Planning for Community Tourism (Part 1 in this new series)

A Community Tourism Plan is a written document produced on behalf of a community by a group of people representing a broad cross-section of interests within that community. The plan provides a framework for business, local government, cultural and other organisations to analyse tourism resources and concerns, and to encourage tourism development and promotion.

In countries where Integrated Development Plans (IDP) are required for all Towns and Districts, the Community Tourism Plan may grow out of the recommendations concerning tourism in the IDP and be seen as adjunct to the IDP. In other areas the responsibility for driving the development of a Community Tourism Plan may be vested in a Local (or Regional) Tourism Organisation.

Tourism is the business of attracting and serving the needs of visitors – people travelling and staying outside their home communities for business or pleasure. Businesses that derive a majority of their revenues from visitors are clearly in the tourism industry, but since most other businesses sell goods and services to visitors as well, tourism has a substantial impact on the rest of the economy.

The tourism industry is made up of many types of attractions, businesses, organisations, and activities, and has five key components:

  • Tourism Attractions
  • Tourism Businesses
  • Tourism Infrastructure
  • Tourism Hospitality; and
  • Tourism Promotion

Tourism Attractions include our parks, which provide outdoor recreational experiences, as well as museums, galleries, indabas or powwows, a variety of heritage and cultural festivals and experiences, agricultural exhibitions, craft fairs and more events reflecting the local way of life.

Other attractions provide palaeontological, mineral spa and casino gaming and sporting experiences. Events in nature, such as wild bird migrations, seasonal blooming of wild flowers, also act as attractions.

Tourism Businesses include the hotels, motels, campgrounds, holiday farms (agritourism), bed and breakfasts, guest ranches, outfitting camps, service stations, tourism boating (including sunset cruises; sport fishing; site-seeing and game viewing cruises), motor coach, car rental, airline and charter services, restaurants, and other retail businesses that can take care of visitors’ needs.

Tourism Infrastructure includes roads, bridges and ferries, airports and landing strips, parking areas, wastewater and solid waste disposal facilities, water and power services, boat launches and docking facilities, access to telephones, cellular service and internet, availability of fuel, location, distance and directional signage, and police and emergency services. The way people get to an area and the basic services available to them along the way and when they get there, affect the ability to attract visitors.

Tourism Hospitality involves how tourists are welcomed and looked after during their stay. It determines whether visitors have a pleasant and enjoyable experience, and therefore is critical to the success of tourism attractions and businesses.

Visitors to tourism operations have high expectations of the quality of personal service they receive. Courtesy, service, and genuine thoughtfulness are noticed and appreciated by visitors.

Tourism Promotion involves activities which individuals and groups undertake to attract potential tourists. Co-operative advertising, websites, social media, attendance at travel shows, magazine articles, brochures, maps, commercial and promotional signs, travel guides, newspaper, radio, television and tourism information centres are all examples of promotional activities.

In many communities tourism is recognised as an industry that can make a positive contribution to economic and social wellbeing. In others, though, it is seen as a potential threat to traditional lifestyles and related natural resources. Effective tourism planning can be used to balance the economic opportunities with the cultural and natural sensitivities of the area. Planning at the community level often ensures that a wider range of perspectives is brought into the process.

It is increasingly important for communities  to take the opportunity to prepare plans for tourism within their communities.

Community based plans can minimise or eliminate negative impacts which could result from tourism. They can also identify the educational requirements and support necessary for residents to start their own tourism business operations and to obtain employment in the industry. They should also identify areas in which the natural resources necessary to support tourism activities need to be conserved.

Many communities already possess outstanding ‘tourism assets’ including golf courses, national  and provincial or state parks, agricultural fairs, rodeos, museums, interpretive centres and other cultural facilities, sporting, and service club events. Many are located in close proximity to natural areas identified as prime locations for ecotourism, agritourism, and cultural tourism activities.

The impact of visitors’ spending in these communities is helping to retain retail services that would otherwise have experienced serious difficulty. The positive impact of tourism in terms of enabling people to stay in their local community and district while coping with low commodity prices is frequently apparent. On the other hand, community residents who have to compete with visitors at the local coffee shop or campsites in the regional park, for instance, may have second thoughts.

A Community Tourism Plan prepared with widespread local involvement and support helps to ensure that community and district residents can optimise the benefits available from tourism activities, while successfully dealing with any real or perceived negative circumstances.

Future posts will deal with ‘Developing a Local Tourism Policy’, ‘Establishing a Tourism Committee’, ‘Step-by-step preparation of the Community Tourism Plan’, ‘Implementation of the Pan’, ‘Monitoring the Effectiveness of the Plan’ and more.

Contact Lorton Consulting about planning for Community Tourism in your community — we would be more than willing to advise you.


  1. I found this information very interesting and have passed it onto our new Strategic Development officer in our local municipality. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter, etc. for future articles.

  2. Themba Monyela

    Very informative article, especially for us in Afrca.

  3. Well , we try to do our best here in Guatemala ! See and for the nearest future .. because marketing and ” selling ” is important >>

  4. Great and informative article! I have been working on a document for Masaka Region (Uganda) on community tourism . The above information will be very helpful

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