The need for integrated tourism planning

Although there is evidence that some tourism destinations have developed without conscious strategic and integrated planning, many of them have experienced unforeseen consequences which have led to their deterioration.

Many reasons are offered for tourism planning, not least the advocacy that planning is the best way of extending the vital life-cycle of a destination by providing a means of anticipating changes, adjusting to the demands of change, and exploring new opportunities.

Some of the likely consequences of the lack of commitment to integrated tourism planning include:

Physical impacts

  • damage or permanent alteration of the physical environment.
  • damage or permanent alteration of historical/cultural landmarks and resources
  • overcrowding and congestion
  • pollution
  • traffic problems
  • poor or deteriorating quality of facilities and services.

Human impacts

  • less accessibility to services and tourist attractions for local residents resulting in local resentment
  • dislike of tourists on the part of local residents
  • loss of cultural identities
  • lack of education of tourism employees in skills and hospitality
  • lack of awareness of the benefits of tourism to the destination area.

Marketing impacts

  • failure to capitalise on new marketing opportunities
  • erosion of market shares due to the actions of competitive destination areas
  • lack of sufficient awareness in prime markets
  • lack of a clear image of destination area in potential markets
  • lack of cooperative advertising among individual operators
  • inadequate advantage taken of packaging opportunities
  • lack of sufficient attractions and events.

Organisational impacts

  • a fragmented approach to the marketing and development of tourism, often involving competitive groups
  • lack of cooperation among individual operators
  • inadequate representation of the tourism industries’ interests
  • lack of support from local public authorities
  • failure to act upon important issues, problems, and opportunities of common interest to the industry
  • poor or inadequate travel information services.

Few, if any, of these potential negative impacts are problems intrinsic in the nature of tourism. Most are directly attributable to a deficiency in the substance and implementation of tourism planning.

It may be claimed that strategic and integrated tourism planning has five purposes:

One: To identify alternative approaches to

  • marketing
  • development
  • industry organisation
  • tourism awareness
  • support services and activities

Two:  To adapt to the unexpected in

  • general economic conditions
  • energy supply and demand situation
  • values and life-styles
  • fortunes of individual industries
  • the external environment

Three: To maintain uniqueness in

  • natural features and resources
  • local cultural and social fabric
  • local architecture
  • historical monuments and landmarks
  • local events and activities
  • parks and outdoor sports areas
  • other features of the destination area

Four:  To create

  • high levels of awareness of benefits of tourism
  • clear and positive images of the area as a tourism destination
  • effective industry organisation
  • high levels of cooperation among individual operators
  • effective marketing, signage, and travel information programs

Five: To avoid

  • friction and unnecessary competition among individual tourism operators
  • hostile and unfriendly attitudes of local residents towards tourists
  • damage or undesirable, permanent alteration of natural features and historical resources
  • loss of cultural identities
  • loss of market share
  • termination of unique local events and activities
  • overcrowding, congestion, and traffic problems
  • pollution
  • high seasonality.

Tourism activity is becoming more competitive, more extensive, more complicated, and more demanding of host communities and their culture and environment. In order for the tourism enterprise in any destination area to respond positively to these challenges, it is necessary for tourism planning to be practised in a fashion commensurate with the needs of the destination area and the nation.

Integrating tourism planning into official planning – whether economic, social, welfare, environmental, infrastructure, or cultural – has been slow, and remains unusual. The ideal model would be a national/regional/local comprehensive planning system in which tourism is an integral component.

This model is rare, which is not surprising, as the various component strategies within tourism are seldom integrated. The important aims at two levels are

  • for the various interests, requirements and needs to be fused together into a composite, integrated strategic tourism plan
  • for tourism to be planned with the intention of being fused into the social and economic life of a region and its communities.

Tourism planning has been beset by a number of new challenges. Among these new challenges are:

  • a response to the threat of environmental deterioration
  • a recognition that tourism can be synergised with protected areas
  • the principles of sustainable development
  • the threats of carrying capacity violations
  • designing to be “place-specific” and “place-appropriate”
  • special interest tourism
  • ecotourism
  • conservation and resource protection
  • overcoming the exclusivity of economic development as the only goal
  • inclination towards quality, away from quantity
  • public sector and private sector co-operation
  • destination identity
  • the demand for adequate data with which to make decisions
  • creativity and innovation
  • land use stewardship.

The danger could be that tourism will become over-planned. Rather than act as a constraint, the new approaches to tourism planning should:

  • be open-ended
  • accommodate spontaneous development
  • foster new planning concepts and processes.

Planning policies, concepts and processes should be seen to be merely tools and not ends.

In a future blogs we will examine the “Means of Achieving Integrated Tourism Planning” and “Master Planning for Tourism”.

Lorton Consulting has substantial experience in Strategic Tourism Master Planning. Please contact us now so that we can assist you with your Tourism Master Planning needs.


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