Tourism associations and tourism development with special reference to rural tourism
The thesis presents the results of a critical investigation of the work and role of 'tourism associations' (TAs) as part of the tourism development system at the local scale in England and Wales. Local tourism development groups existed for a century or more before recent notions of community involvement in visitor industry initiatives came to prominence as part of the debate about 'green' tourism, and the study represents the first in-depth investigation of these groups, aimed at offering some guidance for the community tourism organisations advocated by several tourism authors. Guided by systems analysis methodology, the study presents original data on the nature and role of TM and develops theoretical consideration of such groups. Based upon these contributions to understanding, a critical assessment of the potential contribution of TM towards the development of small-scale local visitor industries as part of the local economies in qualitative terms is made. A review of relevant literature establishes that government policy has sought to develop tourism as a component of local economies in urban and rural areas. The sparse literature on tourism associations generally ascribes them lower-order publicity roles rather than the developmental functions that they could perhaps more usefully fulfil. Visitors represent a major economic opportunity for local communities, and economic multiplier studies show that local economies could benefit from becoming more visitor-oriented. However, relatively few areas benefit from conventional tourism development initiatives, particularly in the countryside, and voluntary effort may be necessary for communities to capitalise upon the visitor market. A postal questionnaire survey of a large sample of tourism associations in England and Wales established that these groups exist as a response to a perception of need for such organisations. During the 1970s and '80s there was a surge in the formation rate of TM. They were found to vary in many respects but shared common characteristics, and were classified into four basic types. While most members were businesses, many had representatives from the public sector and other organisations in membership. They undertook a broad range of useful activities, and certain public sector bodies provide financial assistance for aspects of their work. Some operated mainly as trade associations, but there are grounds for regarding all as community tourism groups to some degree. Measures of sophistication based upon the survey data and analyses are proposed, but the level of sophistication appropriate for any individual group depends upon local circumstances. An interview-based case study of four TAs working in rural Herefordshire reflected and validated many of the questionnaire survey conclusions. Each group had different approaches and priorities, particularly regarding the relative balance struck between promotion and development of the south Herefordshire visitor industry. They worked alongside tourism-oriented public sector bodies to varying degrees, and some received financial assistance for certain activities. While quantification of the effects that the TAs had on the visitor industry proved impossible, interviewees' opinions indicated that the work of the groups was valuable and that, without them, the contribution of the visitor industry to the local economy would be reduced. Analysis of the data collection stages showed that the goals of tourism associations are essentially the same as those of the more formal elements of the tourism development system, with marketing as a key focus. The work of TM can produce positive economic benefits for local economies in urban, coastal and rural locations. Recommendations for best practice are made for the associations and their roles, and the public sector is urged to help establish and help support TM. Conclusions drawn are that tourism associations have a valuable developmental role to play alongside their publicity function, and that the broad-membership association type is probably more appropriate for visitor industry development in lesser-known areas than sectoral types.