
the discussion and conclusions. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the
manuscript.
Funding: This research was funded by the University of Malaga and the Cátedra de Economía y
Finanzas Sostenibles.
Informed Consent Statement: Not applicable.
Informed Consent Statement: Not applicable.
Data Availability Statement: Web of Science (WOS).
Acknowledgments: The authors would like to express their sincere gratitude to the anonymous
reviewers, and the editors for their truly valuable comments.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Appendix A
Table A1. The top 10 publishing journals contributing to the area of sustainable tourism developments and economic
growth.
Source Publication Year
199
1
199
2
199
3
199
4
199
5
199
6
199
7
199
8
199
9
200
0
200
1
200
2
200
3
200
4
200
5
200
6
200
7
200
8
200
9
201
0
201
1
201
2
201
3
201
4
201
5
201
6
201
7
201
8
201
9 2020
Sustainability 1 1 1 3 1 5 17
14
Tourism Eco-
nomics 2 1 1 3 4 1 3 1 4 1 4 9
Tourism Man-
agement 1 1 1 2 2 1 2 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 3
Current Issues
in Tourism 1 1 3 1 3 2 3 1 2 13
Environmental
Science and Pol-
lution Research
1 2 2 2 3 13
Journal of Sus-
tainable Tour-
ism
2 1 3 2 2 3 6 4
Asia Pacific
Journal of Tour-
ism Research
1 1 1 2 1 2 5 1 4 2
Journal of
Travel Research
2 1 1 1 1 2 2 1 2 6
Annals of Tour-
ism Research 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 2 1 2
TourismAnaly-
sis 1 1 1 1 2 1 2 1 2 1
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 15 of 20
Table A2. Contribution total of organizations based on their geographical regions.
Geographical Region Number of Papers Contribution (%)
AFRICA
South Africa 15 2.304
Egypt 7 1.075
Mauritius 6 0.922
Nigeria 4 0.614
Tanzania 3 0.461
Ghana 2 0.307
Tunisia 2 0.307
Botswana 1 0.154
Cameroon 1 0.154
Eritrea 1 0.154
Libya 1 0.154
Uganda 1 0.154
Zimbabwe 1 0.154
AMERICA
North America
United States 85 13.057
Canada 16 2.458
Mexico 2 0.307
Barbados 1 0.154
Jamaica 1 0.154
South America
Aruba 4 0.614
Brazil 3 0.461
Colombia 3 0.461
Argentina 2 0.307
Ecuador 2 0.307
Peru 2 0.307
Uruguay 2 0.307
Chile 1 0.154
Guyana 1 0.154
ASIA
China 130 19.969
Pakistan 36 5.530
Malaysia 35 5.376
Taiwan 27 4.147
India 16 2.458
Japan 15 2.304
Saudi Arabia 13 1.997
Iran 12 1.843
Indonesia 9 1.382
South Korea 9 1.382
United Arab Emirates 7 1.075
Vietnam 7 1.075
Singapore 6 0.922
Thailand 5 0.768
Bangladesh 3 0.461
Kazakhstan 3 0.461
Israel 2 0.307
Lebanon 2 0.307
Cambodia 1 0.154
Jordan 1 0.154
Laos 1 0.154
Nepal 1 0.154
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 16 of 20
Palestine 1 0.154
Philippines 1 0.154
EUROPE
Turkey 66 10.138
England 53 8.141
Spain 48 7.373
Italy 28 4.301
France 14 2.151
Romania 14 2.151
Netherlands 13 1.997
Portugal 11 1.690
Russia 10 1.536
Greece 9 1.382
Finland 8 1.229
Germany 7 1.075
Scotland 7 1.075
Cyprus 6 0.922
Norway 6 0.922
Austria 5 0.768
Croatia 5 0.768
Serbia 5 0.768
Sweden 5 0.768
Switzerland 5 0.768
Slovenia 4 0.614
Ukraine 4 0.614
Denmark 3 0.461
Poland 3 0.461
Wales 3 0.461
Azerbaijan 2 0.307
Herzeg-Bosnia 2 0.307
Bulgaria 2 0.307
Czech Republic 2 0.307
Iceland 2 0.307
Lithuania 2 0.307
Macedonia 2 0.307
Albania 1 0.154
Belgium 1 0.154
Hungary 1 0.154
Montenegro 1 0.154
Serbia 1 0.154
Slovakia 1 0.154
United Kingdom 1 0.154
OCEANIA
Australia 40 6.144
New Zealand 17 2.611
Fiji 12 1.843
Marshall Island 1 0.154
Sustainability 2021, 13, 2270 17 of 20
Table A3. Top 10 most-cited articles contributing to the area of sustainable tourism development
and economic growth.
The Title of the Publication Authors
The Title of the Journal Year
Total Citations
Policy learning and policy failure
in sustainable tourism governance:
from first- and second-order to
third-order change?
[62] Journal of Sustainable Tour-
ism 2011 350
Investigating the influence of tour-
ism on economic growth and car-
bon emissions: Evidence from
panel analysis of the European Un-
ion
[28] Tourism Management 2013 201
In pursuit of ecotourism [68] Biodiversity and Conserva-
tion 1996 172
Green, circular, bio-economy: A
comparative analysis of sustaina-
bility avenues
[69] Journal of Cleaner Production
2017 156
Tourism and poverty reduction: Is-
sues for small Island states [70] Tourism Geographies 2008 126
Emergy measures of carrying ca-
pacity to evaluate economic invest-
ments
[71] Population and Environment
2001 125
The World Bank’s role in tourism
development [72] Annals of Tourism Research
2007 124
The entrepreneurship factor in sus-
tainable tourism development [73] Journal of Cleaner Production
2005 118
Degrowing Tourism: Decroissance,
Sustainable Consumption and
Steady-State Tourism
[74]
Anatolia-
International Journal
of Tourism and Hospitality
Research
2009 110
The Effects of Tourism on Eco-
nomic Growth and CO2 Emissions:
A Comparison between Developed
and Developing Economies
[63] Journal of Travel Research 2017 99
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... As the popularity of NBT increases 'green' branding and credentials influence the competitiveness of a tourism destination (Chin et al., 2018;Huybers & Bennett, 2003;Wong et al., 2021) which influences tourism performance (Bazargani & Kiliç, 2021). However, the fundamental drivers of tourism are primarily economic and social factors with environmental attention only being considered through legal compliance measures (Buckley, 2012;León-Gómez et al., 2021;McKercher, 1993). This is problematic as tourism developments and related services often have negative environmental impacts (León-Gómez et al., 2021;Liu et al., 2018;Monz et al., 2013;Ren et al., 2019;Zhong et al., 2011). ...
... However, the fundamental drivers of tourism are primarily economic and social factors with environmental attention only being considered through legal compliance measures (Buckley, 2012;León-Gómez et al., 2021;McKercher, 1993). This is problematic as tourism developments and related services often have negative environmental impacts (León-Gómez et al., 2021;Liu et al., 2018;Monz et al., 2013;Ren et al., 2019;Zhong et al., 2011). Moreover, with increasing prosperity and global transport, access to nature-based destinations is increasing, but awareness of impacts is weak (Davenport & Davenport, 2006). ...
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