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ATLAS Special Interest Group
  Circular Economy and Circularity in the Space of Tourism and Hospitality



Contact details

The contact persons for this research group are:

Lucia Tomassini
NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences
The Netherlands

Elena Cavagnaro
Professor at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences
The Netherlands





The Circular Economy is at the centre of a growing debate and legislative initiatives both within Europe and globally. In 2015, the European Commission adopted the Circular Economy Action Plan as a policy to accelerate Europe’s transition towards a Circular Economy. The Action Plan has been renewed in 2020. The United Nations identified the Circular Economy Action Plan as a best practice to prompt the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is striking, therefore, that despite the increasing interest in the circularity paradigm, academics and professionals in the tourism and hospitality sector seem only partially involved in the discussion. With regards to this, several sector representatives stress the urgency to embrace a circular approach but acknowledge also the constraints faced by this complex sector depending on a very articulated supply chain (

The Circular Economy has been so far investigated predominantly with regards to products and framed in terms of eco-effectiveness and eco-efficiency, with benefits at both environmental and economic levels. The implications of the Circular Economy for the space of tourism and hospitality have remained largely unexplored and under theorised, especially with regards to its social implications in a complex service-oriented sector like the one of tourism and hospitality. The idea of an economy that can become ‘circular’ is grounded into an ancient understanding of the cyclic patterns of continuous regenerative processes where ‘circularity’ appears as a principle of order and continuity. Hence, the idea of ‘circularity’ is an ancient archetype that human beings have used through the centuries to make sense of life on Earth, of the biological processes of our ecosystem, and of the cyclic nature of materials.

Framing circularity as a means to contribute to sustainable development in the space of tourism and hospitality implies being able to simultaneously create value in the environmental, economic, and social dimensions. While the latter is usually overlooked in studies and theorisations of Circular Economy, the creation of circular regenerative processes can generate new value in the social dimension by enriching it with a multiplicity of novel relations, connections, and networks among human and non-human stakeholders. This means also localising the tourism and hospitality economy and supply chain in the local space by creating ‘smaller’ loops prompting the active involvement of human (and non-human) stakeholders and re-designing new power-relationships, networks, and connections among them. This can happen because the ‘space’ of tourism and hospitality is not just a flat surface that people, capital, and products transit, but a multidimensional situation within which different types of relationships, networks and connections take place, together with different type of practices and behaviours. With regards to the latter, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the pivotal role played by individual choices and behaviours in adopting new paradigms and - consequently - the need to focus on behavioural informed interventions. Therefore, a critical reflection on Circular Economy and a further exploration of the notion of ‘circularity’ in the space of tourism and hospitality can be interweaved with theorisations of degrowth - and a-growth - as well as with features of sociology of space, pro-social and pro-environmental behaviour, network theory, posthumanism, and collaborative economy.

Potential topics for exploration include:

  • Network Theory
  • Practice Theory
  • Behavioural informed interventions
  • Sociology of Space
  • Biodiversity regeneration
  • Collaborative Economy
  • Placemaking and circular regenerative processes
  • Posthuman approaches
  • Green and/or alternative mobility and logistic
  • Supply chain management

Aims and objectives

The newly formed Special Interest Group Circular Economy and Circularity in the Space of Tourism and Hospitality aims to establish itself as a thriving place for researchers with an interest in Circular Economy and the implication of the circularity paradigm processes to share and discuss their work and generate new knowledge on the topic. It seeks to do so by providing a safe space, for advanced, but also early-career researchers and PhDs as well as Professional Doctorates (PDs).

The objectives for the SIG are:

  • Stimulate international discussion and collaboration by acting as a network for interested researchers
  • Engaging with industry stakeholders, repand representatives of the public sector as well as of local, national, international institutions, representatives of the supply-chain, and NGOs to ensure research is grounded in the lived reality of the tourism and hospitality sector and provides meaningful empirical research
  • Lead to academic output through the organisation of seminars, webinars, and conferences, as well as coordinating special issues in academic journals or books.
  • Support (groups of) researchers to create consortia that can bid for international funding

Annual work plan

The provision work plan for 2022 / 2023 consists of:

  • Dec 2022 – Launch the novel Special Interest Group and enrolment of new members
  • Feb 2023 – ATLAS Webinar on Circular Economy and Circularity in the Space of Tourism and Hospitality to be organised on annual basis at least once per year, possibly twice
  • During 2023 – Organising an additional track or thematic session in the coming ATLAS Europe Conference and/or with an event organised, preferably by another ATLAS SIG, to stimulate cooperation
  • End of 2023 / beginning 2024 – Call for papers for a Special Issue based on the additional track / thematic session and/or ATLAS SIG Webinar Circular Economy and Circularity in the Space of Tourism and Hospitality 



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