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How Do Tourism Stakeholders Support Sustainable Tourism Development: The Case of Iran

School of Economics & Management, Minjiang University, Fuzhou 350108, China
Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Management, UCSI University, Kuala Lumpur 56000, Malaysia
Department of Humanities, Guangxi University Xingjian College of Science and Liberal Arts, Nanning 530000, China
Graduate School of Business, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang 11800, Malaysia
School of Management, Xihua University, Chengdu 610097, China
Newhuadu Business School, Minjiang University, Fuzhou 350108, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2023, 15(9), 7661;
Submission received: 25 February 2023 / Revised: 20 April 2023 / Accepted: 23 April 2023 / Published: 6 May 2023
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Management)


The aim of this paper is to empirically examine the effect of emotional solidarity, stakeholders’ attitude, stakeholders’ commitment, perceived economic benefit, and cost on the sustainable tourism development in the Iranian tourism sector. Data were collected from surveying 258 Iranian stakeholders. The analysis was completed by using Partial Least Squares—Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM). The findings show that there is a direct effect of emotional solidarity and stakeholders’ attitude on perceived economic benefit. Stakeholders’ attitude and commitment influence perceived cost, and perceived economic benefits and sustainable tourism development were highly associated. Moreover, perceived economic benefit plays the mediator role between emotional solidarity, stakeholders’ attitude, and supports sustainable tourism development. This study makes significant contributions to the body of tourism literature by confirming the link between emotional solidarity, stakeholders’ attitude, stakeholders’ commitment, perceived economic benefit and cost on support in sustainable tourism development. Furthermore, this study offers several practical implications for local authorities and tourism policies aiming to improve support and engagement in tourism planning for aiding sustainable tourism development in Iran.

1. Introduction

General sustainability is a familiar concept among researchers and academics in the field of tourism [1]. The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are important elements in the United Nations 2030 agenda which promotes sustainable development via several approaches including monitoring and controlling natural resources, which encourages conservation efforts and job opportunities for local communities. Meanwhile, this can promote local cultures and products by using marine resources sustainably in order to grow the economic benefits for developing states and underdeveloped countries (UN, 2015; UNWTO and UNDP, 2017). As a result, the SDGs have become the main focal points for tourism research on the contribution to sustainable development [2]. Given the importance of this theme, numerous tourism scholars have paid extra attention to analyzing sustainable tourism development [2,3,4,5,6]. A realistic term which is considered to be advantageous in the context of tourism development is sustainability [7]. With the guidance of SDGs to practice sustainability thinking in tourism, it sets the backdrop for this emerging issue [3].
However, to develop and sustain the local tourism development, the local resident’s behavior response is very crucial. In the application of social exchange theory in the tourism development context, it can be interpreted that the primary driver for residents to support tourism development is the improvement of the community’s economic and social well-being [8]. In other words, if residents assume that the benefits tend to exceed the potential costs, they are more likely to support tourism development. Furthermore, previous scholars researched residents’ perception toward tourism development in various developed nations such as the US [9], Greece [10], Australia [11], Spain [12], and South Korea [13]. Limited research, however, has been conducted in developing countries such as Iran except for these two papers [14,15]. In developing nations, residents perceive tourism development and their behavior toward supporting tourism development could be significantly differentiated compared to residents from developed nations [16,17]. Therefore, it is important to concentrate on sustainable tourism development in Iran. Research on sustainable tourism underpins the crucial local communities supporting tourism, which is a great tool to contribute to the local economy [18].
In Iran, community-based tourism can be associated with not only sustainable development and but also environmental conservation. Shiraz is one of the universally known touristic cities in Iran, and it is renowned for its diverse historical, cultural, and natural scenic spots [19]. There is an overall positive attitude in regard to how the residents’ local districts are influenced economically, socially/culturally, and environmentally by tourism. As an example, wordings such as “benefits to local people and small businesses”, “employment opportunity”, and “increase the standard of living” were distinguished to be among the central factors recognized by the survey respondents as tourism’s positive economic influence.
By modeling the sustainable tourism development, extant tourism literature explored the effect of emotional solidarity, attitude, and community commitment on perceived economic benefit and perceived cost [17,20,21,22,23]. Others investigated the influence of perceived economic benefit and perceived cost on support tourism development [24,25,26,27]. However, examining the processes and mechanisms surrounding perceived economic benefit and perceived cost has remained underexplored. From a theoretical point of view, examining the mechanism could enhance existing understanding by emphasizing the inclusion of perceived benefit and cost which has been necessary in previous literature, shaping the guidelines for further study in the process. To fill this gap, it is important to develop a theoretical framework through investigating the mediator role of perceived benefit and cost between emotional solidarity, stakeholders’attitude, stakeholders’ commitment, and sustainable tourism development.
Taken together, the objectives of this paper are twofold. First, we sought to examine the direct effect between emotional solidarity, stakeholders’ attitude, stakeholders’ commitment, perceived economic benefit, perceived cost, and support for sustainable tourism development. Second, we explored the mediator role of perceived economic benefit and perceived cost among emotional solidarity, stakeholders’ attitude, stakeholders’ commitment, and support for sustainable tourism development. The current study is expected to make several contributions from theoretical and practical perspectives. Theoretically, this paper attempts to contribute to expanding the theory of the stakeholder by investigating the relationship between each variable in Iranian tourism sector and aids in providing better explanations of touristic phenomena. Practically, this paper is expected to offer several suggestions for tourism stakeholders who can enhance support for sustainable tourism development in the Iranian tourism sector.
The structure of this paper is divided into different sections. The section “literature review and hypotheses development” reviews the conceptual framework that forms the basis of this empirical analysis. The section “research methodology” describes the data collection, measurement, and statistical analysis. The section “Results” illustrates the data analysis. The section “Discussion” interprets the current findings. Finally, the section “Conclusion” elaborates on the implications, limitations, and future work.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Stakeholder Theory

The stakeholder is defined as “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of an organization’s objectives” [28]. A team of stakeholders is conventionally deemed to be in the form of a number of behavioral parties confined in the wider system of tourism. Such parties include specific individuals namely tourists, operators, inhabitants, and people with regulatory jobs [29]. Within the scope of literature corresponding to the subject of tourism, a greatly endorsed matter consists of stakeholders’ recognition and participation in decision-making activities regarding tourism management [29,30]. As proposed by one of the foremost advocates of the Stakeholder Theory, Freeman [28], toward the efficient management of businesses, the connections among the various corresponding components are required to be taken into consideration by the managers of these businesses. As a result, the interests of stakeholders and success in business respectively constitute the fundamental independent and dependent constructs in the Stakeholder Theory. Furthermore, according to this theory, the motivation behind the participation of legal individuals or parties in an organization’s activities is to gain relevant advantages, and there is no clarity in the legal stakeholders’ priority of interest [31].
The utilization of the Stakeholder Theory is relatively novel and restricted to a great extent in the area of tourism. On the whole, matters such as stakeholders’ recognition and the extension of cooperation in the process of planning and development in regard to tourism are mainly concentrated on [32,33]. In a survey carried out by Easterling [32], an analysis took place on the perceptions of the inhabitants of a well-known tourist attraction regarding the included stakes. According to the results of this study, founded on the type of residency, a minimum of three kinds of stakes belong to the constituents of these groups which consist of equity, economics, and influence. As suggested by the Stakeholder Theory, in order to achieve the requirements, set by a triumphant development, stakeholders’ interests and perceptions need to be considered [34]. This is why the participation of a community as a whole in the development of tourism from the angle of the Stakeholder Theory has only been analyzed by a limited number of research works [29,32]. Moreover, the inclusion of residents as stakeholders in the sustainable development of tourism has been studied by Nicholas et al. [35]. These scholars delved deeper into the extant connections among the perceptions of residents, participation of communities, and the sustainable development of tourism. Hence, the corresponding findings yielded the discovery of a significant positive relationship between the perceptions of residents and community participation. Moreover, for the purpose of the efficient collection of all related resources, strategies, and capacity in regard to “multi-stakeholder systems to evolve and transform for survival and success”, the significance of cooperation among numerous stakeholders is highlighted by the Stakeholder Theory [36]. Additionally, with the aid of the Stakeholder Theory, the diverse state of positivity and negativity regarding the perceptions of residents became the subject of analysis in a study carried out by Rasoolimanesh and Jaafar [14]. This study also examined the impacts caused by this heterogeneity of perceptions on the encouragement and involvement of the residents concerning the sustainable development of tourism in the Lenggong Valley World Heritage Site in Malaysia. As such, their findings indicated that the residents’ support and involvement in tourism growth is positively influenced by their positive perceptions.

2.2. Tourism and the SDGs Setting

Aside from the tourism industry being affected by numerous environmental factors including climate change [37,38], the United Nations has highly acknowledged an essential of the tourism industry in driving sustainability [3]. Since the pronouncement of the SDGs in 2015, previous scholars [2,3,4] stressed that there is a lack of attention on exploring the tourism sector which may effectively mobilize the SDGs to increase the sustainable tourism development. However, it has been criticized that the functionality of the tourism and hospitality industries contribute to the accomplishment of the SDGs via highlighted sustainable tourism development [3,4,39,40]. For instance, several papers explored sustainable tourism development based on perspectives from tourists [41]. Others examine the support for sustainable tourism based on the perspectives of local residents [24,25,26]. Therefore, to generalize the comprehensive understanding on supporting sustainable tourism development and aid in achieving the SDGs, it is necessary to investigate the emerging theme from the relevant tourism stakeholders’ perspectives.

2.3. Support for Sustainable Tourism

With reference to tourism development, one factor which plays a vital role is sustainability. To a certain extent, this is because economic growth consists of no other configuration with such a large number of ‘far-reaching tentacles as tourism’ [42]. With regard to sustainability in the development of tourism, abundant statements are provided in literature in the area of tourism which clarify its exact meaning. According to one frequent perspective, toward the optimization of the incessant economic achievability in tourism growth, host communities need to be strengthened in quality, and natural and artificial environments need to be preserved [43]. Some scholars also revealed that the development of tourism depends on how stakeholders perceive the quality of health [44].
Furthermore, through the optimization of domestic benefits in the economy, security of natural and man-made environments, and the provision of tourist experiences of excellent quality, it is a goal for community tourism’s sustainable growth to enhance the residents’ standard of living [1]. A long-lasting economic connection among communities in tourism destinations and the corresponding industries stands in need of being reached by sustainable community tourism. Moreover, during this procedure, the related negative impacts on the natural environment must be reduced to a minimum, and the destination communities’ socio-cultural welfare must be upgraded. In this regard, all ethnic duties as well as rules of decorum must be taken into consideration by various stakeholders in the community, comprising all elements taking part in businesses concerning tourism, namely tourists, hosts, tour operators, and governments [25,45]. In tourism-related sectors, sustainable development has been a major subject of discussion. This is due to the fact that through this kind of development, the requirements of tourists are satisfied, economic growth is liable to be strengthened, physical environments are secured, residents’ living quality is enhanced and, lastly, future opportunities are improved by ensuring environmental quality and the development of tourism coexist [46]. As a result, a vital tool for sustainable management is in the form of tourism growth in communities [47]. Furthermore, factors such as support in local communities as well as development sustainability are influenced by the growth of tourism [35,46]. Simply put, the issues corresponding to the host community of a tourist attraction have a deep impact on that destination’s sustainable development [48]. Hence, subsequent growth in tourism is supported by residents cognizant of an increased number of positive effects on tourism, whereas it is less encouraged by those more aware of the negative impacts of tourism rather than its positive ones [49].
During the 1990s, the focus of scholars turned to sustainability in regard to tourism development. In this path, a more comprehensive strategy was needed in order to combine the perceptions of numerous stakeholders, residents included, concerning the analysis of the set of positive as well as negative effects caused by tourism in various types of tourist attractions, namely in economic, socio-cultural, and environmental areas [45,50]. Moreover, through the investigation of particular variables leading to the prediction of residents’ perceptions about tourism in divergent communities, research in this field has employed more minor methods as compared to the major ones used previously [50]. In the recent millennium, a revived interest in the perceptions of residents regarding tourism development, particularly corresponding to the existing economic and social influences, has risen as a result of the novel pursuit of sustainability [34]. On this subject, a more vital role can be played by local inhabitants as well as local businesses in the growth of various tourist attractions since collective and business interests impact politicians’ viewpoints to a great extent.
To conclude, with the goal of sustainability in tourism development, an unsegregated system of decision makers is constructed consisting of numerous elements such as tourists, native residents of tourist destinations, related businesses, and the government [34,51].

2.4. Hypothesis Development

Wallace and Wolf [52] have defined solidarity as an individual’s sense of identification with a different individual which acts as a form of emotional reinforcement between the two people. Moreover, according to the study of Hammarstrom [53], the related connections among individuals are distinguished by their observed emotional intimacy and level of contact which is included in solidarity, perceived economic benefits and costs corresponding to tourism are severely impacted by the personalities and viewpoints of the local residents of tourist destinations regarding their communities and received tourists. These factors can also heavily affect an inclusive reinforcement in the sustainable development of tourism. Toward a more efficient comprehension of the emotions of residents concerning tourists, a theoretical framework was devised in a work of research carried out by Woosnam and Norman [54], which was constructed based on materials written by Emile Durkheim. Originally progressed through the research of Woosnam and Norman [54] and later evaluated by Woosnam [55], emotional solidarity is classified as the most up-to-date theory on the subject of relationships among residents and tourists.
Furthermore, Woosnam and Aleshinloye [56] found that frequent emotional solidarity of a positive nature contributes to the promotion of this sort of intimacy between the tourists and residents. Several tourism studies have well-documented associations among emotional solidarity toward tourism stakeholders and their support for tourism development [57,58,59]. This is because the central of the emotional solidarity approach is that people who feel bonded emotionally to visitors are more likely to appreciate the perceived benefits which tourism brings to their communities [60]. Prior literature empirically confirmed the relationship between emotional solidarity, individual perception, and attitude [61]. Erul et al. [57] found that residents’ emotional solidarity is an important determinant in predicting their perceptions toward tourism development. This is why friendships are born among the residents and tourists between whom emotional solidarity is developed and thus, the residents are more strongly enabled to perceive the resulting benefits and determine how the development of tourism impacts their communities. Thus, the hypotheses below are formulated:
A positive relationship exists between the degree of emotional solidarity in stakeholders and perceived economic benefits.
A negative relationship exists between the degree of emotional solidarity in stakeholders and perceived costs.
As observed from literature in the area of stakeholders, an amount of controversy regarding the level of specificity in attitudes with reference to behavioral groups in stakeholders continues to exist. Following this supposition, four noteworthy perspectives regarding tourism stakeholders are stated in the study by Byrd et al. [62], which are tourists, residents of tourist attraction sites, business operators, and native representatives of the government. As outlined by Hardy and Pearson [29], the attitude sharing among groups of stakeholders with regard to tourism’s positive and negative impacts acts as benefits and costs accompanying extreme inconsistencies in attitudes over groups corresponding to issues of other types. Despite the frequent examination of the attitudes of residents on the subject of tourism in a large number of studies [14,34,63], either in a general sense or in relation to a community in particular, the connection between the attitudes of residents and perceived benefits and costs remains to be explored. Positive attitudes regarding tourism are assumed to lead to the perception of various benefits in tourism development. Hence, the following hypotheses are provided:
A positive relationship exists between the stakeholder’s attitudes and perceived economic benefits.
A negative relationship exists between the stakeholder’s attitudes and perceived costs.
Based on Grzeskowiak et al.’s [64] definition, community commitment is the extent to which residents identify the community as their own, feel faithful to it, and would not move out of the community at will. In parallel, this concept is specified by McCool and Martin [50] as “the extent and pattern of social participation and integration into the community, and sentiment or affect toward the community”. Furthermore, there is certainty in the existence of community commitment once a feeling of belonging is felt by the local residents of a community and they enjoy being involved in community activities as well as when they feel spiritually attached to other members of their communities and experience a sense of comfort while sharing divergent viewpoints with them [21,65]. Moreover, Hibbard and Karle [39] stated that the native residents’ commitment to their communities enables them to handle given opportunities, come up with answers to different problems, and enhance responses regarding their communities in a more efficient manner. Therefore, the following hypotheses are formed:
A positive relationship exists between stakeholders’ commitment and perceived economic benefits.
A negative relationship exists between stakeholders’ commitment and perceived costs.
By way of deliberating on various tourism-related matters in regard to the economy, society, culture, and the environment, community residents choose if they would like to become dependent on tourism’s benefits and costs [49,66]. The effects of tourism stakeholders’ perceptions on support for tourism development have been extensively investigated [14,67]. For instance, most previous literature found that support for the development of tourism is positively significantly affected by perceived benefits [23,68]. However, a significant and negative impact is observed by perceived costs in this regard [34,49,69]. It is clear to state that the precedent variables concerning the support for tourism development among residents are perceived benefits and costs [26,34]. Hence, inspired by previous empirical studies, the following hypotheses are set forth:
Perceived economic benefits directly and positively impact residents’ support for sustainable tourism development.
Perceived costs directly and negatively impact residents’ support for sustainable tourism development.
The influences of emotional solidarity within the framework of tourism are illustrated by a variety of studies. A few examples of such impacts consist of the perceptions of residents regarding tourism and their corresponding implications on the support for tourism [56,58,60], support for the development of tourism [21], economic benefits [70], and specific patterns distinguishing the expenses of tourists in given tourist attractions [56]. According to several sources, the aforementioned areas have proven to be connected to emotional solidarity. For instance, according to Woosnam et al. [56], the contributions of the tourism industry to the communities involved is heavily predicted based on emotional solidarity. This is why friendships are created between the tourists and the residents of their destinations among whom emotional solidarity is formed. Hence, the residents become better capable of identifying how their communities are affected as a result of the growth of tourism [56].
In this regard, in a study by Woosnam et al. [56], emotional solidarity and the following effects of the Kolache Festival were examined considering the local residents of Caldwell, Texas. The finding indicated that a major level of variation in the residents’ perceptions about the consequences of hosting this festival can be justified by emotional solidarity [56]. To be more precise, a positive connection exists between benefits and each factor corresponding to emotional solidarity and a negative connection exists between costs and each factor of emotional solidarity. In addition, the attitudes of residents in Galveston County, Texas, regarding sustainable tourism development was the subject of evaluation in the research of Woosnam [54], signifying that all factors related to emotional solidarity are strongly liable to speculate the attitude scale and indicators connected to the impacts of tourism, including support for the sustainable development of tourism as well as contributions made by tourism with respect to the community. Hence, it can be reliably concluded that a positive perception regarding the impacts of tourism can be found in residents who are more emotionally involved with tourists which, in turn, leads to support for sustainable tourism development. Despite a noticeable development in tourism literature on emotional solidarity, the relationship between emotional solidarity and support for sustainable tourism development within communities is underexplored. Former research focused on the theory and scale of emotional solidarity [55]; there has been no research to investigate relationships among emotional solidarity, the positive or negative perceptions of stakeholders, and support for the sustainable development of tourism in literature in the area of tourism in Iran. Considering the previous discussions, the following hypotheses are presented:
Perceived economic benefits mediate between emotional solidarity and support for sustainable tourism development.
Perceived costs mediate between emotional solidarity and support for sustainable tourism development.
Additionally, according to McGehee and Andereck [11], a negative attitude toward sustainable tourism development may be formed among residents not employed in the tourism industry. This can be due to the fact that such residents are not fully informed about the benefits of tourism and, therefore, consider the growth of tourism to be environmentally unfriendly. Thus, as mentioned in the study by Hung, Sirakaya-Turk, and Ingram [71], in order to more efficiently promote the planning and sustainable development of tourism, the attitudes of the corresponding residents are important to take into account. Naturally, residents are highly expected to comprehend the benefits as well as the costs involved in tourism. In this regard, the benefits of tourism consist of the creation of job titles, higher salaries, enhancement in extant facilities and infrastructure, and opportunities to come into contact with new and compelling individuals. Moreover, the costs resulting from tourism include overcrowding, increased expenses, higher taxes, etc. In a large number of studies, the degree of support in residents regarding the growth of tourism is strongly connected to such positive and negative attitudes [72]. More specifically, as indicated by several empirical studies, economic benefits of tourism are heavily and directly impacted by attitudes with respect to support for the development of tourism [9,17,73]. Thus, the following hypotheses are formulated:
Perceived economic benefits mediate between the stakeholders’ attitudes and support for sustainable tourism development.
Perceived costs mediate between the stakeholders’ attitudes and support for sustainable tourism development.
Furthermore, as highlighted in the study of Liu, Tzeng, and Lee [74], toward reaching sustainable tourism development and obtaining benefits from the tourism industry, local residents of tourist attraction sites are highly depended on by their governmental authorities to display commitment to their respective communities. On this subject, a single paper by Gursoy et al. [25] stated that through the sensed satisfaction of local residents with their communities, their perceptions regarding management-related practices directly and indirectly impact their support for additional development in tourism. Nevertheless, no significant influences are distinguished from economic and environmental factors on commitment to the community. In addition, commitment to the community serves as a powerful predictor of support regarding additional development in tourism. As a result, the hypotheses below are created:
Perceived economic benefits mediate between stakeholders’ commitment and support for sustainable tourism development.
Perceived costs mediate between stakeholders’ commitment and support for sustainable tourism development.

2.5. Conceptual Research Framework

In this study, as illustrated in Figure 1, the conceptual framework is selected on the basis of the previously stated hypotheses on the subject of the specific factors having an impact on residents’ positive and negative perceptions, the resulting relationships among them, and the support of residents toward sustainable tourism development.

3. Research Methodology

3.1. Measurement

In the present study, the constructs of interest consist of emotional solidarity, obtained from the study by Ribeiro et al. [20], and the attitude and commitment of stakeholders, as mentioned by Moghavvemi et al. [21]. Moreover, a measurement of the mediating variables, namely perceived economic benefits and perceived costs, was performed [22]. Ultimately, four questions were presented with respect to making decisions regarding the stakeholders’ support for sustainable tourism development [14]. In the formation of these questions, a seven-point Likert scale was employed, with one standing for “very strongly disagree” and seven symbolizing “very strongly agree”.

3.2. Data Collection

This research was conducted in Shiraz, Iran. This place is located in the southwest of Iran and is the capital of the Fars Province. The city is an ancient town which offers various tourism culture and arts [75]. This city is more than 4000 years old, making it considered a historical destination. Since Shiraz is globally known for tourism, this city has become a popular tourism destination for international tourists as well as domestic tourists [19]. Given the uniqueness of this attractive city, there is a lot of potential to maintain sustainable tourism development for the future. In this research, data collection was carried out with the utilization of a questionnaire distributed among the stakeholders located in Shiraz, Iran. Although edited to be appropriate in the context of tourism, the questions presented in this questionnaire were acquired from prior works of research regarding the decision-making of stakeholders in support of sustainable tourism development. However, before the official survey was distributed to respondents, a pilot study took place using seven stakeholders assessing face and content validity preliminary to data collection, following which, according to the received feedback, the questionnaire underwent minor adjustments.
A systematic cluster sampling method was used to collect data from the above-mentioned study population (local authorities, non-governmental organizations, private enterprises, and local residents), who were asked at the rate of 51.6 percent as respondents of this study. Consequently, the sample size used in this study was 258. Moreover, cluster sampling was applied in the process of data collection which began in January 2020 and ended in February of the same year. Moreover, a pilot study was implemented preceding data collection with the goal of establishing the questionnaire’s correctness and dependability.
A comprehensive questionnaire survey with the identified stakeholders led to forsaking for an explanation of their sustainable tourism development and their preferred information obtaining methods. The measured variables were used to design a survey form including emotional solidarity attitude and commitment of stakeholders’ perceived economic benefits and perceived costs.
According to [76], the stakeholders’ categories at Shiraz, with community participation (local authorities, non-governmental organizations, private enterprises, and local residents) are involved in the decision-making process. Community participation authorizes local residents by connecting them in the process of problem identification, decision making, and implementation, and contributes to the accomplishment of sustainable development [77]. Therefore, we surveyed the stakeholders (local authorities, non-governmental organizations, private enterprises, and local residents).
Furthermore, the researcher distributed 500 questionnaires among the stakeholders located in Shiraz, Iran. Of the 500 questionnaires distributed, 314 were returned, out of which 24 questionnaires were not fully completed. A total of 18 respondents repeatedly completed the scale and 14 were discarded during data cleaning process. Hence, 258 completed questionnaires were used for the determination of purpose of study. In addition, 186 respondents rejected the survey invitation. This study utilized a sample of 258 for data analysis, which is acceptable based on the rules of thumb for the determination of sample size. Sekaran and Bougie [78] declared that a sample size of between 30 and 500 is appropriate for various research including multivariate studies. Consequently, a sample size of between 200 and 500 is suitable for multivariate data analysis [79]. The response rate of the questionnaire was 51.6% and its calculation did not consider respondents’ rejection.

3.3. Statistical Analysis

Toward evaluating the suggested relationships, the comprehensive multivariate statistical analysis approach of Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was applied via Partial Least Squares (PLS-SEM). Through this method, all connections among variables in a conceptual model, including measurement and structural components, are analyzed simultaneously. Additionally, the simplification of theory construction in PLS-SEM causes it to be absolutely essential in the present work of research [80]. It also needs to be noted that the PLS-SEM analysis was performed by employing Smart-PLS, version 3 [81]. Following the guideline from previous tourism scholars [82,83], the specific method of this paper was to analyze the data by adopting a two-step approach including the evaluated measurement and structural model. The two-stage approach is also a universal tool of data analysis in social science disciplinary.

4. Results

4.1. Profile of Respondents

According to Table 1, there is almost an equality between the number of male and female respondents, with the number of male respondents (n = 153) slightly surpassing that of the female respondents (n = 105). Moreover, the number of married respondents is n = 168. In this regard, a classification was carried out, dividing the respondents into five categories based on their age: 20–30 years (n = 65), 31–40 years (n = 97), 41–50 years (n = 50), 51–60 years (n = 32), and 61 years and above (n = 14). Furthermore, divided on the basis of their level of education, more than half (n = 163) of the respondents possessed a Bachelor’s degree or higher as their highest obtained level of education. Furthermore, less than 65 percent of the respondents had a Master’s degree or higher, whereas 30 percent had a diploma. Furthermore, the majority of the respondents were employed from the private sector (n = 72).

4.2. Assessment of the Measurement Model

Typically, a two-step process is performed during the assessment of a model with the utilization of PLS-SEM, which includes evaluation of the measurement model and the structural model [84,85]. Throughout the assessment of the measurement model, the validity as well as the reliability of the model’s latent variables (LVs) were evaluated. The study also examines the connections among the latent variables and their related elements (i.e., responses to each question). Aside from that, establishing the relationships among the LVs are included in the assessment of the structural model [7,79]. Moreover, the evaluation of the reflective measurement model comprises of the assessment of validity and reliability regarding which two kinds of validity are taken into account: convergent validity and discriminant validity.
Toward determining the reflective constructs’ reliability and convergent validity, all items’ factor loadings must be larger than 0.7, the values corresponding to composite reliability (CR) and rho_A should be greater than 0.7, and the value of the Average Variance Extracted (AVE) should surpass 0.5 [7,79]. It needs to be pointed out that loadings between 0.5 and 0.7 are deemed to be reliable, assuming that the values of CR, rho_A, and AVE are larger than the threshold [85]. Furthermore, Table 2 illustrated that the main loadings of each item were discovered to be greater than 0.5. Moreover, an evaluation of convergent validity was carried out on the basis of AVE. In this regard, every construct’s achieved value of AVE surpassed 0.5, indicating the convergent validity to be on a suitable level (Fornell and Larcker, 1981) (see Table 2). Moreover, the values of Cronbach’s alpha as well as the composite reliability (CR) related to all constructs were found to be larger than 0.80, leading to the satisfaction of the rule of thumb, as proposed by Hair, Ringle, and Sarstedt (2013).
A recently established supreme criterion is the Heterotrait-Monotrait (HTMT) ratio [86] in comparison with the more traditional evaluation suggested by Fornell–Larcker (1981), proposing the criterion of Fornell–Larcker and the cross-loadings examination as the main methods in the analysis of discriminant validity. As a result, in the current study, the establishment of discriminant validity has been carried out by the HTMT ratio. In this regard, the most conservative threshold in the assessment of discriminant validity is advised to be the value of 0.85 for the HTMT ratio [86]. Table 3 illustrates the outcomes related to the examination of discriminant validity in the measurement model Heterotrait-Monotrait. According to the results, all constructs possess an HTMT value of below 0.85, which signifies the establishment of discriminant validity in the research model (see Table 3).

4.3. Assessment of the Structural Model

The main criteria for the assessment of the structural model are the R2 measures and the significance level regarding the path coefficients, as proposed by Hair et al. [80], due to the fact that they provide a description of the existing variance related to the endogenous latent variables. Moreover, according to a guideline provided in the study of Cohen [87], weak, moderate, and substantial values of R2 refer to the value ranges of 0.02 to 0.13, 0.13 to 0.26, and above 0.26, respectively. However, it is asserted by Hair et al. [80] that the determination of whether the value of R2 is high or not depends on the specified context of the research. In this regard, the value of R2 corresponding to perceived economic benefits (PEB) is 0.429 and perceived costs (PC) is 0.044, whereas it is 0.310 for support toward tourism development (STD) (see Figure 2).
In this study, the bootstrapping re-sampling technique is utilized in order to evaluate the significance of the related direct and indirect impacts [17]. As proven by the results (see Table 4), emotional solidarity has a significant impact on perceived economic benefits (ES→PEB) (as stated by H1). In addition, emotional solidarity’s effect on stakeholders regarding this impact (ES→C) (H2) is not significant (H2). Moreover, the findings reveals the hypothesized significant differences in the attitudes of stakeholders on perceived economic benefits (SA→PEB) (H3). They also demonstrate that stakeholders’ attitudes have a significant influence on perceived economic benefits (SA→C) (H4), whereas the hypothesized significant relationship between stakeholder’s commitment and perceived economic benefits (COM→C) (H5) is not supported. As for the hypothesis made regarding the connection between stakeholders’ commitment and perceived costs (COM→C) (H6), the findings are in agreement with that. Furthermore, the results indicate that perceived economic benefits significantly and greatly affect sustainable tourism development (PEB→STD) (H7). However, perceived costs did not significantly impact sustainable tourism development (C→STD) (H8). Hence, five out of seven relationships were found to be of statistical significance in the current study (see Table 4).
As recommended by Hair et al. (2017), bootstrapping (n = 5000) was employed in order to achieve the t-value significance of the indirect relationships in this research. On this subject, the results of the PLS-SEM analysis in Table 5 are in agreement with the proposed hypotheses in regard to the significant indirect effect of the mediating variable between perceived economic benefits and perceived costs as well as the associations between the independent variables in the connections among emotional solidarity ESPEBSTD and stakeholders’ attitudes SAPEBSTD (H9 and H11). Furthermore, Table 5 also indicates that perceived cost has no mediator effect between stakeholders’ attitude and sustainable tourism development (SA″ C″ STD) (H12). Perceived economic benefit also has no mediator effect among stakeholders’ commitment and sustainable tourism development (COM″ PEB″ STD) (H13). Stakeholders’ commitment has no indirect effect on sustainable tourism development through perceived cost (COM″ C″ STD) (H14).

4.4. Predictive Relevance (Q2)

Commonly recognized as Stone–Geisser’s Q2, the method of predictive sample reuse serves as a criterion in predictive relevance while simultaneously taking the magnitude of R2 into consideration. Moreover, this technique has been employed by Henseler et al. [86] toward the examination of the research model’s ability of prediction. A model’s predictive validity is assessed via Q2 with the employment of PLS, according to the blindfolding procedure. In this respect, Q2 values greater than zero signify the existence of predictive relevance in the exogenous constructs regarding the endogenous constructs [80]. Additionally, the values of Q2 in regard to PEB (Q2 = 0.260 > 0), C (Q2 = 0.019 > 0), and STD (Q2 = 0.172 > 0) demonstrate the excellent predictive relevance of the research model (see Table 6).

5. Discussion and Conclusions

In procedures comprising decision-making and growth, the inclusion of multiple stakeholders is imperative in each and every step of the planning and creation of regulations as well as gathering all related elements required to be present in the process, namely governments, NGOs, local residents, industries, and professionals in a partnership which signifies a community’s desired quantity and type of tourism. Moreover, toward increasing awareness in people and their governments regarding the organization and preservation of resources for community tourism, supplementary knowledge and arrangements, such as academic workshops, need to be made available by planners and managers of the community for local residents, tourists, the overall industry, and stakeholders [68]. In this study, the findings emphasize the convergence of variables influencing stakeholders in terms of perceived economic benefits and costs and ultimately, their support for the sustainable development of tourism. Generally, this research’s results are in agreement with the initiation of sustainable tourism development in Shiraz, Iran. This is also due to the enormous number of observed positive trends in the participants of the research regarding tourism development in this city. The above explanation corresponds to Shiraz’s support of sustainable tourism development.
Similar to the prior studies [59,60] that indicate a significant effect in regard to emotional solidarity, the current research contains a significant predictor of perceived economic benefits. On this subject, the discovered relationship is positive in such manner that the positive viewpoints of stakeholders with references to tourism are clarified via growing degrees of solidarity, which has a connection with the results of Woosnam [60]. In addition, the results suggest that the relationship between the attitudes of stakeholders toward tourism is positive. Despite the fact that the aforementioned factor was found to serve as the best predictor in the studies of Woosnam [60] and Woosnam, Shafer, Scott, and Timothy [56], it proved to possess the weakest linkage to attitudes of the local residents in this model. The attitudes of stakeholders on the subject of tourism played a crucial part in a powerful prediction of support of tourism development which, ultimately, is the dependent variable [88]. Furthermore, it is evident that once more benefits are perceived by stakeholders from the tourism industry, their viewpoints corresponding to sustainable tourism development become more positive and encouraging [49]. Moreover, a positive attitude in regard to the tourism industry is more likely to be formed among local residents depending on tourism for their means of income. Consequently, they develop a more supportive attitude toward sustainable tourism development as they are enabled to comprehend the possible prospect of higher chances of employment, greater personal income, and better quality of life [49].
In the current research model, stakeholders’ commitment plays the role of an insignificantly influential predictor. In other words, it is not in an agreement with the findings of Hibbard and Karle [39], which indicate that local residents with strong levels of commitment possess strong dedications to their communities, meaning that they make every effort to reach positive changes, establish social links with other community members, and hold a high degree of community pride. Considering the increased interest regarding the advocacy of tourist attraction sites with the goal of creating positive impacts in local economies, it is clear that residents in possession of high levels of community commitment are extremely informed about the possible economic benefits which result from receiving tourists. As stated by Jang et al. [89], commitment can be viewed as an attitudinal factor which promotes an individual’s participation in steady relationships with other community members since it is advantageous and productive, according to their way of thinking. As a result, with the growth in the residents’ degree of community commitment, one can presume that the corresponding community members make the requirements of other individuals subjective in order to acquire prospective advantages from the tourism industry. This, in turn, actualizes the existence of more positive attitudes with regard to tourism and sustainable tourism development.
In the context of Iran, perceived benefits and costs which impact the local residents’ support for sustainable tourism development have rarely been the subject of research. In the current study, perceived benefits serve as a positive precedent variable with respect to the support for sustainable tourism development. This result is consistent with the findings of prior research carried out in a number of countries [26,35,49,69,90]. Likewise, perceived costs work as a negative predictor of support for sustainable tourism development, in line with outcomes of previous studies [26,35,49,66,69]. Hence, as demonstrated by the results, stakeholders positively support the development of tourism. This is caused by the direct economic benefits gained by stakeholders employed within the tourism industry since they deal directly with the tourism sector. Therefore, it is appropriate to conclude that the stakeholders who participated in this study in Shiraz possess positive economic attitudes toward tourism and, more specifically, sustainable tourism development in this city. Such positive economic viewpoint can stem from the stakeholders’ desire to achieve economic gains in the area of tourism. As such, it is expected that this research become a foundation for the sustainable development of tourism in the city of Shiraz in a more reasonable, cooperative, and maintainable fashion. This can be carried out through the recognition of proper resources and available tourism-related potential as well as the acquirement of the viewpoints and attitudes of stakeholders displaying support for sustainable tourism development. Moreover, further expansion in general research on the subject of stakeholders and sustainable tourism development in Shiraz, or any other city in Iran, can take place based on the current study. Similar future research can also be carried out for any other location in the world, specifically in developing countries. Additionally, in order to gain sustainable tourism development in Shiraz, it is vital to continuously obtain stakeholders’ satisfaction, particularly in local communities. Furthermore, the ecological balance must be kept constant to the highest degree. However, a great amount of consideration is required to be given to powerful incoming competition in the market in incomplete circumstances, exceptionally in the early stages of the process of sustainable tourism development.
The results of this research demonstrate several theoretical implications. First, the Stakeholder Theory in this study is expanded and proven. For instance, this present study makes a unique contribution to the tourism stakeholders’ perception literature for its application of Stakeholder Theory. It aids in providing explanations for the findings, similar to the previous work [17,91]. Essentially, a large number of factors connected to individuals are taken into consideration in the proposed research model with the goal of achieving appropriate explanation regarding the external impacts of tourism on Iranian communities. Moreover, a better comprehension of the connection between stakeholders and tourists with a focus on perceived economic benefits is provided in this study. Second, this paper also contributes to advance the theoretical understanding on how tourism stakeholders support sustainable tourism development by exploring the mediator role of perceived economic benefits and cost in Iranian tourism sector. Particularly, this study bridged the gap by offering insights into the psychological-emotional mechanism of supporting sustainable tourism development from the stakeholders’ perspectives.
This study also has some managerial implications. For instance, through the study’s findings, awareness with regard to organizations marketing tourist destinations can be created which aids in the more efficient analysis and understanding of residents’ support for the sustainable development of tourism. Aside from that, by gaining comprehension regarding the feelings and other psychological factors corresponding to residents, governments are enabled to set regulations toward reducing the existing gap among local residents and tourists as well as promoting better experiences in tourists. This, ultimately, leads to tourists’ desire to revisit and the spread of positive reviews about various attraction sites.

6. Limitations and Future Directions for Research

Although the current work of research has achieved a number of fundamental results, several limitations remain to direct the path of future research in this field. In this regard, the first matter is that a quantitative technique is applied in this study. More data collection from a qualitative phase should also be involved in this paper in order to provide a holistic picture of sustainable tourism development. Hence, a combination of research methods (e.g., quantitative and qualitative approaches) is proposed to be utilized in future research, concentrating on group discussions or in-depth interviews. Secondly, only one single destination was taken into account during the evaluation of this study’s research model. This is liable to create a limitation concerning whether the empirical findings of this research can be also considered and applied to other arbitrary destinations. Therefore, other destinations in various contexts are proposed to be the subjects of this study in the future. Aside from that, the theoretical basis of this research is the Stakeholder Theory. In this context, despite the fact that a great amount of advancement has been obtained via research works connected to any other theory related to tourism, this area still requires an abundance of additional research. Moreover, irrespective of future studies in regard to stakeholders’ attitudes, the major concern of future researchers needs to be on guaranteeing that the viewpoints of all different communities are expressed and taken note of. With this goal in mind, the solid foundation of subsequent studies should be the most appropriate and extensive theory available. Finally, technological advances have changed the way people travel, the application of ICT technologies has become more important in the tourism sector, such as mobile phones, apps, and RFID [92,93,94]. The weakness of the current work has excluded the technological components from the research framework. Hence, further work should incorporate some technological elements to have better predictions of supporting sustainable development in technological landscapes.

Author Contributions

Reviewed literature, X.W.; conceptualization, X.W. and Y.Y.; designed study, X.W.; writing—original draft preparation, S.H.; investigation, S.K.; data analysis, S.K.; software, S.K.; writing—review and editing, Y.Y., D.L. and J.T. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Hypothetical model.
Figure 1. Hypothetical model.
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Figure 2. PLS-Path analysis of R-square values (n = 258).
Figure 2. PLS-Path analysis of R-square values (n = 258).
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Table 1. Profile of respondents (n = 258).
Table 1. Profile of respondents (n = 258).
CategoryDescriptionNo. of Respondents%
Age (In years)20–306526
Above 60 years145
Marital StatusMarried16865
What’s your Highest Educational Level?Diploma3011
Bachelor’s degree16364
Master or higher Degree6525
EmploymentGovernment Job6324
Private Job7228
Table 2. Measurement model of PLS (n = 258).
Table 2. Measurement model of PLS (n = 258).
Emotional SolidarityES10.850.650.820.830.88
Stakeholders’ AttitudeSA10.900.720.810.820.89
Stakeholders’ CommitmentCOM20.830.630.810.840.87
Perceived Economic BenefitPEB10.850.660.940.940.95
Sustainable Tourism DevelopmentSTD10.730.600.870.880.90
Note: Average Variance Extracted; CR: Composite Reliability; CA: Cronbach’s Alpha, ES5, SA4, SA5, SA6, and COM1 were deleted due to Discriminant validity of Heterotrait-Monotrait Ratio issue.
Table 3. Discriminant validity of Heterotrait-Monotrait Ratio (HTMT).
Table 3. Discriminant validity of Heterotrait-Monotrait Ratio (HTMT).
Table 4. Significance of direct effects—Path coefficients (n = 258).
Table 4. Significance of direct effects—Path coefficients (n = 258).
Hyp.PathBeta ValueSEt-Valuep-ValuesResultConfidence Intervals
H1ES→PEB0.440.066.82 ***0.00Supported0.330.54
H2ES→C− Supported−0.130.11
H3SA→PEB0.340.075.14 ***0.00Supported0.230.44
H4SA→C0.110.061.68 *0.05Supported0.000.21
H5COM→PEB0.040.060.640.26Not Supported−0.060.13
H6COM→C− ***0.00Supported−0.27−0.12
H7PEB→STD0.550.068.90 ***0.00Supported0.450.66
H8C→STD0.030.050.500.31Not Supported−0.060.11
Note: * p < 0.05, *** p < 0.001 (two tailed); SE: Standard Error.
Table 5. Significance of indirect effects—Path coefficients (n = 258).
Table 5. Significance of indirect effects—Path coefficients (n = 258).
HypothesisPathBeta ValueSEt-Valuep-ValuesResultConfidence Intervals
H9ES→PEB→STD0.240.046.75 ***0.00Supported0.170.31
H10ES→C→STD0. Supported−0.010.01
H11SA→PEB→STD0.190.053.50 ***0.00Supported0.090.30
H12SA→C→STD0.000.010.390.70Not Supported−0.010.02
H13COM→PEB→STD0.020.030.630.53Not Supported−0.040.08
H14COM→C→STD0.000.010.480.63Not Supported−0.030.02
Note: *** p < 0.001 (two tailed); SE: Standard Error.
Table 6. R-square value and Q-square value (n = 258).
Table 6. R-square value and Q-square value (n = 258).
Endogenous VariableR-SquareR-Square AdjustedQ-Square
Personal Economic Benefit0.430.420.260
Support Sustainable Tourism Development0.310.300.172
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Wu, X.; Hashemi, S.; Yao, Y.; Kiumarsi, S.; Liu, D.; Tang, J. How Do Tourism Stakeholders Support Sustainable Tourism Development: The Case of Iran. Sustainability 2023, 15, 7661.

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Wu X, Hashemi S, Yao Y, Kiumarsi S, Liu D, Tang J. How Do Tourism Stakeholders Support Sustainable Tourism Development: The Case of Iran. Sustainability. 2023; 15(9):7661.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Wu, Xiaoyuan, Shiva Hashemi, Yiyue Yao, Shaian Kiumarsi, Danping Liu, and Jinquan Tang. 2023. "How Do Tourism Stakeholders Support Sustainable Tourism Development: The Case of Iran" Sustainability 15, no. 9: 7661.

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