Finding balance between tourism and nature

On behalf of ETFI, our sustainable tourism expert Jasper Heslinga attended an annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). In April 2019, AAG is having its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.  At this conference, over 9,000 academics from different backgrounds gather to share their work. Many sessions that are organised deal with topics related to tourism, leisure and hospitality and attract tourism experts from all over the world.  In the session "Towards a Geographical Political Economy of Tourism: Critical, Relational, and Evolutionary Approaches to Place-based Development", Jasper presented his 8 policy recommendations for synergy between tourism development and nature protection that can help destinations build resilience. These recommendations are based on his PhD dissertation and are often applied in ETFI projects.

Synergy: 1 + 1 = 3

Synergies are about striving for win-win situations that involve balance. Acknowledging synergies can assist regions in becoming more resilient when coping with future social and ecological change. The presentation focused on the question which factors constrain synergetic interactions between tourism and landscape and which factors actually enable this. The research underlying the presentation shows:

  • How policy has evolved over the years
  • How public opinion has changed
  • How governance is arranged.

Interactions between tourism and landscapes: Terschelling as a case study

The studied case is Terschelling, an island that is part of the UNESCO Heritage Wadden Sea. The island is known for its natural beauty, but it is therefore also a very popular tourist destination. In short, on this island, both the interests of social-economic development (through tourism) and nature protection are strongly represented.

8 Recommendations for policymakers

Based on the results and conclusions of the research, a series of recommendations were presented for policy makers and planners that are working on the intersection between tourism and landscape:

  1. Use content analysis as a tool to understand a historical institutional context
  2. Try to strive for integral policy aimed at synergetic interactions
  3. Involve a wide range of stakeholders to find support, but also to incorporate new and innovative ideas
  4. Use the influence-interest matrix as an instrument to analyse stakeholders and a tool for making strategic choices for dealing with each different type of stakeholders
  5. Aim for open decision-making processes and collectively develop a ‘narrative’ that a stakeholder feels connected to
  6. Provide a clear vision for the future to offer more certainties on future policy directions …
  7. …but also allow for flexibility in the local implementation for developing initiative by civil society and entrepreneurs that contribute to the innovation of a destination when dealing with changing circumstances.
  8. Dare to experiment to prevent or even breach a stalemate in decision-making, to find support by ‘doing’ and to learn from mistakes.