Agent-Based Modeling: A Powerful Tool for Tourism Researchers

Nicholls, Sarah; Amelung, B.; Student, Jillian


Agent-based modeling (ABM) is a way of representing complex systems of autonomous agents or actors, and of simulating the multiple potential outcomes of these agents behaviors and interactions in the form of a range of alternatives or futures. Despite the complexity of the tourism system, and the power and flexibility of ABM to overcome the assumptions such as homogeneity, linearity, equilibrium, and rationality typical of traditional modeling techniques, ABM has received little attention from tourism researchers and practitioners. The purpose of this paper is to introduce ABM to a wider tourism audience. Specifically, the appropriateness of tourism as a phenomenon to be subjected to ABM is established; the power and benefits of ABM as an alternative scientific mechanism are illuminated; the few existing applications of ABM in the tourism arena are summarized; and, a range of potential applications in the areas of tourism planning, development, marketing and management is proposed.