Barcelona Field Studies Centre

The Butler Model of tourist resort development

The purpose of the Butler Model is to look at the way that tourist resorts, grow and develop. The tourist industry, like all industry, is dynamic and constantly changing. Therefore, the Butler Model is a way of studying tourist resorts and seeing how they change over time and in relation to the changing demands of the tourist industry. These changes can then be compared to the predictions as shown on the model.

The Butler Model (see Figure 1) breaks down tourist resort development into five distinct stages.

1. Discovery Stage

A settlement is 'explored' or 'discovered' by a small number of people who later tell others about their experience. In time other people visit and local people seize upon the new economic opportunities provided by these visitors and provide services to meet the needs of these visitors or tourists.

2. Growth and Development Stage

More tourists arrive having heard about the place by word of mouth, articles in Travel Supplements in papers such as The Sunday Times, brochures or tourist guides. The extra tourists attracted by the publicity and people willing to visit somewhere new will lead to the building of new hotels, restaurants, shops and services to cater for the influx of people.

3. Success Stage

As more people visit the resort, the facilities are now fully utilised. At this stage mass tourism replaces what was once the original economic function of the settlement. This may cause some resentment with people in the town who have not benefited from the new industry or from the loss of distinct identity that the settlement held before. It may appear that the local culture is being diminished by a more international and non-unique culture compared to what may have existed before.

4. Problem Stagnation Stage

Popularity may be short lived. People may become bored with the resort once its initial appeal had waned. Little of the original natural environment will remain and negative comments about what it used to be like may lead people to find somewhere new to discover. The effect of falling tourism if a resort goes out of fashion leads to economic decline and the under-utilisation of tourist infrastructure. The eventual closure of some of the businesses will lead to a rise in unemployment.

5. Decline or Rejuvenation

The tourist resort then has two options; either go into decline or rejuvenate and develop more sustainable strategies based upon lower visitor numbers.

The five stages of the Butler Model
Figure 1. The five stages of the Butler Model

The Butler Model applied to Mediterranean coastal holiday resorts

Mature tourist destinations