A review of the application of social exchange theory in tourism research

Authored by: Dan Musinguzi

The Routledge Handbook of Tourism Impacts

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138494961
eBook ISBN: 9781351025102
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351025102-36

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Abstract

This study examines the application of social exchange theory in the tourism impact studies published by Annals of Tourism Research, Journal of Travel Research, and Tourism Management. In doing so, the study assesses the extent to which power between tourism actors (the central tenet of social exchange theory) has been incorporated into the tourism impact research published between 1990 and 2014. Using the content analysis technique, the author undertook a critical examination of the application of social exchange theory and its central tenet in the leading tourism journals. A total of fifty-three research articles were identified for analysis. The major results show that most tourism impact studies lack proper application of social exchange theory. For example, 68% of the published articles did not consider or include the power between tourism actors, even though this is a central component of social exchange theory. Also, most tourism impact researchers in the post-1990 era did not cite the pre-1990 studies, where social exchange theory was first proposed. The lack of proper application of social exchange theory could be hindering theoretical advancements of research on tourism impacts. Future research should go beyond the three leading journals and examine the application of social exchange theory in other publication outlets. Tourism researchers applying social exchange theory need to revisit and engage with the classical works on this theory. By undertaking a review of the application of social exchange theory, this study has for the first time revealed a disturbing trend that power between tourism actors has been largely neglected in most of the tourism impact studies. The findings of this study could be used by researchers to improve the application of social exchange theory and other related theories in tourism research.

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