The role of government is an important and complex aspect of tourism, involving policies and political philosophies. State intervention in the trade is a relatively recent practice for central government. State participation increased as tourism became a mass phenomenon, reaching a peak shortly after the Second World War in 1939-45. A slow withdrawal began in the boom years of the 1980s with the shift to the market-oriented economy. These trends are noted in this chapter, together with an examination of the principal aspects of state intervention:
- Areas for state action.
- Definitions of the role of the state.
- Principal state functions.
- Tasks of the destination authority.
- Government tourism policies.
- International intergovernmental bodies concerned.
- International trade organizations with an advisory role.
- International regional organizations.
The importance of many international organizations depends to some degree on the extent to which national governments have delegated their powers to intergovernmental bodies. This is the case with the European Union (EU), where many functions in taxation, regional and infrastructure development, and policy matters in transport, social and environmental regulation, are now within the competence of the administration in Brussels. For the most part, intergovernmental bodies’ activities are advisory or technical in character. There have been few intergovernmental initiatives outside the EU leading to action in the travel field, but there has been a slow movement towards liberalization of movement.
Areas of state intervention
In general the state recognizes that the duties of the public sector must cover such matters as health, safety, fair trading and consumer interests and infrastructure in transport such as roads, railways and ports. These are all matters of direct concern to the resident population. There is a mixed record in the provision of leisure facilities, environmental protection and conservation which includes responsibility for the unique cultural heritage, an important part of Europe’s visitor attractions.
Whatever form of organization or degree of devolution in the state’s role, it is essential that the public authority, central or local government should agree an overall strategy. This should be reinforced by an outline plan or guidelines, to present a coordinated picture of the destination’s future shape as a tourism area, both at national and local level. This may apply at regional level where the regional destination is in fact an accepted tourism entity, for example the Lake District or the Norfolk Broads in England. The state tourism agency, tourist board or government department will have an important role to play in advising on the strategy, offering opportunities to consult and cooperate with a dispersed private sector, and preparing a destination marketing strategy based on an identification of the appropriate markets and their needs and wishes. This leads to a product market fit indicating products and services required to attract the preferred visitor traffic. This is a vital role. The market will determine the outcome and the marketers have the essential responsibility to ensure product development to suit the required visitor movement.
Based on periodic surveys of the government role by the WTO, the OECD and individual countries, the principal functions of a Ministry of Tourism or of agencies under government control can be summarized as:
- Research, statistics and planning.
- Development of tourism resources.
- Regulation, including trade regulation.
- Training and education.
Local and regional tourist organizations
At the local level the regional or local authority has a role similar to that of the central government and in many ways a more comprehensive and important one. Indeed, in the early days of mass travel stimulated by the growth of the railway network, public sector intervention in tourism was solely at the local level. There were no national tourism organizations. The growth of large resorts, pioneered in Britain at the main seaside centres, encouraged the development of local tourism administrations to carry out the responsibilities of the host destination.
There are a number of international bodies, both government and nongovernment, with tourism interests. Government bodies reflect the national government’s interest in, and political will regarding, tourism intervention. In the industrialized countries, the tourism priority tends to be low. Because of the wide range of tourism activity the number of organizations with some concern or responsibility is great, but coordination and often ooperation as at the national level is weak. Furthermore, consultation with industry and operating sectors is often inadequate, as the sector’s voice is weak. The main sector industry bodies inevitably present the case of their own trade, sometimes as in modes of transport in a competitive situation. Thus the collective tourism approach is hard to organize and sustain, even when cooperation at the operating level is effective.
World Tourism Organization
The World Tourism Organization (WTO), an intergovernmental body recognized by the UN as an official agency with a consultative status, has taken the lead in representing its member governments’ collective view in tourism issues. Like its predecessor body, the International Union of Official Travel Organizations, it has developed useful technical programmes in statistics, research and the exchange of ideas and experience and in technical aid, particularly for poorer countries. The WTO has made efforts recently to strengthen its links with commercial and non-government partners through its system of affiliate membership which should help in the provision of practical guidance and as a basis for cooperative action.
Non-governmental international organizations
As the work of the intergovernmental bodies expanded, trade sectors and professional bodies found it necessary to organize both at the world and regional international level, first to respond or react to government interventions, and second, where practical, to seek a more positive relationship in cooperative and collective tasks. The need for consultation at appropriate levels became more pressing and although clearly essential not always accepted by government bodies. Industry sectors have established their international associations or groups, such as:
- Alliance International du Tourisme (AIT).
- International Air Transport Association (IATA).
- International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
- International Hotel Association (IHA).
- International Road Transport Union (IRU).
- International Union of Railways (UIL).
- Universal Federation of Travel Agents Associations (UFTAA).
International regional organizations
Both at UN and geographic regional level there are regional bodies concerned with their regional needs. So long as liaison is maintained, such regional action and support can be very effective in tourism. This is certainly the case in Europe, which is seen at world level as a destination entity with many common interests. The Council of Europe with Cultural Activities and the United Nations European Economic Commission are examples. The latter body, covering both East and West Europe, has been active in transport matters among others. (An introduction to tourism book) Governments to:
Develop holistic and comprehensive tourism development strategies in partnership with community and industry stakeholders (including major foreign tour operators or industry associations, where appropriate), that include realistic expectations for the social, cultural and environmental benefits to be reaped from tourism
Create positive investment structures to support and encourage sustainable development of tourism destinations
- Pressure industry associations to report on how they are achieving more sustainable tourism (e.g. industry associations are asking their members to sign up to guidelines and charters but few are enforcing this as a criteria for membership)
- Legislate for corporate social reporting
- Facilitate arenas to share best practices between sectors (hotels, tour operators, airlines and cruise lines) so that they can learn from one another
- Ensure sustainable tourism measures are seen as a core value in wider development plans and policies rather than solely focusing on economic benefits
- Legislate or provide incentives to businesses who adopt internationally recognised certification schemes or standards within their country
Cite This Work
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below: