Journal of Circular Economy

An applied scholarly journal on circular economy

View PDF

We are keen to help you publish your research.

If you have any questions about the Journal of Circular Economy, please reach out to

The Circular Economy and Natural Capital in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry

Peter Jones & Martin Wynn


There is growing interest in the role that the circular economy and natural capital might play in the transition to a more sustainable tourism and hospitality industry. While both concepts have attracted attention in the academic, professional and policy literature, few leading tourism and hospitality companies have publicly embraced the two concepts to inform their sustainability programmes. This paper is a narrative review that reports and reflects upon the existing literature, and offers two illustrative case examples of how hotel companies are publicly addressing these concepts. The paper concludes that the circular economy and the protection and enhancement of natural capital offer linked environmental and business benefits for the tourism and hospitality industry, but that, for a number of reasons, there is limited evidence that the two concepts have informed sustainability programmes within the sector. Further research could usefully build upon this study to examine, amongst other aspects, stakeholder involvement in pressuring companies to pursue circular economy and natural capital objectives, the role of digital technologies in supporting this transition, and the wider supply chain implications of such initiatives.


Circular economy; natural capital; tourism and hospitality; case examples


Aazami, M. and Shanazi, K. (2020) ‘Tourism wetlands and rural sustainable livelihood: The case from Iran’, Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, Vol. 30,  (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Aryal, C. (2020) ‘Exploring circularity: A Review to Assess the Opportunities and Challenges to Close Loop in Nepali Tourism’, Journal of Tourism and Adventure, Vol. 3, No. 1,   (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Baloch, Q. B., Shah, S.N., Iqbal, N., Sheeraz, M. Asadullah, m., Mahar, S. and Khan, A. U. (2022) ‘Impact of tourism development upon environmental sustainability: a suggested framework for sustainable ecotourism’, Environmental Science and Pollution Research,  (Accessed 31 August 2022)

CEnTOUR (2020) ‘Managing the transition to Circular Economy tourism providers’,  (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Cornejo-Ortega, J.L. and Dagostino, R.M. C. (2020) ‘The Tourism Sector in Puerta Vallarta: An approximation from the Circular Economy’, Sustainability, Vol. 12, No. 11,  (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Corvellec, H., Stowell, A. F. and Johansson, N. (2021) ‘Critiques of the Circular Economy’, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 421-432.

Dixon-Woods, M., Bonas, S., Booth, A., Jones, D. R., Miller, T., Sutton, A. J., et al. (2006), ‘How Can Systematic Reviews Incorporate Qualitative Research? A Critical Perspective’, Qualitative Research Vol. 6, No. 1, pp 27-44.

Dong, H., Li, P., Yang, Y., You, Z. and Li, Q. (2019) ‘Natural capital utilization on an international tourism island based on a three-dimensional ecological footprint model: A case study of Hainan Province, China’, Ecological Indicators, Vol. 104, pp. 479-488.

Ellen McArthur Foundation (undated) ‘What is a Circular Economy?’,  (Accessed 30 August 2022)

Economic Commission for Europe Committee on Environmental Policy (2022) ‘Applying principles of Circular Economy to sustainable tourism’,  (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Fitch, A., Kuyer, J., Kharadi, N., Gower, J., Roberts, C., Dewey, N., Hull, S. and Jones, L. (2022) ‘Under the influence of nature: The contribution of Natural Capital to tourism spend’, PloS One, Vol. 17, No. 6,  (Accessed 31 August 2022).

Grant, M. J. and Booth, A. (2009) ‘A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies’, Health Information & Libraries Journal, Vol. 26, No .2, pp 91-108. DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009. 00848.x

Hilton (2022) ‘Travel with Purpose: Hilton 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance Report’, (Accessed 1 September 2022)

Holden, A., Jamal. T. and Burini, F. (2022) ‘The Future of Tourism in the Anthropocene’, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 47,  (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Jones, P. and Wynn, M. (2019) ‘The Circular Economy, Natural Capital and Resilience in Tourism and Hospitality’, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 31, No. 6, pp. 2544-2563

Legrand, W. (2021) ‘The solutions nature provides; how can hotels contribute and benefit?’,  (Accessed 1 September 2022)

Lim, W. M. (2016), “Creativity and Sustainability within Hospitality and Tourism”, Tourism Management Perspectives, Vol. 18, pp. 161-167

Manniche, J. Larsen, K.T. and Broegaard, R.K. (2021) ‘The circular economy in tourism: transition perspectives for business research’, Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 247-264.

Marriott International (2021) ‘Serve 360: Environmental, Social and Governance Progress at Marriott International’, (Accessed 1 September 2022)

Oliver, T. (2018) ‘Is the concept of Natural Capital useful?’  In Anderson, V. (Ed.). Debating Nature’s Value- The Concept of Natural Capital, pp. 49-54, Palgrave Macmillan, London. (Accessed 14 September 2022).

Office for National Statistics (2021) ‘Tourism and outdoor leisure accounts, Natural Capital UK, 2021’,  (Accessed 1 September 2022)

Pamfilie, R., Firoiu, D., Croitoru, A-G. and Ionescu, G. H. I. (2018) ‘Circular Economy: A new direction for the hotel industry in Romania’, Amfiteatru Economic Journal, Vol. 20, No. 48, pp. 388-404.

Pongsakornrungsilp, P. and Pongsakornrungsilp, S. (2021) ‘Mindful tourism: nothing left behind – creating a circular economy society for the tourism industry of Krabi, Thailand’, (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Popay, H., Baldwin, S., Britten, N., et al., (2007), Narrative synthesis in systematic reviews, Manchester: ESRC Research Methods Programme.

Rodriguez, C., Florido, C. and Jacob, M. (2020) ‘Circular Contributions to the Tourism Sector: A Critical Literature Review’, Sustainability, 12, (Accessed 30 August 2022)

Rodriguez-Anton, J.M. and Alonso-Almeida, M. (2019) ‘The Circular Strategy in Hospitality: A Multi-Case Approach’, Sustainability, Vol. 11, No. 20,  (Accessed 1 September 2022)

Rowley, J. (2002) ‘Using case studies in research’, Management Research News, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp.16-27.

Seraphim, H., Sheeran, P. and Pilato, M. (2018) ‘Over-tourism and the fall of Venice as a destination’, Journal of Destination Marketing and Management, Vol. 9, No.2,  (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Sorensen, F. and Baerenholdt, J.O. (2020) ‘Tourist practices in the Circular Economy,’ Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 85.  (Accessed 30 August 2022)

Sorin, F. and Einarsson S. (2020) ‘Circular economy in travel and tourism: A conceptual framework for a sustainable, resilient and future proof industry transition, CE360 Alliance,  (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Sorin, F. and Sivarajah, U. (2021) ‘Exploring circular economy in the hospitality industry: empirical evidence from Scandinavian hotel operators’, Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 265-285.

van Zantem, B., Lacle, F., van Duren, S., Soberon, V. and van Beukering, P. (2018) ‘The Value NC for the Tourism Industry of Aruba’,  (Accessed 1 September 2021)

Vargas-Sanchez, A. (2018) ‘The unavoidable disruption of the circular economy in tourism’, Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 10, No. 6, pp. 652-661.

World Forum on Natural Capital (2017) ‘What is Natural Capital’,  (Accessed 31 August 2022)

Wynn, M. and Jones, P. (2022) ‘Digital Technology Deployment and the Circular Economy’, Sustainability, Vol. 14, No. 15, Art. 9077. DOI: 10.3390/su14159077


DSRPT is an education technology start-up in stealth mode.
Circular Economy is our first venture. We are on a mission to disrupt higher education. If you wish to learn more about us, drop us a message: