Tourism Planning Discussion Paper


The paper will focus on tourism planning of a hypothetical regional destination. The area is a central highland region of a temperate island. There are two travel options available for a person travelling from the mainland. He or she can opt to use a plane and it will only take him an hour to reach there from the mainland. If time allows, one could opt to take the ferry. It would take him five hours and he will have a chance to relax. The area has several potential tourist attractions. The coast off the island is already an established tourist destination. However, the region faces several problems.

There are environmental problems to consider. This is an important aspect in any region, which attracts tourism. The central region has an undeveloped infrastructure. The economy is not great either; it faces an economic depression. This situation can be rectified if tourism can develop in the area. The government has seen the need to develop tourism in the region. It is surveying the possibility of using tourism to develop the region’s economy. For it to be successful in this venture, it has to formulate policies, which will include the local people. The region has a number of isolated ethnic groups but they have been ignored by their government. Their inclusion could cause tremendous growth in the tourism sector since they would bring cultural diversity in the region.

Discussion: Approaches to Tourism planning

A region that expects to see any growth in its tourism industry has to put in place plans that can be achieved. Failure to plan will cause the region to experience social and environmental problems. The gains derived from tourism planning should trickle down to all the stakeholders. These include the private developers, the local community, the government and the tourists. The people involved in the process of tourism planning have to consider the legal, physical, economic, social and environmental aspects.

Like any other processes, several steps have to be followed. The first step is to define the system. This step will include knowing the scale and market of the region. It will also define the purpose for the proposed project. After defining, objectives must be formulated. They should have a time limit for the completion of the projects. Thirdly, research has to be done. This will involve collecting data, analyzing it and interpreting it. The plan is then made from the research that has been conducted. After its approval, the final plan is formulated and implementation can begin (Raina, 2005).

Economic Approach

The individuals and institutions that are involved in developing tourist destinations do so with the aim of making a profit. Some of the methods used in this case are supply and demand analysis, benefit and cost analysis, market segmentation, developing incentives and matching the product with the market (Hall & Page, 1999). If the demand side is given preference over the supply side, it will cause pressure on the available resources. Products need to be matched with their markets. When marketing a tourist destination, only the available products should be marketed. Marketing products that do not exist in a particular market will only lead to loss of tourists in that region. They will feel cheated and this can influence others not to go. Incentives include offering discounts especially during the off-season and off-peaks. This could be in terms of hotel accommodation, airfares, entry fees to games and reserves among other places.

The region benefits from the tourist visits because they get an income from the visitors. Foreign tourists also benefit the country in terms of foreign exchange. Areas with a high tourist potential also attract investors to the region. The investors bring in development and economic changes. People get a chance to work and the level of unemployment is reduced. The economic situation of a country therefore improves. The government takes the tourism industry like any other industry and develops it in the same way it would do to other industries.

The weakness in this approach is that it does not consider some of the issues, which are sensitive to the industry. Issues such as those affecting the environment are not given the first priority. The community is also left out and they are not included in the decision-making process (Hall & Page, 1999). The other weakness is when a region develops as a tourist attraction and depends on tourism for all its economic needs; it will be negatively impacted during times of low season or other crisis (Council of Europe, 1996). The strength of this approach is that more people get employment and there is marked development in the country in terms of the economy and the infrastructure.

Environmental Approach

The planners view the development of tourism in terms of environmental conservation and preservation. The methods used include carrying out ecological and perceptual studies, assessing the environmental impact and regional planning (Hall & Page, 1999). Development of tourism then occurs after an assessment of all these methods. If there are any negative environmental impacts that would result from the development, the projects are abandoned. If the environment cannot support the developments then the projects are put on hold (Council of Europe, 1996). Tourism can affect the environment of a region in a positive or a negative manner. Today, many tourists are looking for natural beauty and wildlife in its natural habitat (Theobald, 1998). It can lead to environmental degradation or preservation. Environmental degradation occurs through pollution and destruction of natural habitat. There are cases where forests have been cleared to make room for tourist accommodation. The coral reefs have not been spared either. The animals and other creatures that live in these places end up loosing their habitats.

On the other hand, tourism planning has created an opportunity for the planners and the developers to protect the environment. Proper planning gives people a chance to develop the natural habitats and this protects the environment. Protected environments attract tourists more. Other environmental factors to consider include reducing soil erosion, protecting water sources, reducing the use of pesticides and other toxic substances, preserving archeological and monumental sites among others. Having an environmental approach when planning is of course of benefit. The environmental approach to tourism planning has made it possible for several monuments, buildings and archeological sites to be rediscovered and maintained. Places of aesthetic value that had once been forgotten have been refurbished and are now used as tourist attractions.

It has also led to the preservation of the natural environment. The public has been educated and there is a general awareness of the importance of resources. This has in turn created a willingness in the people to conserve their environment since they will benefit from it. This approach has also led to the creation of bio-diversity. This has been realized by the renewed interest to conserve the environment. The drawback in this approach is that further development may be hindered. In their efforts to conserve the environment, the planners will choose to preserve rather than develop. This will in turn reduce the chances of having the place.

Social Approach

Tourism affects the local community. The methods used in this approach are creating awareness within the local community through education, carrying out attitudinal surveys to find out the views of the community regarding the developments and assessing the social impact (Hall & Page, 1999). Tourism planners should engage the local community. This is because the community involved may not consider tourism as an economic venture and something to benefit them. It may rather seem like an imposition and an invasion in their land (Gunn & Var, 2002). In some cases, the local community is given the top priority in the planning and development cases.

The drawback of this is that, the region may not receive many tourists since their needs may not be catered for. On the other hand, the community feels appreciated and they are more willing to take care of available resources. Another method to this approach is the fact that more recreational facilities will be created. This is a benefit to all the people involved. Increase, improvement and modernization of social amenities are some of the strengths to this approach. Because of the development, people may change their lifestyle and habits. This can have both positive and negative consequences.

The negative aspect is that there is loss of aesthetic value and culture. The local community can end up loosing their identity especially if they get absorbed in the new cultures. The people are forced to behave and act in a different way when the tourists are around (Theobald, 1998). In the case of the hypothetical region, there are only several ethnic communities. If they do not make an effort to preserve their culture, they will end up loosing it. The government, non-governmental organizations, private developers and other stakeholders can combine the social, economic and environmental approaches to tourism planning. This ensures that resources are well distributed and there is no dependence of one approach.

Challenges Facing the Planners

Individual and the government planners face a number of challenges. The problem is worse if the government does not recognize the need for tourism planning. Another hindrance is presented when the government hinders progress. The government will not support any plan if it does not consider the tourism industry as a worthy venture. Both the government and private developers face the problem of engaging the community in their plans. If the community is not receptive, then it will be a bother to the planners. The other problem is lack of planning in past developments. This may present a huge challenge. Haphazard planning means that resources are misused and there is no space for expansion. The government may also put in place stringent rules that may hinder any development from taking place (Gunn 2004). This is especially so, in matters relating to the environment.

The rules that have to be followed may present a challenge to the planners such that they see no value or benefit to be derived from the ventures. Dwindling natural resources is another problem. Urban development has led to the destruction of several potential sites. As stated earlier, practices such as deforestation have led to loss of animal habitat. This has meant that creatures have had to migrate to other places. Situations such as droughts have also contributed to this. The planners have a hard time marketing their products when such situations arise. For instance, lack of rain may lead to some animals and birds migrating to other countries. The tourists may feel cheated when they realize that what was marketed is not what is presented. This will have a negative impact on the tourism sector and it poses a huge challenge to the planners. Lack of facilities is also another challenge. Planners face a challenge if there are no resources to develop a potential, tourist destination.

Lack of a clearly laid out policy is another problem. If there are no clear guidelines on the way forward, then this is a huge challenge. Political instability and security concerns are other challenges that the planners have to consider. If a country faces constant threats from terrorists then it will not receive many tourists. The same case applies of the country is has internal problems such as civil wars. In this case, it will not matter the country has many tourist attractions. The tourist will avoid it because they fear for their lives. Such situations have happened in some countries in Africa and the Middle East where there are constant wars.

Another challenge is loss of culture. The community can become a tourist attraction if it maintains its culture. Many planners often market some communities’ culture as a tourist attraction. However, many of these cultures have become absorbed into other cultures and they have been polluted. They have lost their identity and way of life. Through this, the marketers loose one of their tourist attractions. Markets keep on changing and consumers change their preferences frequently. This can be overwhelming to planners especially those in developing countries that have minimal resources. For instance, there is an increase in the number of tourists wanting to see the wild. They want to see animals in their natural habitats rather than visiting the zoos. A region, which had put its resources in zoos, might suffer because of this.

Technology improves almost on a daily basis. There are many innovations and the marketers have to stay ahead of their rivals. This requires a lot of capital and daily up dates of what is new to the markets. The economic situation of a particular country can also be a major hindrance to tourism planning and development. Just recently, many parts of the world were going through a recession. Many industries suffered and tourism was no exception. Countries that depend on tourism suffered as they registered low numbers of arrivals. This is a major problem for the planners. The weather conditions and the climate also cause problems in the industry. Due to the global warming experienced, various countries and regions of the world have seen significant changes in weather patterns. Some countries have hotter summers and others have very cold winters. This can also affect air travel since it is not possible to fly during extreme snowy conditions.


Overall Framework for Development

Some plans are made to promote a certain region as a tourist destination. Others are made to develop and provide guidelines for future tourism plans. They detail the strategies taken to achieve these plans

Steps to be taken in the planning process

  • Identify the tourist destination: the region should have a place, which can be modeled into an attractive tourist destination.
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis: before any developments begin, the planners find out the strengths and opportunities that the place has. The place needs to be a strong tourist site and have many opportunities for expansion. It would be futile if the threats and weaknesses that the place has proved numerous than the opportunities presented.
  • Assess the demand and supply: it is possible to estimate the number of tourist that the place is expected to have. This is done in consultation with the industry’s experts. By viewing the place and the developments that are about to take place, they can be able to identify the purpose of the destination. They can also help in creating awareness. They can go the local communities and to the international markets.

The criteria that they would use to make their judgment would include the following. The tourist attractions sites that the place has, how the place is assessed, the local population, the time it would take to develop the place and the cost estimated, the climate and the geography of the place, available infrastructure and social amenities. In addition, it includes the quality of this infrastructure, what makes the place different from other tourist attractions and what would make a tourist choose to go there and not any other place.

  • Objectives: after assessing the potential demand and supply, the planners must come up with the objectives of the specific place. These objectives might include tourist satisfaction, environment and resource conservation and preservation and economic development. Whatever the objectives are, it is imperative that they be inclusive of the local community (Gunn & Var, 2002). They have to involve the local communities in such plans if they want to succeed. They have to be familiar with the lifestyle of the affected communities and they have to know how the developments will affect their way of life.

It is important to remember that the ethic communities in this place have often been ignored by the government. They have not been consulted on matters and they may feel resentful and view the developments as an imposition in their lives. They also have to consider the environmental impact of the developments. If there are any disagreements with the community concerning the developments, they will have to come up with a way of resolving things. They cannot proceed if there is still tension lurking behind.

  • Data collection: after setting the objectives, the next thing is to collect the data. Since this is a new place that has never been used as a tourist destination, there are no secondary sources available. The only source would be from the island and it would not be as helpful since it is not the same region. The place in question has not had any tourist related activity and there is a lot of data to be collected. It can be divided into the following groups:
  • Geography – data will be collected on the size of the region, climate, the weather, and location of the region, type of settlement, population density and water bodies.
  • Demography of the site and the potential tourists – this will include dividing the population into age groups, data will also be collected on the family structures and sizes, gender, religion, occupation and the level of education.
  • Psychography of the potential tourists and the site – data will be collected on the lifestyle and the personalities of the people, culture and cultural activities of the local community and how they interact with outsiders, the native languages, preferences. For the potential tourists, the data that is collected will mostly dwell on their personality, lifestyle and social class.
  • Behavioral data of the potential tourists – this will include the purpose of the tourists visit and their attitudes towards the region.
  • Market analysis and research: a request for proposal explains the rules for the specific studies of the spot. Based on this proposal, the planners check the value of the specific place by conducting market research. The process may take more than two months depending on the size of the region and the work to be carried out. The collected data goes through the process of collation, tabulation and analysis. The planners then decide on the appropriate time to start the developments. If it is not worthy to carry out the projects, the planners opt out and decide on other things.
  • Select the industry players: after the data has been analyzed and research has been conducted, the plan is then ready to start. The planners choose who is going to develop the place. This process will depend on the policy of the particular country. The private developers may decide to do a joint project with the public sector. However, this depends on the government’s policies regarding tourism development and the ability of the individuals or the non-governmental organizations to carry out the projects (Johri, 2005).
  • Implementation and assessment of impacts: the plan needs to be implemented after the key players have finished working on it. The tourism destination will have several impacts on the environment, the community and the economy. The planners should carry out an assessment of all these impacts. This will also determine what needs to be reviewed. For instance, situations may arise where the environment is impacted in a negative manner. Such situations need to be reviewed and rectified. If the local community benefits economically, there may be need for expansion so that more people are able to benefit.

Guiding principles for planning participants

The most important guiding principle is that the participants have to work together with the local community. They should integrate them in their plans and value their opinion (Greed, 1999). They should also act as problem solvers and not enhancers. This is especially important when there are disagreements between the parties involved. They should come up with solutions and try to find a workable solution. They should also listen to the views represented by the local community and take them into perspective. The other consideration they should make is that they should try to conserve the environment. This is an important principle even in areas where they do not have an environmental approach to tourism development.

Issues to be considered when planning

Impacts to be considered after implementation include environmental, business, cultural, lifestyle, education, technological, recreation, transport and social impact. One also has to consider the availability of natural resources, social amenities and infrastructure. There are only two ways through which one can access the central highlands. These two ways can be affected by the weather conditions. If there were a storm, it would prove impossible to travel to the region. This is because the ferry and the plane cannot be used in such conditions. The prevailing weather conditions will have an impact on tourism. The weather will determine the number of tourists at a region.

Government policies should also be considered. The government is beginning tourism in the region so the people there are relatively new to the idea. However, the government has established a flourishing tourism industry at the coast. It has therefore laid out the policies and commercial developers and non-governmental organizations are expected to follow the guidelines. Management is also an important factor. This is also affected by the level of education I that the people have. If the people lack in management skills, the planners should find a way to provide education and training in this field. This will also include receptionists, office and hotel managers, chefs, drivers and other stakeholders. Tourism is a hospitality industry and the visitors want to feel welcome in a foreign country or region. It is of paramount importance therefore that the people learn how to deal with all the different personalities.


Tourism is an important industry in every economy. It should be given due importance and allocated resources just like other industries. Lack of planning has led to haphazard developments in many regions. This can be improved if governments started to plan now and avoid doing things in a disorderly manner. Much as there are economic benefits reaped from the industry, the environment should also be protected. Conservation and preservation are important tools and they determine the future of tourism in any country. The community is important. They should be included in all the plans concerning their land and waters. They should be involved in such activities and they should also gain economically. Finding a balance between the three approaches of social, economic and environment is the key to having a good tourism industry.


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