Stakeholder Involvement in the Public Planning Process the Case of the Proposed Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre
Munro, Angela, King, Brian, Polonsky, Michael Jay, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management
A range of stakeholders should inform planning processes if these processes are to be consistent with best practice principles. This article examines the case of the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre, a tourism development proposed to be located in a National Park in Victoria, Australia. Limited opportunities were provided for meaningful stakeholder input during the planning phase. Despite the prevailing view among all major parties that some development of facilities would be appropriate, an absence of genuine consultation was experienced prompting a substantial redesign of the development concept as originally conceived (in 1096) and project delays which postponed the commencement of the development into 2000 by which time a new state government was in place.
Tourism activity and its associated infrastructure have assisted in the economic and social development of communities, regions and nations internationally (Lankford, 1994; Sreekumar & Parayil, 2002; Tooman, 1997). Despite the wide and well-documented range of potential benefits that arise from tourism, it has been observed that these are often shared inequitably across the various stakeholder groups (Dearden, 1991). Developing initiatives that are capable of achieving all stakeholder goals and objectives may be difficult, if not impossible (Wood & Jones, 1995). This may be the case in certain circumstances, because the interests of all parties are not given equal consideration, with broader social and environmental goals being traded off against economic concerns (Huang & Stewart, 1996). This may lead to short-sighted opportunism in cases where a narrowly focused economic perspective is adopted (Tosun & Timothy, 2001). If real long-term benefits are to be achieved for all stakeholders, tourism developments must be sustainable across a wide range of indicators.
The goal of sustainable tourism development is not readily achievable, partly because the concept of sustainability means different things to different stakeholders (Eccles & Costa, 1996). Some groups view sustainable tourism as a means of protecting the natural and cultural environment for future generations. Others view sustainable tourism as a means of ensuring an ongoing flow of tourists both short- and long-term. The 'economic rationalist' perspective may downplay the interests of those stakeholders least able to protect themselves. This is often encountered in the case of the natural environment and local communities, particularly in developing countries. Ideally there should be proper recognition and protection of the rights of nature (Starik, 1995). However, pinpointing the critical stakeholder group with major responsibility for the protection of the natural environment is highly contested. Many groups may claim this role as their responsibility (Jayawardena, 2003). For this reason it is important to identify the stakeholder consideration and to define a consensus among the relevant groups. For example, there is widespread and ongoing debate among environmentalists in Victoria and elsewhere regarding the suitability of wind farms. While some groups promote wind farms because of their capacity to supplement traditional energy generation, thereby reducing greenhouse gasses, others argue that the harm to ecosystems and visual pollution does not warrant their introduction (Haskell, 2002). When one of these views is incorporated into the planning process, the other party may complain that its interests were inadequately addressed. While this example illustrates the difficulty of achieving unanimity of purpose and views among stakeholders, it should be noted that the primary purpose of national parks is conservation and that this has long been enshrined in legislation. Thus the dynamics of the current case are distinct from those of the development of wind farms in nonprotected areas.
In the context of tourism planning, there is a growing recognition that decision-making should consider a wide range of stakeholders (Gregory & Keeney, 1994; Pforr, 2002). …