Business Times

Tourism strategies at provincial level

By Ruwan Ranasinghe

Given that tourism planning at provincial level is still in its early stages of development in Sri Lanka it is important that the Ministry of Tourism encourages strategic and sustainable forms of planning that ensure a wide range of community participation that includes the concerns and needs of the community. Sri Lanka being a country with a large volume of diverse resources base with an immense potential for tourism, the ideal approach for planning is site or resources location level. There are a number of sources that put forward a strategic approach but the intent here is to establish the primary principles that should be supported by the national tourism development planning process.
Strategic planning seeks an optimal fit between the system and its environment. Hence, it is;

  • Long term,
  • Contains vision,
  • Specifies goals (ends),
  • Specifies major actions (means) to achieve goals,
  • Specifies the major resource allocations to arrive at (ways),
  • Is dynamic, flexible, and adaptable,
  • Ensures that formulation and implementation of the strategic plan are not discrete, but linked closely through constant monitoring, environmental scanning, evaluation, and adjustment,
  • Is not a linear process and requires constant environmental scanning throughout the process to enable proactive response and adjustment. (Monitoring can start as soon as target indicators and levels are established in order to provide base line information).

A strategic approach to a sustainable community tourism plan also requires;

  • = Community participation and
  • Close coordination with local and
    regional legislative and political structures,
  • An innovative and inclusive organizational structure for joint planning,
  • A ‘learning’ community that is informed, educated and aware,
  • Applying the principles of sustainable tourism development, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the ecology, the local economy and the socio-cultural values of the host community, while distributing the benefits equitably among the stakeholders.

Strategic Tourism Planning - An Action Process
1st Step: Getting the community ready
Preliminary information gathering is required to enable a decision on whether to encourage tourism. The development of a Community Tourism Organization (CTO), planning scope, and terms of reference for the CTO are a key subsequent step.
The following should be included in defining the scope of the process:

  • Geographic area to be covered by planning,
  • A clear delineation of the purpose or goals of the planning exercise and problem statement (if the exercise is based on resolving existing tourism development related conflict)
  • Degree of public participation and mechanisms: (structure plus terms for involvement, plus mechanism for replacing stakeholders)
  • Budget and funding for the exercise,
  • Estimated time line for the process,
  • Consideration for how to address implementation concerns of stakeholders.

2nd Step: Situation analysis
This stage involves getting detailed information on the various aspects and issues related to tourism, including environmental, socio-cultural, economic, political, and visitor market analysis. Preliminary information and community concerns and issues identified in Stage I feed into this stage.

The situation analysis stage maintains a number of activities:

  • The conduct of a market analysis (current and potential tourist demand, activities desired, compatibility with community vision and values, etc).
  • The conduct of a competitive analysis (identifies competitive destinations (existing and potential), assesses their strengths and weaknesses, market shares, and determines where opportunities and threats might lie for a destination).
  • The conduct of a destination analysis that assesses a community’s infrastructure and tourism resources, using the inventory of tourism related resources.
  • The development of a comprehensive map of the community area, illustrating community features, location of recreation and tourism related resources, ecological factors (migration corridors, sensitive habitats, etc.), infrastructure and transportation access, etc.
  • The identification and ranking of issues, problems and opportunities to be addressed based on the evaluation of the information gathered in this stage, and the information obtained from the community assessment and tourism visioning process. It is important to examine prior and existing local and regional plans, which contain information relevant to tourism planning, to ensure that issues are understood and compatibility with overall local goals, and plams can be accomplished.

3rd Step: Goals and Strategies
The vision statement and the major goals of the community provide direction for evaluating and developing strategies and actions to accomplish this vision and goal. As in the situation analysis, the visioning process and its content provide valuable infomation for this stage. Broad community goals may be evident in the community’s tourism vision, and the exercise itself may contain information pertaining to some potential strategies. This again illustrates the non-linear nature of strategic planning. In order to negotiate goals, strategies, and action plans, it is important to focus the discussion on identifying interests and concerns of the stakeholders, rather than their positions, i.e. consider an interest-based negotiation philosophy (also referred to as principled negotiation).

4th Step: Objectives and Action Proprammes
Objectives and action plans are developed to accomplish goals and to carry out the strategies outlined in the previous stage. Objectives put a goal into action by specifying concrete, measurable targets to be achieved in a stipulated time frame (e.g. one, three, or five years). Objectives can be prioritized for action as well, though all should be implemented in order to achieve the associated goals. Alternatives should be examined before selecting specific objectives. Cost-benefit analyses and preliminary impact assessments (environmental, cumulative, etc.) are two important considerations at this stage.

5th Step: Monitoring,
Evaluating and Adjusting
Action Plans
The success of the tourism planning effort is greatly dependent on the ability of the process to monitor the implementation of the action plans, the achievement of the objectives, and the setting and monitoring of critical indicators and thresholds related to the resources being used. Indicators and thresholds can be established, for example for the ecology (e.g. develop indicators to monitor air quality, habitat fragmentation), for the economy (e.g. jobs, tourism income, and expenditures), for the tourists (e.g. numbers, length of stay, activities performed, satisfaction), and for the overall tourism industry (e.g. codes of ethics, interpretation activities, etc.). By setting specific thresholds to be monitored, action can be taken if these thresholds are approached or exceeded.

Tourism goals at provincial level

1. Increase province tourism revenues year-round through effective marketing and promotion efforts focused on priority markets

2. Encourage tourism and recreation-related business development that is strategic, sustainable, and supported by national policy.

3. Enhance the appeal of the province with improvements to infrastructure and amenities that provide a quality experience for both residents and visitors

4. Accentuate and manage the province’s natural, cultural and historic resources so they are sustained for future generations

5. Create partnerships between public, private and nonprofit organizations to plan, fund, and implement the Tourism Plan, and measure results.

Considering the above factors it has become an absolute need to focus on provincial level tourism strategies. Correspondingly, these provincial level strategies must be aligned with the national tourism development plan. Public sector as well as private sector policy planners and provincial level planning officers must get-together to add the prospective value while ensuring the sustainability of resources at provincial level.

(The writer is a lecturer of Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management at the Uva Wellassa University in Badulla).

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