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Different levels of tourism policy and planning

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What are the different levels of tourism policy and planning? Tourism policy and planning is a very complex issue involving a number of stakeholders and bodies. Research in this area can often be overwhelming and confusing for the untrained eye.

This post, therefore, intends to provide a basic introduction to tourism policy and planning, outlining the different levels of involvement by different organisations. At the end of the post I have included some recommend texts for further reading suitable for tourism industry stakeholders (those working in or interested in the industry) and those studying the tourism industry. 


What is tourism policy and planning?

These two terms are largely interchangeable. Tourism policy can be defined as;

A set of rules, regulations, guidelines, directives, and development/promotion objectives and strategies that provide framework within which the collective, as well as individual decisions directly affecting long-term tourism development and the daily activities within a destination are taken

Planning can be defined as;

                ‘the process of making decisions for the future, and not simply the physical preparation of a ‘plan’.  Planning involves implementing decisions and monitoring the outcomes.’

Components of tourism

Tourism policy and planning typically involves a number of components, namely:

  1. Tourism attractions and activities
  2. Accommodation
  3. Other tourist facilities and services
  4. Transportation facilities and services
  5. Other infrastructure
  6. Institutional elements
tourism policy and planning

You may also be interested in my post- ‘Why tourism planning is important‘ 

Levels of tourism planning

Tourism policy and planning takes place on different levels. This can take a top-down approach, for example by international or national bodies, or a bottom-up approach, from a local level.

tourism policy and planning


International tourism planning

At the international level tourism planning typically involves; international transportation services; the movement and scheduling of the tours of tourists among different countries; the development of major tourist attractions and facilities in neighbouring countries and the working strategies and promotional programs of many countries.

Examples of international level participation groups include:

  • International Government and Intra-government Org’s:g. World Tourism Organisation; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  • International Producer Organisations:g. World Travel and Tourism Council
  • International Non-Producer Organisations:g. Tourism Concern; World Wildlife Fund (WWF); Greenpeace;
  • International Single Interest Organisations:g. World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

You may also be interested in my post- ‘What is tourism? A definition of tourism‘ 

The following organisations will consider similar issues, but not limited by the concerns or boundaries of a single nation. Decisions and influences from this level can be significant for tourism at a national and local level

  • European Union
  • of Caribbean States (ACS)
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • The South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO)
  • The “Tourism Program” of the Organization of American States (OAS)


National tourism planning

The national level of tourism planning is concerned with: tourism policy; infrastructure facilities and a physical structure plan which includes important tourist attractions, selected tourism development regions, international entry points, facilities, and services. It is also concerned with: the amount, kinds, and quality of accommodation and other required tourist facilities and services; the important tour routes in the country and their regional connections; tourism organisational entitles, laws and investment policies; tourism marketing strategies and promotion; education and training programs and environmental, economic, and socio-cultural analysis.

Examples of national level participation groups include:

  • National Government and Intra-government Organisations- e.g. Visit Britain, Tourism New Zealand
  • National Producer Organisations- e.g. Visit Scotland, ABTA, The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO)
  • National Non-Producer Organisations- e.g. National Trust; The British Association for Nature Conservationists
  • National Single Interest Organisations- e.g. The Wilderness Society; Society for the Protection of Birds


You may also be interested in my post- ‘Volunteer tourism: The reasons why people volunteer‘ 

Regional tourism planning

Regional planning looks at aspects including; regional policy: regional entry points and transportation facilities and services; kinds of tourist attractions and their locations; the amount, kinds, and location of tourist accommodation and other tourist facilities, and services and location of tourist development areas including resort areas.

In addition, they will manage: socio-cultural, environmental, economic, and impact analysis’s; education and training programs on the regional level; marketing techniques and promotion; organisational establishments, laws, regulations and investment policies and implementation methods which include project plans and regional zoning regulations.

Examples of regional level participation groups include:

  • Regional Government and Intra-government Organisations– g. Caricom, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)
  • Regional Producer Organisations– e.Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association
  • Regional Non-Producer Organisations– e.g. European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe
  • Regional Single Interest Organisations- e.g. Coastwatch Europe, Climate Action Network Europe


Local tourism planning

Local level participants will consider tourism planning goals/objectives, analysis, plan preparation, outputs, outcomes, and evaluation at grass roots level.

Examples of local level participation groups include:

  • Local Government and Intra-government Organisations- e.g. local government involvement in leisure and tourism provision, e.g. Visit Cornwall, Tourism South East
  • Local Producer Organisations- e.g. local chambers of commerce and industry associations; local sporting clubs and private sport and leisure centres
  • Local Non-Producer Organisations- e.g. ratepayers and resident associations,
  • Single Interest Organisation – e.g. organisations such as ‘friends of a park’ or a group which has been formed in order to prevent particular developments such as a hotel or airport

The approach and implementation of tourism policy and planning differs considerably between destinations. It may, for example, be well organised and regulated in a developed country (or even over-regulated in some cases), and less resourced in developing countries.

Tourism Policy and Planning

To conclude, this post has demonstrated that tourism policy and planning takes place on different levels and in many different regards. For more information on tourism planning I recommend that you take a look at this post- ‘Why tourism planning is important

I also recommend that you consult some of the following texts, which are beneficial both to tourism practitioners and those who are studying the travel and tourism industry.

Tourism Policy and Planning: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Tourism Planning and Destination Marketing

Leisure, Sport and Tourism, Politics, Policy and Planning

Tourism Planning: Policies, Processes and Relationships

Do you have any views on this topic? Please leave any comments in the box below.

If you wish to cite any of the content in the post please use reference ‘Stainton, Hayley. (2018) Lifeasabutterfly.’

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