Working Together: 6 Strategies to support stakeholder engagement in sustainable tourism

better tourism sustainability Jan 20, 2021
 

In the first article of this series, I shared the Super Six of Better Tourism Destinations as a sustainable and regenerative paradigm for destination development. The six principles above can guide the objectives you choose to set for your destination and the outcomes you seek to achieve by facilitating tourism in your destination.  Together they represent an alternative paradigm to the ‘Visitor Volume – Visitor Value – Visitor Satisfaction’ matrix that underlies the traditional approach to tourism development.

They are a response to the key question: ‘Why do we want tourism anyway?’

Regenerative Tourism is an idea getting much attention at the moment. At its heart, regenerative tourism is about creating the conditions for places and communities to thrive through tourism.  This is what The Super Six represent: a decision to swap pursuit of volume and revenue to feed gross national income for volume and revenue levels that bring balanced benefit to communities, places and visitors.  Such a mindset and policy change requires widespread and meaningful stakeholder engagement.

For policymakers and destination managers, here are 6 key guidelines for making it practical, palatable and possible for tourism businesses to adopt the Super Six of Better Tourism Business and contribute to overall destination objectives.

1. Make it together

A collective approach, incorporating agencies, enterprises and communities, is required if a better tourism destination is to be delivered. Avoid the mindset pitfall that this is all about what businesses do. Policy-makers create the conditions within which businesses work and visitors are hosted. Opening a channel for communication and a platform for collaboration between all stakeholders is essential.

2. Make it real

The term ‘better tourism’ must be meaningful and relevant. If policymakers and businesses are to willingly and enthusiastically embrace sustainable tourism practices, it is important to localise the standards, tailor them to the destination and develop practical goals supported by step-by-step actions that can be implemented within reasonable time frames. 

3. Make it possible

The theory of sustainable tourism make sense. The concept of regenerative tourism is even more appealing. The practice is a little more elusive – it can be overly conceptual, daunting and confusing. Investment in training and facilitation that is tailored to the collective needs of stakeholders in a destination is essential. 

4. Make it matter

Better Tourism is about creating the conditions for communities and places to thrive. From the outset, set targets and metrics for community benefit and environmental benefit arising from your destination management strategy. What gets measured gets managed – if there is a target and metric in place, a plan of action and activity to reach that target can be devised.

5. Make it pay

Recognising that tourism enterprises must engage voluntarily in a change of mindset and business practices and may often have to invest considerable resources to bring about this change, a strong commercial incentive must be attached to engaging with the sustainable destination management strategy e.g. inclusion in a destination marketing campaign, business supports, training and networking opportunities. The same principle applies to those in charge of distributing public funds - the return must be clear in terms of business, community and environmental benefit.

6. Make it last

Adopting a fundamentally new paradigm and direction is not a short-term policy or a strategy for a year or two until sustainability is ‘done’.  As the Super Six Wheel highlights, this is a journey of continuous improvement and one that will keep going, continuously evolving in response to the external environment. Budgets for training, marketing, facilitation and animation need to be provided on a continuous basis.

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