Leeds Beckett University
AStudyOfTheNarratedOrganisationalEffectivenessInSmallValueBasedTourismFirms-TOMASSINI_Redacted.pdf (10.89 MB)

A study of the narrated organisational effectiveness in small value-based tourism firms

Download (10.89 MB)
posted on 2022-11-15, 16:02 authored by Lucia Tomassini

Although small firms characterise the tourism sector, there is currently insufficient critical understanding of their heterogeneity and they remain largely under-investigated and under-theorised. They have been examined mainly on the basis of a rudimentary polarisation - commercially oriented and non-commercially oriented - or according to their lack of entrepreneurial attitude and managerial skills in comparison to firms quantitatively different or operating in other sectors. Small, non-commercially oriented tourism firms have been identified as mostly lifestyle-oriented, rejecting growth to pursue personal lifestyle choices. This definition does not encompass those small tourism firms, which define themselves by non-profit values, commitment to an ethical vision, and a proactive approach to development and welfare. These firms have hitherto remained unexplored and are therefore the subject of this research and investigation wherein they are referred to as ‘value-based’ firms. Small value-based tourism firms critically reflect part of the contemporary debate on global challenges, the development agenda and the switch from consumerism to citizenship, where civil society and companies are called to take responsibility for others and the environment. 

This research, therefore, explores how small value-based tourism firms construct and narrate their organisational effectiveness between their non-profit driving values and the market’s profit rationales. The study adopts a value-driven outlook involving the understanding of the firms’ identity construction process, decision-making process and management. The research examines the background and ideological outline of such firms, exploring the relationships among alternative paradigms of development and growth, non-profit values, small-scale products and tourism. Through a social constructionism perspective, the research designs a qualitative narrative approach, innovative in tourism research. The researcher organised a number of lightly guided interviews with the founders-owners/managers of small Italian tour operators committed to an ethical vision of tourism, and operating in developing countries. Purposive sampling allows the identification of small tour operators with key common pre-determined characteristics. The selected tour operators are all members of AITR – Associazione Italiana Turismo Responsabile –, an Italian consortium gathering firms committed to a responsible ethical approach to tourism. The interviews result in a dataset of first person accounts, narratives and stories that are analysed through a combination of structural narrative analysis and a linguistic approach to the structure of a narrative. ii The narrative analysis reveals common patterns in the way participants make sense of their identity and role, moral standards, and the construction of their organisational effectiveness, decision-making processes and management. This leads to the identification of three main narrative types: the intellectual and educational narrative, the professional and entrepreneurial narrative and the empathic ‘free speech’ narrative. The research proposes a new understanding of small tourism firms that do not define themselves in commercial terms, and reveals a complex realm of firms not matching the lifestyle-oriented paradigm. The three narrative types picture a realm of disruptive, parrhesiastic - ‘truth-telling’ -, innovative, entrepreneurial firms, committed to alternative ideological paradigms of development and growth that challenge the failures and weaknesses of the Western global economy. The research shows three liquid polycentric narrative types trying to re-define concepts like growth, development, entrepreneurship and professionalism for small value-based tourism firms.


Qualification name

  • PhD


Font, Xavier ; Thomas, rhodri

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

Usage metrics

    LBU Theses and Dissertations


    No categories selected



    Ref. manager