Jul 8, 2021
The horizon for destination strategy and planning is expanding and we need to recognize how valuable this phenomena is for our industry and the destinations that we serve. The further we look into the future, the more opportunities and possibilities to effect change for the better present themselves.
Gone are the days when strategic planning in tourism was as simple as next year's sales projection and plans to achieve it. And the concept of sustainable tourism* in isolation is an inadequate, short term strategy. Sustainable tourism by definition fundamentally accepts and maintains the status quo of the current operating environment. The goals of sustainable tourism are admirable, even essential, but sustainable tourism alone falls short of optimal destination strategy.
Sustainable tourism conceptually fails to call for for visionary ideas and leadership that can change a destination or an organization for the better. This is what I call transformational tourism strategy. Comparing sustainable tourism to transformational tourism strategy is similar to understanding the difference between the concept of good management and good leadership. Good management will manage the day-to-day operations of an organization and achieve the objectives of the current business plan, while over time good leadership will pursue a vision and take that organization from 'Point A" (where it is today) to a more desirable 'Point B' in the future. Both good management (success in the moment) and good leadership (success in the future) are essential, but good leadership will shape your future for the better. In fact, organizational theorists recognize that good management without good leadership will often lead to decline as competitors innovate and advance.
Transformational tourism strategy is an exercise in the best kind of destination stewardship. The goal is much more ambitious than 'do no harm.' It calls upon us to do no harm while leading change for the better in our organizations, our communities and our destinations. The outcome is the appreciation of assets, not the status quo, to the benefit of our community, its residents and visitors, and the environment.
Transformational tourism strategy may be new to our nomenclature, but it is not a new practice. Whether they use the phrase 'transformational tourism strategy' or not, many of NYSTIA's members are embracing it in practice. In fact, you don't need to look any further than some of our Tourism Excellence Award recipients to see some great examples of transformational tourism in practice. Stay tuned as we profile best practice in transformational strategy in future articles and programs.
*Sustainable tourism: tourism practices and policies that takes full account of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities."