Sustainable Practices of Community Tourism Planning: Lessons from a Remote Community

Article excerpt

This article examines community tourism planning practices through the theoretical framework of deliberative democracy, and provides an example of best practices of integrating tourism planning and development into community comprehensive planning. It illustrates how a small remote community on Vancouver Island, Canada embraced practices of participatory dialogic planning in its official community planning process. Having faced a threat of tourism development going out of control, this community decided to take a proactive stance and collectively design a policy framework to guide potential developers. Fresh and innovative planning and policy approaches not only helped safeguard community and social capitals, but exemplified fresh unconventional practices of embedding community based tourism planning into broader sustainable community planning efforts.

Keywords: community development; deliberative democracy; participatory planning; rural tourism

Introduction

The decline of traditional industries and agriculture in recent times has forced many urban and rural areas to turn to tourism as a field of opportunities on the way to economic growth and diversification (adapted from Hall & Mitchell, 2000; Hall, 2005). As a result, tourism is now one of the target industries for communities of all sizes wishing to integrate it into their overall comprehensive plans (Blackstock, 2005; Murphy & Murphy, 2004). The promise of tourism is especially apparent in rural areas experiencing economic instability and disintegration of the local fabric (adapted from Gannon, 1993). While rural tourism development alone is not the panacea to the ailments of rural regions, it has a great potential when integrated in broader community development efforts. The latter scenario often means diversification of the economic base, provides opportunities for social, economic, environmental, and cultural development, and also ensures greater security for the community (Gannon, 1993; Murphy & Murphy, 2004).

For such an endeavor to be successful and sustainable, it has to be both community-led and participatory (1). Significant community development takes place only when local residents are committed to investing themselves and their resources in the effort (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993); when it comes to rural tourism development and planning, the most successful examples of tourism occur in communities in which there is broadly based resident participation in the planning and development of tourism projects (Butler & Hall, 1998; Cooke, 1982; Godfrey & Clarke, 2000; Marien & Pizam, 1997; Pearce & Moscardo, 1999; Tosun & Timothy, 2001). In other words, for tourism or community development to be sustainable, local control over public decision making and planning is needed (Gibbs, 1994). This community based participatory planning and decision making implies a process of interaction within the community, which ultimately leads to the development of community (adapted from Marcus & Brennan, 2008). This process can be further enhanced by a policy framework at the national and regional levels that would favor the development of sustainable community based tourism practices (World Tourism Organization, 1994). Such a policy would also encourage successful partnerships of public, private and nonprofit sectors within the broader resident population, ensuring sustainability of outcomes and policy and financial support of community-backed initiatives.

While this sounds a rather complex task to undertake, examples of successful community tourism planning practices are readily available. This paper discusses the experiences of one such community through the theoretical framework of deliberative democracy. Following review of pertinent literature, we will examine new and unconventional practices of embedding community based tourism planning into broader sustainable community planning efforts. …