Path creation for an electricity transition in South African tourism

Irma Booyens, Gijsbert Hoogendoorn, Kristy Langerman, Kate Rivett-Carnac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Transitions to low-carbon energy are central to sustainability transitions, with electricity being a pressing current concern both in South Africa and globally. Economic, social, institutional, and political factors often make transitioning to renewable electricity particularly complex. In this article, we examine electricity transitions in tourism from a global South context, combining evolutionary economic geography (EEG) concepts with the multi-level perspective (MLP). Our findings point to strong exogenous lock-in factors working against an electricity transition in South African tourism. A historic dependence on coal, along with complex place-based factors lock the country into a carbon-intensive electricity path at the national electricity infrastructure level. In turn, these complexities adversely affect an electricity transition in the tourism sector. However, energy policy change along with innovation by tourism actors is emergent stimuli for creating low-carbon electricity paths. More specifically, recent climate change mitigation policies, the increasing unreliability of grid electricity, and legislative reforms are significant factors encouraging the renewal of the electricity system. At the same time, it is becoming more cost-effective for businesses, including tourism establishments, to install renewables. The South African case contributes to the emerging body of literature on sustainability transitions in tourism. It does this by showing that to achieve a just energy transition, proper appraisal of path-dependent structural challenges is needed to understand the nature and levels of change required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-213
Number of pages20
JournalTourism Geographies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Sustainability transitions
  • electricity
  • energy transitions
  • innovation
  • just transitions
  • tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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