Standardisation Management at the Local Level to Support Authenticity and Sustainability

Standardisation is an important enabler of globalisation but may result in homogenisation. Authenticity is receiving increasingly more attention as a counter movement against globalisation. The two concepts standardisation and authenticity seem to exclude each other but previous research suggests that the opposite can be the case: in order to distinguish authentic from not-authentic, local standards are needed. Such standards are indeed available and have a long tradition but are not connected to the national, regional and global levels. Standardisation literature tends to ignore the local level and literature on authenticity (often in the context of hospitality management) ignores standardisation. Case-based research including action research should bridge this gap.


Authenticity, Standardisation management, Local communities, Hospitality management


In tourism research, authenticity is described as a form of reality, that is, a sense of the genuine and the sincere, ‘staying true to oneself’. Authenticity refers to the ‘real thing’ and serves as a label that attaches an identity to an object, subject or person. Literature distinguishes two basic forms of authenticity, based on two separate issues, namely tourist experiences and ‘toured objects’. Existential authenticity is activity-related (tourist experience) which may be personal or shared among people who experience the same. Authenticity related to toured objects includes ‘objective authenticity’, which refers to the authenticity of originals, and ‘constructive authenticity’, projected on toured objects by tourism producers or tourists. Authenticity can operate between these extremes, and it can be ‘negotiated’ between suppliers and consumers. Many consumers seem to develop their own interpretations of authenticity.

The appreciation of authenticity relates to the resistance against the homogenisation or ‘McDonaldisation’ that seems to be inherent to globalisation. This homogenisation is based on standards. However, previous research at RSM shows that authenticity needs a form of standardisation as well, in order to be able to distinguish authentic from not-authentic. This standardisation has its roots in ancient civilisations and, in Europe, in the guilds in which standardisation and conformity assessment at the local level were combined. Wine production in France is another example of authenticity supported by standards and conformity assessment. In wine production, the unique production process is interconnected to the unique combination of characteristics of soil, landscape (slopes), climate and weather: ‘terroir’. The European Union operates schemes to support and protect such authentic local production. This local level relates to sustainability as well: short distances between locations of production and consumption reduce the environmental impacts of transport, and local production supports the local economy. This approach provides opportunities for developing countries as well: if local communities manage to describe the scenery, attractions and accommodations in a standardised way and have proper conformity assessment in place, then they may make tourism their own business – currently 80% of the money spent for holidays in Africa goes to companies in the North. The local level of standardisation and conformity assessment within local communities then needs to be interconnected to the global level – for communication purposes (making the touristic offer visible and comparable to other offers via the Internet), and to ensure reliability of conformity assessment.

This research aims at developing theory about this new level of standardisation and conformity assessment, and its relations to authenticity and sustainability. Based on previous research we expect that positive effects can apply but previous research projects did not get a business follow-up so apparently certain factors hinder local communities (SMEs, their associations, local governments and other stakeholders) to take appropriate action. This should be investigated as well. This may lead to a best-practice model for governance and management of local standardisation in support of authenticity and sustainability. Next, a first test of its fitness for use can be done in the form of action research


  1. Literature review about core concepts and their interrelations, resulting in a conceptual model.
  2. Empirical case studies. Mainly qualitative but a quantitative part should be included as well, in the form of an investigation among a large number of consumers about their perceptions and appreciation of authenticity. Cross-case analysis.
  3. Last case study in the form of action research (intervention: assisting a local community in developing and implementing a standard and a system of conformity assessment, measuring impacts). This may build on previous empirical research (e.g. sustainable tourism in the wetland area in the North of the Netherlands, creating a profile of authenticity for bars and restaurants in the Dutch city Den Bosch, city marketing of the Italian city Torino, or Bordeaux wine production in France).

Required Profile

Hands-on no-nonsense business mentality combined with empathy, idealism and eagerness to be a force for positive change in the world. A business school background would be nice but another discipline may fit as well. Experience with both qualitative and quantitative research. Communication and writing skills.

Expected output

Dissertation based on journal papers.

Outreach to practitioners and policy makers (format to be decided at a later stage).

Societal relevance

We expect to find evidence of potential for win-win situations: combinations of standardisation and authenticity leading to both business opportunities and societal benefits. This is relevant for both local business, local communities, the environment and society as a whole (e.g. preserving cultural heritage).

Scientific relevance

This work contributes, first, to the standardization literature, which tends to ignore the local level of standardisation and with a few exceptions also fails to relate to the concept of authenticity; second, to the tourism and hospitality literature by linking city branding to standardisation and addressing the authenticity versus standardisation issue. The study also relates to literature on sustainability – the local level is being addressed but not linked to standardization in a systematic way.

Literature references

Aronczyk, M. (2008). “Living the Brand”: Nationality, Globality and the Identity Strategies of Nation Branding Consultants. International Journal of Communication, 2, 41-65.

Arts, W., Hagenaars, J., & Halman, L. (Eds) (2003). The Cultural Diversity of European Unity. Findings, Explanations and Reflections from the European Values Study. Leiden / Boston: Brill.

Caldwell, N., & Freire, J. R. (2004). The differences between branding a country, a region and a city: Applying the Brand Box Model. Journal of Brand Management, 12, 1, 50-61.

De Vries, H.J., Feilzer, A.J., Gundlach, H. & Simons, C.A.J. (2010). Conformity Assessment. In: Hesser, W., A.J. Feilzer & H.J. de Vries (Eds) Standardisation in Companies and Markets. Ed. 3. Hamburg: Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, pp. 871-904.

De Vries, H.J. & Go, F.M. (2017). Developing a Common Standard for Authentic Restaurants. The Service Industries Journal, 37, 15-16, 1008–1028.

De Vries, H.J., Go, F.M. & Alpe, S. (2018). The necessity for a local level of gastronomic tourism standardization – The case of Torino’s city branding. In Tina Melo Dias (Ed.) Modelling Innovation Sustainability and Technologies. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 205-221.

De Vries, H.J. & Wiegmann, P.M. (2017). Impact of service standardization on service innovation. In: Richard Hawkins, Knut Blind & Robert Page (Eds) (2017) Handbook of Standards and Innovation. Cheltenham, UK / Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, pp. 187-211.

Epstein, S.R. (2008). Guilds, Innovation and The European Economy, 1400-1800. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Haverkamp, A. & De Vries, H.J. (2016). Managing In-Company Standardisation while Avoiding Resistance: A Philosophical-Empirical Approach. In K. Jakobs (Ed.) Corporate Standardization Management and Innovation. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, pp. 92-125.

Kim, J.-H., & Jang, S. (2016). Determinants of authentic experiences: An extended gilmore and pine model for ethnic restaurants. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 28, 10, 2247–2266.

Maas, L.J.A. & De Vries, H.J. (2015). Standardisation in the French Wine Industry and the Effect on Authenticity. In: K. Bergh Skriver, K. Jakobs & J. Jerlang (Eds) EURAS Proceedings 2015 – The Role of Standards in Transatlantic Trade and Regulation. Aachen: Wissenschaftsverlag Mainz, pp. 253-270.

Martinez Badillo, J.J. (2008). Standards Implementation for E-Tourism in Developing Countries – A Research Apporach. In K. Jakobs, & E. Söderström (Eds) Proceedings 13th EURAS Workshop on Standardisation. Aachener Beiträge zur Informatik, Band 40 (pp. 177-186). Aachen: Wissenschaftsverlag Mainz in Aachen.

Ram, Y., Björk, P., & Weidenfeld, A. (2016). Authenticity and place attachment of visitor attractions. Tourism Management, 52, 110–122.

Ritzer, G. (2013) The McDonaldization of Society. Ed. 20. Thousand Oaks, CA / London / New Delhi / Singapore: Sage.

Wiegmann, P. M., De Vries, H.J. & Blind, K. (2017). Multi-Mode Standardisation: A Critical Review and a Research Agenda. Research Policy, 46, 8, 1370-1386.

Zeng, G., De Vries, H.J. & Go, F.M. (2019). Restaurant Chains in China - The Dilemma of Standardisation versus Authenticity. Singapore: Palgrave.

Zeng, G., Go, F.M., & De Vries, H.J. (2012). Paradox of Authenticity versus Standardization: Expansion Strategies of Restaurant Groups in China. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 31, 4, 1090-1100. 

Empirical data sources depend on the preferences of the candidate (e.g. developing countries, countries in transition, or developed countries, and the preferred business sector) and the willingness of cooperation partners to be involved and share data. Candidate-partners are available.