Governance: whose responsibility?

Governance: whose responsibility?

Looking back over 2017 the issue of governance has come to the fore. The challenge of overtourism has emerged as a cause of significant concern in part because it boiled over into street protests, some of them aggressive, in southern Europe. Overtourism is the antithesis of Responsible Tourism. It is what occurs when, in Ken Robinson’s words, tourism is “inadequately managed”, and the destination managers fail to cope with the challenge of managing success. Overtourism was the topic of the Ministers’ Summit at WTM London in November, and it will be the focus of the Responsible Tourism programme next year.

As Tourism Concern pointed out years ago, “we take our holidays in their homes.” Most holiday destinations have residents, local people and local government. Destinations are managed by land use planners, public works, departments of environment, economic regeneration, building control, transport, roads, cultural and leisure services and of course many more agencies of government. In recent years DMOs have sought to extend their role from marketing to Destination Management but they have often not worked closely with the government agencies – local authorities and national parks – which do manage destinations. When I talk with planners in many countries around the world they tell me that no one from tourism ever comes to talk with them.

This year we have seen more places dividing the roles of destination management and destination marketing, most notably in Barcelona where resources are being diverted from marketing to tourism management in city government

Yashin Dujon, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Belize

I have spent the last week in Belize working with the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation to assist them in developing a destination management plan which will engage with all the agencies of government to develop tourism as a major provider of employment, local economic development and foreign exchange earnings. The talk of a whole of government or one government approach, in Britain the Labour Government recognised that some problems of government do not fall within the departmental boundaries of national or local government, and Blair coined the phrase “joined-up government” in 1997 when Labour took office.

Tourism is effectively managed, or not managed, by the government and as we bump up against the limits to growth governments around the world at the local level are going to have to more actively manage tourism and they are going to have to do this in a coherent and integrated way. It is in the management of places that the critical question will be answered destination by destination: Will the place be used by tourism or will it use tourism for its sustainable development?


Harold is WTM’s Responsible Tourism Advisor, he puts together the flagship Responsible Tourism programme at WTM London which attracted 4000 participants in 2020 and the programmes run at WTM Africa, WTM Latin America and Arabian Travel Market. Harold has worked on 4 continents with local communities, their governments and the inbound and outbound tourism industry. He is Managing Director of the Responsible Tourism Partnership and chairs the panels of judges for the World Responsible Tourism Awards and the other Awards in the family, Africa, India and Latin America. Harold works with industry, local communities, governments, and conservationists and undertakes consultancy and evaluations for companies, NGOs, governments, and international organisations. He is also a Director of the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he is an Emeritus Professor, and Founder Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism promotes the principles of the Cape Town Declaration which he drafted.


  1. Hello Harold!
    We are currently involved in Developing a Master Plan for our Holistic Health Retreats in Sri Lanka and would Very Much like to have some Guidance from “Responsible Travel”!

  2. Tematis says:

    Governments should manage tourism. Smaller countries without natural ressources higly need tourism to get out of poverty. Haiti would be so different with a rich tourism industry. This is a government issue.

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