Characteristics of Strategic Planning for Tourism

By John Dudovskiy
December 30, 2013

Strategic Planning for Tourism The term of tourism can be defined as “the temporary movement of people to destinations outside their normal places of work and residence, the activities undertaken during their stay in those destinations, and the facilities created to cater to their needs” (Gunn, 2002, p.9, as taken from Mathieston and Wall, 1982), and tourism has been assessed as the largest industry in the global scale.

Tourism provides both, economic and non-economic benefits to any given country. Economic benefits of tourism to a national economy is straightforward and it is associated with creation of new jobs, decrease in the levels of unemployment, stimulation of production of products and services to be consumed by tourists and others. Non-economic benefits of tourism, on the other hand, include facilitation of cultural exchanges, contribution to the levels of knowledge, and facilitation of communication.

Strategy can be defined as “the determination of the basic long-term goals and objectives of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals” (Campbell et al., 2012, p.12, taken from Chandler, 1962). Accordingly, strategic planning can be explained as “the process of developing approaches to reach a defined objective” (Axson, 2010, p.25).

Tourism industry has become more competitive than ever before, and therefore the importance of strategic planning for tourism industry is greater than ever before. The primary aim of the tourism industry relates to the achievement of adequate balance between the interests of public and private sectors.

Three general principles of planning for tourism can be specified as anticipation, regulation and monitoring. Anticipation involves making projections about the future state of the tourism on the basis of relevant secondary and primary data. Regulation, on the other hand, is closely associated with the levels of regulation of tourist and affiliated organisations in direct and indirect manners. The importance of monitoring relates to the collection of relevant data with the aims of analysing the performance of the tourism industry.

It is very important to acknowledge the role of policy in planning in an appropriate manner. Generally, policy marks the nature of government intervention in tourism, whereas planning is associated with specific action plan. The following table illustrates the main differences between policy-making and planning in an effective way:

  Policy-making Planning
Nature of decision-making Decisions tend to be political and based on negotiations and dependent on power relations Decisions tend to be rational, based on analyses and rational procedures
Order in decision-making Policy-making done in disorder and unpredictable manner Planning involves a set of sequential and predictable steps
Output A number of objectives and course of action stated broadly A specific outline of coordinated course of action

Table 1 Major differences between policy-making and planning

Source: Lyhne (2011)

Development of tourism in UK from policy viewpoint is marked with the introduction of Tourism Act and establishment of National Tourism Organisation in 1969. Nowadays, tourism policy in the UK is closely associated with multi-agency partnerships and intensive involvement of all parties in decision-making processes.

Borders represent another important area in tourism in general, and strategic tourism planning in particular. Border-related laws and regulations can be divided into two categories: ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. ‘Hard’ laws and regulations are strict guidelines usually found in treaties, whereas ‘soft’ regulations are less binding than ‘hard’ laws and they tend to have mainly recommendatory nature. When engaging in strategic planning in tourism ensuring total obedience to ‘hard’ laws and regulations are must, and at the same time ‘soft’ regulations need to be adhered to as much as possible.

A great level of importance of planning in tourism industry is closely related to its sustainability. In other words, it is important for policymakers and other stakeholders in tourism industry to make decisions and to develop and implement strategies in a manner that growth is achieved in beneficial manner to both, tourists, as well as, host locations in long-term perspectives.

According to Moutinho (2011) strategic planning in tourism need to be engaged in on the basis of SCEPTICAL analysis, where the acronym stands for social, cultural, economic, physical, technical, international, communication and infrastructure, administrative and institutional, and legal and political factors.

Social factors impacting tourism include, but not limited to demographic changes, urbanisations tendencies and others. Cultural factors, on the other hand, are associated with shift in values in societies, emergence of global culture, attitude of people towards consumption etc. The impacts of economic factors on tourism planning are obvious and they relate to the state of national economy, exchange rates, the levels of incomes of consumers and other related points.

Moreover, physical factors and technical factors in tourism planning relate to ecological and technological aspects of tourism respectively. International factors do also have implications on strategic planning for tourism and they primarily relate to visa and other related issues.

The impacts of administrative and institutional factors on tourism planning can be explained by referring to tourism societies, consumer groups, law enforcement agencies, etc. Lastly, legal and political factors on tourism planning involve changes in relevant laws and legislations and general attitude of governments towards tourism.



Axson, D.A. (2010) “Best Practices in Planning and Performance Management: Radically Rethinking for a Volatile World” John Wiley & Sons

Campbell, D., Stonehouse, G. & Houston, B. (2008) “Business Strategy” 2nd edition, Routledge

Gunn, C.A. (2002) “Tourism Planning: Basics, Concepts, Cases” Routledge

Lyhne, I. (2011) “Between Policy-Making and Planning: Sea and Strategic Decision-Making in the Danish Energy Sector” Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, Vol. 13, No.3 (September 2011)

Moutinho, L. (2011) “Strategic Management in Tourism” CABI

Category: Strategy