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Agents in Tourism Industry Research Paper

Research Paper on Agents in Tourism Industry:
Tourism presents one of the fastest growing industries in the world because information and communication technology has enabled people to identify tourism destinations worthy a visit. Although the trend appears similar to both developing and developed nations, the former have witnessed unprecedented rise in the number of tourists from around the world coming to enjoy scenic land features and ecosystems. In effect, governments have responded correspondingly by enhancing the role they play in tourism development. In emerging nations (such as Thailand and South Africa) and developing countries (such as Kenya), tourism contributes a significant part to the national economies. Common in other countries, governments have begun to play the role of planners, managers, facilitators, stimulators, and regulators of tourism activities in an effort to promote development in their tourism sectors (Sharpley & Telfer 2002). In addition, some players have come up to complement the efforts of the governments and others, to protect the environment and local communities against the capitalist desires of the government.

Private enterprises provide support in form of investment and advice to state institutions involved in tourism. Local communities identify and report to government about potential tourist sites and regions as well as protecting the natural and cultural resources against destruction. Other major agents in tourism industry in the countries include multinational agencies, non-governmental organizations, and media, among others. The governments have formed various partnerships with the other agents from the private sector to work cooperatively in promoting sustainable growth of respective tourism sectors (Huybers 2007). Although the partnerships have worked well in some cases, they have encountered various hurdles in other cases that have limited their success.

The current research explores the various agents involved in tourism industry in developing and emerging nations. It examines the role of government institutions and roles of other players, including media, international organizations, local communities, and others. The research also explores the nature of partnership between private and public organizations in the countries.

Government’ s Role
The legislative, executive, and judiciary arms of government have great influence on tourism development in many countries, including both developed and developing countries. In third world countries, the level of influence depends on the perceived economic importance that tourism holds in the overall economy and the extent of the relationships between different government institutions as well as political, social, and cultural characteristics of the nations. Although government institutions vary from one country to another depending on the type of government (for example, democratic or communist), the major institutions that have significant influence on the tourism industry include central and local (or provincial) governments, law enforcement agencies, administrative units, courts, and other units of governance. According to Sharpley and Telfer (2002), the major roles played by governments of emerging and developing nations include planning, management, policymaking and regulation, investment, protection of interests of different stakeholders, social tourism, and promotion.

Planning
Government plans for all major development activities and operations in the tourism industry. Majority of tourist attractions include natural endowments, such as natural ecosystems, attractive natural sceneries, and other natural features in different countries (Huybers 2007). Since tourism value of such endowments form a significant part of national economies in developing countries, government has a major obligation to plan on how tourism operations and other related activities should be carried out to protect and preserve the endowments. The plans may involve a wide range of operations, including maps of land usage in areas neighboring the endowments, marketing plans, layouts of infrastructure (roads, accommodation facilities, and other support services), and plans of the recommended modes of transport in different tourist attraction sites. The planning may be short-term or long-term, demonstrating how government expects development of tourism sector to be in future. For instance, Thailand government has been involved in various planning activities owing to the significant role played by tourism in the national economy. In 2008, the government released a marketing plan explaining how it intends to promote the various tourist destinations in the country (Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) n.d.). In the same year, Kenyan government also released its tourism strategic plan for the period from 2008 to 2012, showing how the government expects to promote its tourist attractions, fund development of its tourism sector, and monitor tourist operations (Ministry of Tourism (MOT), Kenya n.d.).

Management

Tourism development involves collaborative efforts of many stakeholders, including government, international players, local societies, private sector groups, and many others. Thus, it is essential for the government to manage or coordinate these stakeholders in an effort to ensure smooth operations in the sector. Government manages the activities of the various stakeholders to minimize replication of efforts among themselves and to align their practices with the objectives and goals laid down in planning (Sharpley & Telfer 2002). Without government coordination, it is not be possible for the various public institutions and other stakeholders to know areas conducive to tourism development, government plans in place to promote tourism development in various regions, and the efforts being made by other stakeholders in achieving development objectives. As a result, stakeholders would reproduce efforts of other players in the sector, a situation likely to lead to increased development activities in some areas of the sector at the expense of others. Therefore, government’s role as a manager of the tourism industry serves to harmonize the efforts of all players with objectives of tourism plans for even development in all tourism areas within the country. In many developing countries, governments establish specialized public institutions to coordinate activities of domestic and international tourism operators. For instance, Department of Tourism in Kenya is the government unit responsible for managing all activities related to tourism development in the country. In Thailand, TAT coordinates activities of domestic tourism agents and international partners to ensure balanced development in all sectors of the tourism industry according to government plans. The Department of Tourism, South Africa has a legal mandate to manage development activities at provincial, national, and international levels to ensure that they are in line with government goals regarding tourism industry in the country (Lubbe 2003).

Regulation and Legislation
Government develops and implements legislations intended to regulate development in the tourism industry. It formulates various legislations to control tourism operations in an effort to promote development in the sector, type and nature of stakeholders to participate in the industry, to establish and conserve natural endowments perceived as tourist attractions. In addition, it also implements laws to regulate contributions of other sectors of the economy to tourism. For instance, legislative efforts to regulate entry of foreigners into the country, taxes paid by citizens and foreigners, protection of the environment, and labor inevitably affect development activities in tourism industry. Tourism legislative framework in Kenya demonstrates the nature of the regulative role of government in the industry. The country has a comprehensive Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (WCMA) that controls tourist activities in specific sites (lakes, ocean, forests, and land features) as well as other related ecological sources that influence survival of the tourist sites. It has also enacted other laws to control operations that support tourism, including the Hotels and Restaurants Act (HRA) and the Tourist Industry Licensing Act (TILA) (MOT, Kenya n.d.).

Investment
In any developing, emerging, or developed nation, government invests heavily in tourism industry to complement investment efforts by the private individuals and organizations. It not only invests in those areas perceived as capital-intensive projects, but also in regions considered unworthy for investment by private entrepreneurs. In many developing nations, governments have invested heavily in establishing museums, national parks, game reserves, beaches, roads, airports, airline, other transportation means, hospitals, and other tourism related infrastructure. They have also undertaken investment in other low-risk projects, such as accommodation and travel services. For instance, Thailand government has established more than 100 national parks, comprising of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that serve as tourist attractions (TAT n.d.). It has also build an effective road network, making the parks easily accessible to both domestic and international tourists.

Facilitation
Government role as a facilitator of tourism development has a great influence on growth of the tourism industry in emerging and developing nations. It facilitates development in a wide range of ways. Through law enforcement agencies, it ensures security and safety of tourists and tourism operators and their investments (Sharpley & Telfer 2002). For instance, Kenyan government created a dedicated tourist police unit to ensure security and safety of tourist while visiting the various parks and attractions in the country. It can also stimulate development through provision of subsidies, grants, and tax breaks to encourage private individuals and firms to invest in the sector as well as to attract tourists. A good example is Thailand where it refunds value-added tax (VAT) tariffs to tourists when they purchase goods and other items at designed retail centers.

Other Influences
Government plays other roles, such as promotion of their countries as tourist destinations, development of social tourism, and safeguarding of interests of the public (Sharpley & Telfer 2002). It establishes various products to market the various tourist attractions available in the nation in an effort to attract tourists and investors into the sector. In other countries, such as Kenya and Thailand, government promotes social tourism, encouraging tourists to visit the countries to witness and learn about various cultures espoused by different communities. Government also participates in tourism development by protecting the interests of the public against exploitation by private investors. It gives some part of revenues collected in tourist attractions back to the neighboring communities and requires private investors to establish corporate social responsibility programs to improve living standards of people living in regions adjacent to their facilities.

Role of Others Agents
Besides government, other parties in Third World countries play significant roles in tourism industry. Among others, they include local communities, private enterprises, media, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational agencies.

Local Communities
Like government, local communities have greatest influence on development of tourism industry. Environmental conservation remains the major role of local societies, as they coexist with various tourist attractions available in their country. They have a responsibility to coexist with biodiversity within ecosystems and report any environmental malpractice by some of their members, public officers, and private investors to the relevant authorities. In majority of developing countries, the communities have become essential components of cultural tourism. They form cultural groups to attract local and foreign tourists to come and see their cultural heritage as well as to entertain the tourists when they visit neighboring sites. For example, Kenya is well known internationally for its wide variety of cultural tourist activities organized by various local communities. Tourists to Masai Mara National Reserve have the opportunity to enjoy not only the vast diversity of animals, but also the cultural heritage (dances, houses, and dressing) of Masai community, one of few Kenyan communities that have preserved its culture amidst widespread influence of Western cultures on way of life of many Kenyans (MOT, Kenya n.d.).

According to Lubbe (2003), local people may invest into the tourism industry as private investors or partner with government, NGOs, and international agencies to establish projects that foster tourism development. In various countries, communities have partnered with the government and NGOs to advocate for sustainable tourism development. They have championed for doing tourism operations and activities in a way that protects and conserves the environment, which influences greatly survival of the various ecosystems serving as tourist destinations. Moreover, the communities can also play a role of domestic tourists by visiting national parks, game reserves, and other attractions within their countries.

Private Enterprises
In developing or emerging nations, Sharpley and Telfer (2002) argue that private investors complement entrepreneurial role of government in the tourism sector. The major contributions of the private enterprises include investments in the travel and hotel and accommodation industries. In the travel industry, they establish travel agencies to offer various services to tourists. They serve as travel agents who approach potential tourists and organize all travel requirements, including visas for the tourists. They also organize means of transport for the tourists during visits to the various tourist destinations within their nations. In majority of developing countries, private investors remain the major travel agents of tourists. In hotel and accommodation industry, they invest heavily in hotels and restaurants in regions surrounding tourism sites. Through the investments, they offer employment opportunities to many local people, thereby improving living standards of local communities. In addition, they support government in development of infrastructure in regions where they operate. For instance, they build roads and invest in conservation projects in tourism sites where their facilities are located as a way to attract tourists to their businesses.

Media
Media’s role in the sector involves marketing and bringing awareness among all stakeholders about the tourism in emerging or Third World nations (Lubbe 2003). Domestic and international media run different programs intended to promote various tourism sites and adventures offered by such sites in a bid to encourage people to visit those sites. Emergence of internet and computer technology has provided a means to the government to promote tourist destinations to people around the world. In the case of Kenya, Thailand, and South Africa, every government has integrated information technology to support tourism promotional activities. Anybody in the world can access these websites to learn most the details about tourism in the nations, including various destinations, interactive maps showing how to get to the destinations, various attractive features to expect in the sites, nearby hotels, relevant travel agents, and rates of the services. Thus, potential tourists can choose on their own potential destinations to visit and plan effectively. As an education tool, it provides a platform through which different stakeholders can understand, learn, and enjoy opportunities offered by various regions within a country. It brings awareness among public about various tourist destinations within their country and importance of conserving the sites. It also makes private enterprises aware of opportunities and benefits in various regions in the nations, enabling them to invest in underdeveloped areas of tourism industry.

NGOs
NGOs play an essential complementary role of facilitating and advocating for sustainable and equitable tourism development in Third World and emerging nations. Like any other sector of economy, tourism requires some level of activism to compel governments and private enterprises to run their operations in ways that respect the rights of local communities and in a manner that conserves the environment. If left alone, private investors can collude with governments to exploit opportunities provided by the tourism industry to increase their profits at the expense of the environment and local people. As a result, NGOs intervene in developing countries to champion for the rights of the poor and natural ecosystems. They include non-profit, voluntary organizations, bringing together individuals at local, national, and international levels to fight for environmental justice (Sharpley & Telfer 2002). Among others, some examples include Oxfam Community Aid Abroad (OCAA), EcoVitality, International Ecotourism Society and Conservation International, and African Propoor Tourism Development Centre (APTDC). These organizations play different roles to realize their objectives in developing countries.

Some play advocacy role of compelling governments and private investors to engage in sustainable tourism development while improving the lives of the poor in the community. For example, APTDC falls within this category as it works closely with the Kenyan tourism stakeholders. It comes in during government planning of tourism activities where it brings together relevant public institutions, local communities, and private enterprises to discuss and share information on the best ways to carry out tourism operations to preserve the environment and benefit poor people within the community. APTDC also monitors effects of tourism on host communities and environment and then attempts to advise government, international agencies, and other major stakeholders to reevaluate their development activities and operations. Others play a facilitative role, offering ecotourism services to tourists and helping local communities to establish ecotourism investments. For instance, EcoVitality provides tourists to developing countries in Africa with environment-friendly travel services. The NGO uses the earnings obtained from the services to finance conservation efforts in Namibia aimed at protecting lions in national parks. Another NGO, OCAA, provides non-profit tour services (travel and accommodation) aimed at reducing the effects of tourists on the environment and local communities and benefiting host communities in emerging and developing nations.

International Agencies
Various multinational organizations comprised of governments and tourism organizations from different countries influence growth of tourism industries in developing nations. Their major objective entails scrutinizing tourism developments in those nations to ensure that they conform to standards acceptable globally. According to Lubbe (2003), major global tourism agencies include World Trade Organization (WTO), International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA), and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

WTO represents the only international agency responsible for coordinating all facets of tourism development in the globe. It coordinates national and international stakeholders in planning, development, and implementation of tourism projects in almost every country across the globe. It also facilitates conferences among different local and global tourism agents to address and share information about the issues facing tourism and possible alternative approaches to address them. It plays an educative role of doing research on different problems facing developing nations and offering information to them on how to solve the issues. Other roles include educating and training future professionals as well as promoting ecotourism initiatives in both developed and developing countries (Huybers 2007).

WTTC comprises of private enterprises from the various sectors of national tourism industry, including accommodation, catering, travel, transportation, and other tourism-related enterprises. Its major role entails promoting and campaigning for entrepreneurship in the international tourism sector. It promotes tourism development as a means to reduce unemployment levels in developing nations. It promotes for liberalization of world market in all sectors that influence or relate to tourism industry (Lubbe 2003). In addition, it negotiates with governments (on behalf of its members) to eliminate protectionist policies that would cause uneven competition among the different players in the industry. It encourages its members to embrace sustainable development and interact with local communities effectively to alleviate their standards of living. IH&RA and IATA can be regarded as subsets of WTTC, with IH&RA playing specialized roles in tourism and hospitality industry, and IATA playing similar roles to those of WTTC in the air travel industry. To some extent, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations Environmental Agency (UNEP), World Health Organizations (WHO) also play significant role in tourism sectors of developing countries. For instance, IMF provides funds to governments for financing infrastructure, while WHO monitors and informs tourists and local communities about disease outbreaks in different regions of the globe.

Public-Private Relationship
The nature of tourism industry calls for a positive relationship between government institutions and non-governmental agents for sustained development. It requires substantial resources (capital, infrastructure, human resources, and others) and comprises many activities, making it impossible for either government or private enterprises to handle on its own. Thus, it becomes essential for the government to seek collaboration with other agents to foster tourism growth.

Advantages
One of the advantages presented by the partnership includes enhanced effectiveness of tourism policies in the country. Development of tourism policies (for example, economic, planning, or environmental management) involves a complex process that requires a comprehensive understanding of all factors surrounding issue under consideration (Huybers 2007). Although public policy-making in many developing nations remains the sole responsibility of government, participation by private entities is needed to make the policy more responsive to issue at hand. Private agents, particularly local communities and enterprises directly affected by the problem, stand in a better position to understand the issue effectively. Thus, government can invite them to discuss and exchange information about the problem and methods to solve it effectively. This minimizes resistance from the private agents that occurs when governments develop and implement tourism policies without consultation. The partnership minimizes financial burdens that the government or private agents would have shouldered if they implemented projects independently. It not only enables the partners to share expertise, information, financial resources, and others, but it also eliminates duplication of efforts. They meet frequently to discuss and agree on how to collaborate in form of resources to develop the various sectors of tourism industry. For instance, Lubee (2003) lauds the effective partnership between South African government and private enterprises for enhanced development in the nation’s tourism industry.

The government works well with different private entities, including the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA), the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), and the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA), among others. Each of these organizations represents specific private investors, implying that collaborative efforts consider contributions of from every market player. In effect, they are in a position to come up with tourism development policies that take into account the different interests of each group.

Disadvantages
Public-private partnership involves extensive consultation among agents from different regions and sectors of the tourism industry, which tends to slow down decision-making process. As Huybers (2007) argues, agents or representatives come with interests of their members, implying that they need to represent the issues for the other partners to discuss and express their opinions. In many instances, achieving consensus in such situations (even for smaller issues) becomes a challenge. In many developing nations, private organizations do not trust state institutions due to issues of misuse of power by public officers, corruption, and excessive bureaucracy. This mistrust may permeate into the partnership, implying that the private agents may not be willing to agree with the government on matters concerning tourism project funding. This greatly limits the ability of the partnership to make positive impacts in the tourism industry. For instance, Kenya does not have strong public-private partnership due to mistrust between the two agents.

The country ranks among the most corrupt nations in the world, making it hard for private institutions to trust the willingness and commitment to spend funds rightfully for the expected development activities. In some cases, some private enterprises have shied away from engaging in any form of partnership, fearing that corrupt government officials may affect public image of the businesses. One of the most effective ways for the Kenyan government to get out of this problem is to fight corruption at every level of the state tourism institutions to improve its image among the other stakeholders. It needs to develop and implement effective internal controls to enhance corporate governance structures in the sector. This may encourage private agents to begin trusting the government, which may see the country exploit sustainably its wide-ranging sites of tourist attractions.

Conclusion
In third world countries, the level of government influence depends on the perceived economic importance that tourism holds in the overall economy and the extent of the relationships between different government institutions as well as political, social, and cultural characteristics of the nations. Government plans for all major development activities and operations in the tourism industry. For example, Kenyan government released its tourism strategic plan for the period from 2008 to 2012, showing how the government expects to promote its tourist attractions, fund development of its tourism sector, and monitor tourist operations. Government also manages or coordinates different stakeholders involved in the industry to ensure smooth operations in the sector. It formulates various legislations to control tourism operations in an effort to promote development in the sector, type and nature of stakeholders to participate in the industry, to establish and conserve natural endowments perceived as tourist attractions. Moreover, government invests heavily in tourism industry to complement investment efforts by the private individuals and organizations. Government role as a facilitator of tourism development ensures security and safety of tourists and tourism operators and their investments.

Besides government, other parties in Third World countries play significant roles in tourism industry. Environmental conservation remains the major role of local societies, as they coexist with various tourist attractions available in their country. Local people may invest into the tourism industry as private investors or partner with government, NGOs, and international agencies to establish projects that foster tourism development. The major contributions of the private enterprises include investments in the travel and hotel and accommodation industries. Media’s role in the sector involves marketing and bringing awareness among all stakeholders about the tourism in emerging or Third World nations. NGOs play an essential complementary role of facilitating and advocating for sustainable and equitable tourism development. The major duty of global agencies entails scrutinizing tourism developments in those nations to ensure that they conform to standards acceptable globally. WTO represents the only international agency responsible for coordinating all facets of tourism development in the globe.

The nature of tourism industry calls for a positive relationship between government institutions and non-governmental agents for sustained development. Private agents, particularly local communities and enterprises directly affected by the problem, stand in a better position to understand the issue effectively. However, it involves extensive consultation among agents from different regions and sectors of the tourism industry, which tends to slow down decision-making process.

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Feb 22, 2013

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