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Sustainable Development

Sust. Dev. (2010)


Published online in Wiley Online Library
(wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/sd.495

How Does Tourism Planning Contribute


to Sustainable Development?
João Neto Simão1* and Maria do Rosário Partidário2
1
CIEO – Research Centre for Spatial and Organizational Dynamics, Universidade Aberta,
Department of Social Sciences and Management, Portugal
2
IST/UTL – Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Portugal

ABSTRACT
Perhaps like few other industries, tourism depends and is built on environmental,
physical and cultural local resources. In this sense, and as suggested by the
scientific community and international agencies, sustainability should be a driver for
tourism sector develop-ment. For this purpose, three main issues are relevant: the
interpretation of the meaning of sustainability reflected in the vision of the destination
for the sector; stakeholders’ par-ticipation, balancing different approaches; and a
strategic planning that calls for long-term view and action. The aim of this study is to
assess whether the tourism planning of the destinations contributes to sustainable
development. We have reviewed 11 local/regional tourism plans existing in Portugal,
and the conclusions point to a vague interpretation of the concept of sustainability, to
a type of planning that is closed to public participation with a lack of discussion on
the kind of sustainability to implement and to difficulties in committing to strategic
planning. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

Received 10 December 2009; revised 21 June 2010; accepted 28 June 2010


Keywords: sustainable development; tourism; strategic planning; stakeholders; Portugal

Introduction

T OURISM IS FREQUENTLY CONSIDERED TO BE THE LARGEST INDUSTRY IN THE WORLD ; IT IS ESTIMATED TO BE responsible,
directly and indirectly, for around 9% of the GNP and 8% of employment (WTTC, 2010) at the global level. The increased growth seen in
this industry since World War II was partially supported by the idea that the activity would be a panacea for local development. Since the
1970s, due to mass tourism
and low price strategies, some destinations already shown problems related to the evident growth of this activity.
Alarms started sounding in tourism literature, stressing a multitude of environmental and socio-economical effects (see
the classical work of Matthieson and Wall, 1982), some of which were inevitable (McKercher, 1993) and dif-ficult to
identify (Holden, 2000). Due to its impacts, tourism could no longer be seen as an environmentally clean industry, or
as a neutral activity to the local populations.

* Correspondence to: João Neto Simão, CIEO – Research Centre for Spatial and Organizational Dynamics, Universidade Aberta –
Department of Social Sciences and Management, Portugal. E-mail: joaosimao@univ-ab.pt

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment
J. N. Simão and M. d. R. Partidário

Currently, the general idea expressed in scientific literature and put forward by international agencies is that tourism
development should be guided by principles of sustainability. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) established the
following objectives for sustainable tourism: (i) to preserve essential ecological processes, environ-mental resources,
natural heritage and biodiversity; (ii) to respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communi-ties and (iii) to ensure
viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders. To this end, the
following actions are required: (a) the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders to ensure wide involvement
and consensus building; (b) the constant monitoring of impacts and (c) to provide a high level of tourist satisfaction,
simultaneously raising awareness of the need for sustainability.
However, sustainable tourism development (STD) raises difficulties at two levels: first, the interpretation of
sustainability is far from being consensual (Sharpley, 2000; Hopwood et al., 2005), and second, its implementa-tion is
complex and poses demanding challenges for humanity (Gladwin et al., 1995). Through its strategic process
– analysis, formulation, implementation and evaluation, tourism planning is, at both the local and the regional level, a
suitable tool to carry out public policies, guiding tourism destinations according to a vision of the com-munity in the
long run. This fact is clearly pointed out in different works by international organizations, which have claimed the
strategic planning of tourism destinations to be a way to promote and implement STD (see, for example, WTO, 1993,
2004).
The purpose of this study is to understand whether the public planning of tourism activity promotes sustainable
development, according to the best practices suggested by international entities and scientific literature. More
precisely, we tried to ascertain, at the local/regional level, (i) whether tourism planning incorporates clear inter-
pretations and visions specific to sustainable development, (ii) whether the stakeholders are called to participate in the
planning process, contributing to establish a long-term vision of the tourism destination development, and (iii) whether
the most usual strategic principles are integrated in the plans, in line with what is suggested in the classical type of
planning. In order to do so, Portuguese local and regional strategic plans were analysed regarding their contents.

The next section focuses on the role of the state, as the main body responsible for tourism public policies, pro-viding
the background for the following section, which addresses the strategic planning process. Since tourism destination
planning is carried out by public entities in order to achieve STD, the traditional model of planning should be enriched
with reflections on two topics: the interpretation of the concept of sustainability, and the involvement of the
stakeholders. The next section after that deals with the importance of tourism for Portugal and the way it is
institutionally organized. In the section on research methods the interest of analysing tourism strategic plans is
explained: these are the only documents that translate action lines for a time horizon of 5–10 years, thus allowing for
understanding of the decision-makers’ options regarding the developments in the sector. Next, we present the
instrument for the analysis of tourism strategic plans proposed by Simpson (2001), which will guide us in the content
analysis of the documents. Finally, we present the results and discuss them.

Tourism Public Policy

Public policy in tourism is whatever governments choose to do or not to do with respect to tourism, covering
government action, inaction, decisions and non-decisions (Hall, 2000). Nevertheless, strategic intervention is expected
from the (national, regional or local) governments in view of the available resources of the destination, aiming at
achieving sustainable tourism development. The opposite position (in other words, non-intervention) is clearly a
minority in our days:

The conventional wisdom appears to be, rightly or wrongly, that sustainable tourism requires intervention and
planning (Swarbrooke, 1999, p. 4).

Due to the complex nature of tourism, it is improbable that the private sector can satisfy completely govern-ment
policy objectives fostering a balance between host and guest benefits (Theobald, 2005, p. 363).

Thus, it is understood that the public sector must perform a relevant role in tourism development, having the ability to
influence the sector in many ways: promoting and supporting the construction of infrastructures,

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
How Does Tourism Planning Contribute to Sustainable Development?

regulating and legislating, fostering land planning, showing directions and providing guidelines, creating incen-tives to
investment, preserving the historical and cultural heritage, and promoting the image and marketing of tourism. A
substantial part of the tourism market is based on the exploitation of essential common assets, such as the
environmental and cultural resources. Government intervention, through public bodies and destination management
organizations (DMOs), is justifiable by the need to protect these resources, as well as the need to promote the economy
and the well being of the population. Using economic jargon, the intention of such inter-vention is to correct (or
minimize) market failures that are the origin of negative externalities (Hartley and Hooper, 1992).

Since tourism is an inherently political activity, where different actors and interests contend (Page, 2007), the public
sector maintains certain characteristics that allow it to assume a pivotal position in developing more sustain-able means
of tourism, since (i) it has a mandate to represent the whole population, not just particular interest groups, (ii) it is
supposedly impartial and equidistant from the different interests and (iii) it must take a long-term view (Swarbrooke,
1999).

Sustainable Tourism Planning

Tourism planning is an ordered sequence of operations and actions conceived by the public sector to organize and
control development in destination areas according to established political objectives (Mason, 2003; Page, 2007).
Proactive planning is to anticipate or bring about change, to look to the future, to find optimal solutions and to predict
results: ‘. . . is a kind of decision-making and policy-making. . . . is only one part of an overall “planning– decision–
action” process . . . [involving] such things as bargaining and negotiation, compromise, coercion, values, choice and
politics’ (Hall, 2000, p. 7). Occurring in various forms, institutions and scales, public planning tends to minimize
negative impacts on destinations, and bring economic benefits and satisfaction to tourists (Swarbrooke, 1999; WTO,
1993). A lack of strategic planning runs the risk of ad hoc and reactive decisions and a deregulated, disorderly and
inefficient activity (Mason, 2003), consequently leading to the dilapidation of physical and social capital on which both
ecosystems and the local community depend.
Reflecting the current political, social, cultural, economic and environmental dynamics, tourism planning is also
strongly evolutionary. To the four tourism planning approaches identified by Getz (1987) over time (boosterism,
economic, physical/spatial and community oriented), Hall (2000) adds a fifth dimension, sustainable, which is
characterized by stakeholder involvement and boosting strategic tourism planning.

Interpretation of the Concept of Sustainable Tourism Development


In addition to the well known Brundtland Report’s definition of sustainability (WCSD, 1987), several others can be
found in the literature, expressing some of the characteristics attributed to the concept: it is full of multiple objectives,
complex interdependencies, ambiguities, challenges, inaccuracies and controversies. These character-istics are
evidenced in a variety of interpretations and in a spectrum of thought with an infinite possibility for trade-offs between
environmental and socio-economic issues (Eligh et al., 2002; Hopwood et al., 2005; Macleod and By, 2007).

The term ‘sustainable tourism’ emerged in the late 1980s as a consequence of the discussion about the implica-tions
of the Brundtland Report for the sector. Therefore, it is not surprising that the concept of sustainable tourism will
reflect the same kind of debate (see Hunter, 1997) and will suffer from the same difficulties in operationalization:

. . . there is a great deal of rhetoric surrounding sustainable tourism this is often not translated into useful action
because endless theories regarding the concept have not been operationalized (Welford et al., 1999, p. 166).

The need for moving from discourse to action has been claimed recurrently, encouraging the search for local solutions
for sustainable tourism development that go beyond theoretical debates. The message of the editorial of the first issue
of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism is quite clear:

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
J. N. Simão and M. d. R. Partidário

It is easy to discuss sustainability. Implementation is the problem . . . The time has come now to ‘walk the talk’
(Bramwell and Lane, 1993, p. 4).

We agree that the discussion about the concept of sustainability will be of little use if it will not give place to
implementation, even if this is difficult but indispensable. However, the discussion on the interpretation and purpose of
the concept is still relevant, mainly for two reasons. It allows us to express and clarify the idea and vision of the
planners and host community regarding SD, evidencing values and pointing at trade-offs.

. . . people use the same words to mean a wide divergence of views on the goals, routes and the methods of moving
towards sustainable development. This is further complicated because, as in many political issues, some people
may say one thing and mean another (Hopwood et al., 2005, p. 47).

Consequently, it elucidates the routes to follow, contributing towards a more conscious decision-making:

. . . too many studies appear to lack a clear vision of ST, and that without such clarity rather too many ‘walks’
. . . may meander aimlessly for too long, or even head in the wrong direction altogether. . . . Detailed discussion of
sustainability is not easy, but it is necessary in order to better understand the different perceptions of ST that are
now emerging, and to make more informed choices about the future development of tourism at des-tination areas
(Hunter, 2002, p. 4).

The debate about the way in which the community interprets sustainable tourism development is a first step that
precedes the design of an action plan, simultaneously being an important vehicle of public participation and citi-
zenship reinforcement. The involvement of the stakeholders in this early stage is, therefore, a qualifying require-ment
of such discussion process, even taking the risk of making it slower and more complex.

Stakeholder Involvement
The stakeholder concept –‘any group or individual who can affect, or is affected by, the achievement of the orga-
nization’s objectives’ (Freeman, 1984, p. 46) – has been enthusiastically accepted by the literature on planning and
management of tourist destinations (see Sautter and Leisen, 1999, among others). Local community, industry, public
sector, activist groups, tourists, workers, competitors and even the media are the usual stakeholders identi-fied. The
WTO (1993) groups the key partners to STD into three large groups: industry, environmental protection associations
and the local community, which consists of residents, local government and other local institutions.
Since the improvement of the quality of life of the residents is the main objective of tourism development (Faulkner
and Tideswell, 1997), special attention has been given to the involvement of the population in the decision-making
process. Public participation requires listening to different opinions and is rarely an easy or consensual process, and
integrating and balancing complex, different and competing interests is difficult (Timur and Getz, 2008). A
collaborative type of planning (Bramwell and Sharman, 1999), ideally trying to achieve con-sensus in decision-
making, even though not able to solve all conflicts, offers the opportunity to make a more balanced and informed
decision, thereby contributing to the quality of life of the community. Similar relevance is given to the systematic and
periodic analysis of the residents’ social conditions and their attitudes and perceptions of tourism activity (Liu et al.,
1987).

The Traditional Strategic Process


A tourism strategic plan should reflect four steps that compose a typical process of strategic management: analysis (of
the aspirations, the surrounding environment and the touristic resources), formulation, implementation and
performance evaluation (see, among others, Wheelen and Hunger, 2008).
The analysis of the aspirations consists in identifying the parties interested in tourism development (stake-holders) as
well as their motivations and aspirations, aiming at formulating consentaneous strategic objectives (Hall, 2000). The
involvement of all stakeholders, as mentioned, is an unavoidable stage for this purpose. External

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
How Does Tourism Planning Contribute to Sustainable Development?

analysis makes it possible to anticipate short- and long-term changes that might influence the operational environ-ment,
Porter’s five force model being the main instrument to identify market opportunities and threats. The analy-sis of the
touristic resources available to the destination provides the possibility of responding successfully to the challenges
placed by the external environment. Natural (physiography and climate) and historical–cultural resources should be
subject to special focus, namely regarding their conservation, resilience and depreciation, since they are considered the
main determinants of tourism demand (Ritchie and Crouch, 2003).
The formulation of a strategy for tourism development starts with the definition of the mission and the vision to
which the stakeholders have contributed. General and specific long-term objectives are established accordingly, along
with a plan to achieve them, and generic guidelines for the decision-making process. It is worth noticing that not all
implemented strategies are deliberate, as planned. Due to the dynamics of the surrounding system, and the managers
learning process, some strategies emerge without previous planning. The realized strategy is, therefore, a mix of
deliberate and emergent strategies (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985).
Strategy implementation (also referred to as operational planning) ‘is a process by which strategies and policies are
put into action through the development of programs, budgets and procedures’ (Wheelen and Hunger, 2008, p. 16). At
this stage, the tourism destination assumes the commitment of developing its distinctive competencies, making use of
adequate structures, systems and culture. Activities are designed to fulfil the plan (programmes), costs are subject to a
budget and the necessary steps to implement the strategy are put in sequence.
The objective of strategic performance measurement is to understand whether the strategy is being implemented
according to plan, while simultaneously enabling new trajectories according to emergent strategies, allowing for the
correction of undesirable developments. The instability of the external environment throughout time may generate
negative and unexpected environmental and social effects, the monitoring of impacts being a matter widely covered on
the literature on sustainable development (Bell and Morse, 2004; Hildén and Rosenström, 2008; Lehtonen, 2008;
Lyytimäki and Rosenström, 2008; Spangenberg, 2004). Nevertheless, we seldom see the indica-tors devised for this
purpose being organized and reflecting a strategy, even though there are some suggestions to do so (see WTO, 2004).

We must stress that proposals have been made regarding the emergence of new strategic paradigms, possibly more
adequate to the implementation of sustainable development and strategies involving the communities. According to
Williams (2002), Farrell and Twining-Ward (2004) and Bagheri and Hjorth (2007), classical planning is characterized
by a certain rigidity, formalization and linearity of thought, which are not very com-patible with the challenges of
sustainability, where social learning, the abandonment of rigid prescriptions and definitions and the development of
non-linear instruments are key. Similar criticisms of the classical approach to planning were also made by Mintzberg
(1994, p. 107): ‘. . . the most successful strategies are visions, not plans’.

However, the idea that strategic planning limits flexibility is far from being consensual. Mintzberg’s position is not
the prevalent one within the scope of strategic management, especially in the fields of public sector man-agement and
regional planning. The idea seems not to be empirically supported and some studies have even shown the opposite
(Berry, 2007; Berry and Wechsler, 1995; Bryson, 1988; Roberts, 1993). On the other hand, strategic planning, if
integrating and participative, is an important instrument for the implementation of sustain-ability, since it emphasizes
long-term consensus regarding the distribution of common interest resources (Blowers, 2002).

Strategic planning has also seen its role acknowledged by international organizations. The United Nations pro-
claimed 2005–2015 as the decade for the universal acclamation of the strategic nature of SD. In 2001, the EU approved
the Community Strategy for Sustainable Development, and in 2007 it approved the Agenda for a Sus-tainable and
Competitive European Tourism and gave a proper focus to strategic planning in order to achieve STD. The ‘Gederi’
project is an example of the EU concern with sustainable tourism (see Chen, 2006).

The Portuguese Situation

Located at the southwest end of Europe, Portugal has 1800 km of coastline and a mild climate, providing natural
conditions that are favourable to tourism. According to the Portuguese Office for National Statistics, in 2007, the

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
J. N. Simão and M. d. R. Partidário

sector accounts for 10% of the GDP and 8% of employment, occupying the 10th position in the ranking in terms of the
number of arrivals and the 14th in receipts in the European context (UNWTO, 2009). Over the last few decades,
despite some periods of recession, the tourism industry has been increasingly important to the national economy
(WTTC, 2009). In some regions particularly dependent on tourism (Madeira and Algarve), the territorial and
demographic pressure is evident. Portugal is faced with a development model initiated in the 1960s that has been
showing some exhaustion since the 1990s: weak diversification embodied in the sun-and-sea monoculture, seasonality,
indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources and concentration of investments along the coastline primarily targeted
at prospective real estate (Cunha, 2006).
In 2007, the Ministry of Economy and Innovation prepared a National Strategic Plan for Tourism (PENT) arising
from the need to devise a strategic policy for national tourism. The plan aims to place Portugal amongst the fastest
growing destinations in Europe, investing in the consolidation and development of 10 strategic tourism products. This
document never, or hardly ever, mentions sustainable development, environment or residents, whilst the majority of
references stress the sustainability of the industry.
After several interruptions and restarts, the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (ENDS) was con-cluded
at the end of 2006. Its primary intention is to turn Portugal into one of the most competitive and attractive countries in
the European Union through economic, social and environmental development and social responsibil-ity. Several
references are made to tourism in this document, which is especially critical regarding mass tourism and the sun-and-
sea product, due to the lack of diversification, low number of skilled workers and negative impact on natural resources
that it involves.
The two strategic plans were concluded almost simultaneously under the political responsibility of the same
government, specifically by the Ministry of Economy and Innovation (PENT) and the Presidency of the Council of
Ministers (ENDS), and do not refer to each other. It seems that the country has two strategies, one for tourism and
another for SD, which do not have to be aligned and convergent.
Regarding local government, Local Agenda 21 could play an important role in sustainable tourism planning due to
its strategic and programmatic nature in terms of the action of local governments in promoting SD (Jackson and
Morpeth, 2000). However, Portugal’s delay in this field is well known compared with other EU members, something
Schmidt et al. (2005) justifies with the inertia and alienation existing at all levels: central government, local authorities
and citizens.
The pursuit of a national tourism policy is the responsibility of Turismo de Portugal, a politically dependent central
body of the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. The regional support for the attainment and implementa-tion of this
policy rests on a set of RTOs who are responsible for the preparation of regional strategies aligned with PENT.
However, during the last few decades, with the transfer of some powers of coordination to local authorities, such as
licensing and inspection of tourism accommodation, the municipalities have seen their com-petences enhanced and
started to lead effective regional tourism development. In some cases, the role of the RTOs was reduced to the regional
tourism promotion, and the lack of coordination with the municipalities was occasion-ally evident.

Research Methods

The strategic plans relevant to this research are public documents produced by municipalities or RTOs in the context of
its institutional role, which preparation is recommended but not legally required. These facultative and pro-active plans
translate commitments involving the entire organization and have non-negligible budget costs, and their objective is to
generate a feasible approach to tourism development. While transmitting an ethic and a long-term action proposal for
an activity with social and environmental impacts, strategic tourism plans are expres-sions and representations of
relevant items of the social world.
Since they involve remarkable resources and commitments, the plans try to be objective and feasible. However,
since they anticipate action, they represent a level of intentions, being a fundamental starting point for strategic
performance, located on the verge between discourse and action. They are also the only instrument available to foresee
the future of tourism activity in a specific territory.

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
How Does Tourism Planning Contribute to Sustainable Development?

For the purpose of this research, strategic plans from local or regional level were collected, which (i) were specific
for the tourism sector and (ii) had a timeframe that covered, totally or partially, the period between January 2007 and
December 2009. Eleven plans fulfilled these conditions, covering 60% of the national mainland territory (see the
geographic distribution in Figure 1).
A qualitative approach based on content analysis was chosen, which is a conventional procedure used to study text
material. To analyse the strategic process included in the plans, the evaluation tool developed by Simpson (2001) was
used. It facilitates indexing the data by categories (Mason, 2002) according to a set of criteria, in order to standardize
the analysis and reduce subjectivity.
Simpson’s work considers three relevant aspects: sustainable development, the strategic component and the
stakeholders’ participation. The set of criteria used for this study (appendix) is almost entirely the one used by Simpson
(2001). The few exceptions (in Section A) were due to the need to adapt the criteria to the Portuguese reality. The
result is an evaluation tool with 49 criteria divided into five sections (A–E), which enables the analysis of the plans’
approach to the entire strategic process aiming at sustainable tourism development.
Section A considers two types of criterion: those that identify the stakeholders who participated in the planning
process; and those that try to verify whether these stakeholders’ opinions/suggestions were incorporated. Section B
examines the integration of community values in the tourism planning process and how well the plan’s vision for the
future is in tune with these values. Section C shows the local situation analysis (in social, environmental and economic
terms), the current levels of tourism activity (visitors and infra-structures) and the grounds for its development. The
objective of Section D is to ascertain whether the documents are strategy oriented, whether they create basic conditions
for the execution of a planned development and whether there is a connection between generic and specific objectives.
Section E concerns the elements that contribute to the implementation and future revision of the plan. Thus, the stages
of the strategic process are covered: the three first sections focus on the

PASTUV
(Valimar)

PDTVD
(Vale do Douro)

PETUR
(Serra da Estrela)

PRTL/F
(Leiria/Fátima) PETCB
(Castelo Branco)

M-PET PEDT-ACB
(Mafra) (Castelo do Bode)

PEDTS
(Seixal)

PDTA
PETSC (Alentejo)
(Santiago do Cacém)

PRTA2000
(Algarve)

Figure 1. Map of Portugal, showing the locations of the plans evaluated

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
J. N. Simão and M. d. R. Partidário

external, internal and aspirations strategic analysis; Section D addresses formulation, with the identification of the
objectives, the strategies and the policies, and Section E deals with the implementation of the strategy, defining
programmes, budgets and procedures, and proposals for evaluation and performance control mechanisms.
Based on the set of criteria of the evaluation tool, each plan was subject to analysis as follows: 2 when the criteria
appear to be clear; 1 if the criteria appear to be less clear and 0 when there is no evidence of the criteria. The set of
plans was analysed in three different time intervals (separated by two weeks) by a previously trained single coder. This
analysis had a Krippendorff’s α (Krippendorff, 1980) of 0.89, which confirms its reliability.

Results and Discussion

In general, the plans (eight out of 11) incorporate the term sustainability or sustainable development in the text either in
the general objectives or in the mission. Two of them state what they understand by sustainable tourism devel-opment
in a very general form; another two emphasize the position of international bodies (Agenda 21, Brundtland Report and
European Commission); one identifies the determinant aspects (social, environmental, institutional and economic) and
three do not make any conceptual approach to sustainable development. In three plans, there were no references, or the
scarce ones were out of frame.
The plans do not warn of the necessary trade-offs between the dimensions of sustainability, ignoring existing
theoretical discussions concerning the spectrum of possibilities. Only the Seixal plan identifies four types of asset
(ecological, social, human and business), acknowledging that the main issue is to be able to choose the adequate
quantity of each asset when planning a strategy. The highlighted positions are divided between those that do not clarify
what they understand by SD or STD and those that have adopted visions that are too generic and/or collate to those of
international organizations. In this case it is common to find deliberately anthropocentric positions and close to weak
sustainability. For example,

. . . the preservation of environmental and natural resources should constitute the core mission of STD, but there is
no point in preserving if the citizens cannot enjoy the area – Serra da Estrela plan.

Tourism planning thus seems to be very conservative, not contributing to leverage positions of rupture or trans-
formation (using the expressions of Hopwood et al., 2005) regarding sustainable development. Moreover, as the
authors state, ‘Embracing the status quo is not a viable option for society if we are to move towards sustainable
livelihood for all. . . . The future is likely to be dominated by choices between more radical views’ (p. 48).
When the meaning of sustainable tourism development is present in the plans, it appears as evident, leaving no room
for debate and/or clarification of the concept, much in line with Luke’s (2005) finding that ‘this term actually is
increasingly used as a label’. The absence of an explicit delineation of the principles of SD so common in many studies
(Collins, 1999) was another trend found. In fact, most of the plans refer to the concern for the preservation of assets
needed to maintain the industry (environment and culture) but fail to explain the concept and to operationalize
sustainability.
Planners did not discuss with the community the required type of sustainable tourism development. If it is evident
that participative and open planning processes provide better decisions (Hall, 2000), decisions that are more
democratic, more creative (Brohman, 1996), better adjusted to reality and easier to implement (Costa, 1996), we
wonder what kind of development the planners and decision-makers intend (or are able) to implement.
In general terms, it was noticed that the plans analysed follow a classical approach to planning, except for the
Santiago do Cacém plan, a fact which corroborates the appropriateness of using the evaluation instrument devel-oped
by Simpson (2001).
Regarding the presence of strategic and sustainable principles, on average, the criteria were met in 36% of the plans,
which is a weak result; 20 of 49 criteria were met in less than 25% and only four criteria were met in 75% of the plans.
There were significant qualitative differences among the plans. The Vale do Douro plan (which met 60% of the
criteria) satisfied all of the sections except Section B. Two other plans, Seixal and Serra da Estrela, scored above 50%.
Six plans met between 25% and 41% of the criteria, and two plans (Leiria/Fátima and Santiago do Cacém) had very
poor results (Table 1).

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
How Does Tourism Planning Contribute to Sustainable Development?

Strategic Section A Section B Section C Section D Section E Total


plan max = 22 max = 12 max = 28 max = 24 max = 12 max = 98

value % value % value % value % value % value %

PDTVD 16 73 2 17 19 68 14 58 8 67 59 60
PEDTS 15 68 7 58 18 64 11 46 3 25 54 55
PETUR 17 77 2 17 15 54 14 58 6 50 54 55
M-PET 7 32 3 25 14 50 9 38 7 58 40 41
PRTA2000 11 50 0 0 16 57 7 29 5 42 39 40
PDTA 3 14 0 0 18 64 14 58 3 25 38 39
PASTUV 5 23 3 25 8 29 9 38 5 42 30 31
PEDT-ACB 3 14 0 0 7 25 13 54 4 33 27 28
PETCB 0 0 0 0 15 54 4 17 5 42 24 25
PRTL/F 0 0 0 0 0 0 10 42 1 8 11 11
PETSC 0 0 0 0 4 14 5 21 0 0 9 9
Total 77 32 17 13 134 44 110 42 47 36 385 36

Table 1. Ranking of plans. The column ‘value’ shows the score each plan received in each of the sections. The
maximum score is reached by multiplying the number of criteria in each section by two (the criterion is present in an
‘evident’ form). The ratio of the maximum possible score to the obtained score results in the percentage success

1
score

0,75
Average

0,5
0,25

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Criteria

Figure 2. Scoring criteria

As a whole, the 11 plans had unsatisfactory results in Section A (stakeholder participation), meeting approxi-mately
32% of the criteria (Table 1). Only four plans had results equal to or greater than 50%, and some did not integrate into
the planning process any engagement with the stakeholders. The main interested parties in national tourism planning
are treated very unevenly. The public agencies are present (generally RTOs and municipal coun-cils that are the
promoters of the plans), but the local population and environmental NGOs are rarely heard, or even ignored in many
cases (Figure 2). Analysing the case of the Institute for Nature Conservation (ICN), a public body depending on the
Ministry for Environment and Spatial Planning: although it has a say regarding develop-ment in protected areas,
particularly natural parks and reserves, it is surprising that almost all plans that include such areas have not heard and
integrated this organization into their planning processes.
Among all the sections, Section B (Vision and values) is the one that shows the weakest results, having been
accomplished in only 13%. Six plans did not receive any score in this section, and only one had a satisfactory result
(58.3%). We noticed that no plan inquired about either the residents’ attitudes or perceptions on tourism (Criterion B4
is the only one that was not even partially accomplished by any plan). This setting aside of the resident

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
J. N. Simão and M. d. R. Partidário

community is something that Costa (1996) had already warned about planning in Portugal by alerting that the process
was often taken over by professionals rather than by all interested parties.
With few exceptions (the Seixal plan is the most interesting one) the planning is carried out in a closed circuit
(institutions and public agencies excluding those connected to environment protection) barely open to stakeholders and
not reflecting the vision and values of the community. Similar conclusions are found in the literature (Brohman, 1996;
Choi and Sirakaya, 2006; Hall, 2000; Joppe, 1996). Hall (2000) justifies this as essentially due to two factors: (i) the
pressure and dissatisfaction of investors in undertaking a longer decision-making process and (ii) public participation
and the transfer of control to the population are interpreted as questioning the power and control of the regional/local
governments.
Thus, contrary to what is advocated by the WTO and other authors, national tourism planning treats the envi-
ronment and the resident community as silent stakeholders, i.e., they are affected by but do not have a direct form of
participation in the decision-making process.
Section C (situation analysis) is the one where the plans had the best results (43.5%). The identification of the
population and demographic levels, evaluation of tourism infrastructure capacity, a quantitative analysis of the number
of visitors and the identification of the primary local economic activities are the more common aspects existing in the
plans. The resilience of the physical environment, the evaluation of the competence of local tourism operators for
business, and the comparison of tourism with other industries regarding local economic development are the most
absent aspects. Since tourism competes with other industries for access to scarce resources, it should be expected that
the destinations would base activity development on the quantification of the foreseen economic and social benefits for
the region (Criteria C8, C9 and C10). However, the documents scarcely indicate the main economic effects of tourism
and the expected impact on employment, meaning that economic development of the activity is not well grounded.
Even so, this section had the highest number of plans (seven) with scores above 50%.
Section D (goals and objectives) was accomplished in 42% and was the only one where all the plans scored due to
the minimal presence of generic objectives. The aspects more frequently mentioned were the existence of long-term
guidance and the identification of general objectives. However, there is no strong link between these and the specific
objectives, which can lead to difficulties in implementation. The equitable distribution of economic benefits and the
identification and evaluation of strategic alternatives were practically non-existent.
The plans satisfied only 36% of Section E (implementation and review). In general, the documents did not prioritize
the objectives or identify those responsible for implementation, and did not provide cost estimates and/ or methods for
allocating them. Only three plans fulfilled at least 50% of the criteria, and four plans presented very poor results. Some
plans integrated follow-up and the dynamics of implementation into the strategic objec-tives, but only the Alentejo
plan provides guidelines that can help in adapting them to new challenges of regional tourism. Considering the poor
performance of the plans in this section, and that the ability to execute the strategy is more important than the quality of
the strategy itself (Kaplan and Norton, 1996), no good perspectives are foreseen regarding the successful
implementation of the proposals put forward in the plans.
Few studies have examined sustainability in tourism strategic plans. Simpson (2001) developed an evaluation
instrument and applied it quantitatively for regional/local plans in New Zealand. The results show that multiple
stakeholders participated in the planning process, although the inclusion of the visions of the community was far from
desirable. The plans identified generic and specific objectives but did not integrate aspects of implementation and
review. Ruhanen (2004) used the same evaluation instrument for local plans in Queensland, Australia, but with a
qualitative approach. The results evidence relatively poor plans at every level: strategic guidelines, situation analysis,
stakeholder participation and integration of the vision and values of the community. Burns (2004) con-ducted a critical
discourse analysis regarding the Solomon Islands and concluded that there was a lack of effective participation from
the stakeholders, among other things.

Conclusion

This study has analysed the contributions of tourism development to sustainable development. The conclusions are far
from leaving a positive impression. The plans speak of sustainability, but few say what they mean by this. When they
do, they use a very generic approach following the definitions of international organizations (WCSD,

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
How Does Tourism Planning Contribute to Sustainable Development?

EU), and an implicit or explicit kind of weak sustainability is suggested. The lack of proper conceptual approaches
illustrates the general lack of reflection and discussion about sustainability by the planners or between them and the
local community.
Also, the strategic and sustainability principles are not considered in the current practices of tourism planning. There
is reduced stakeholder participation in the process (especially environmental organizations and the local community),
and consequently the values and vision of the community are not integrated or valued. We continue to find plans that
are dictated by professionals who ignore several interested parties and do not plan together with the people.
Furthermore, there is insufficient analysis of the environmental situation on the plans and, unexpect-edly, plans do not
justify the focus on tourism as an economic activity. Sustainability is mentioned at the level of broad objectives but is
not always clearly articulated through more than operational objectives. The scarcity of aspects related to
implementation and plan review requires some caution about the possibility of the execution/ implementation of the
defined strategies.
The broad results are consistent with others previously published, including those for different destinations and
regions, namely Simpson (2001) and Ruhanen (2004). These elements lead us to believe that SD is translated into
tourism planning as a cliché, something that is automatically included in proposals without much reflection and with
questionable practical impact. This aspect is highlighted by Lélé (1991, p. 607): ‘SD has become . . . the jargon of
development planners, . . . [and] is in real danger of becoming a cliché . . . – a fashionable phrase that everyone pays
homage to but nobody cares to define’.
Broadly speaking, the public sector, through strategic planning, has an unsatisfactory contribution for sustain-able
tourism development. Considering the various recommendations from international organizations and the literature, we
may even say that the current practices of tourism planning end up by creating obstacles to the implementation of
sustainable development.
In Portugal, and in the near future, vast improvements are not expected. Spatial planning has not been receiving the
proper attention from the political powers as an instrument for tourism development (Vieira, 2007). As an example,
there are the recent dubious governmental practices that begin big tourism projects in environmentally protected areas
in the name of job creation and economic growth and then label them as ‘of national interest’. Local people are not
consulted and environmental NGOs are very critical of these investments. On the other hand, nothing positive will
come from the alignment of future regional/local plans with one national plan (PENT) that does not address sustainable
development.

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Appendix. Criteria for the Evaluation of Tourism Plans According to Simpson (2001)

Tourism planning process evaluation

Plan Score

Section A: stakeholder participation


A1. Central government tourism agency(ies) (Turismo de Portugal) took part in the planning process
A2. Regional tourism organization(s) (Regiões de Turismo) took part in the planning process
A3. Tourism governmental organizations (national or regional or local) opinion influenced the final
strategic direction selected
A4. Municipal council(s) and regional/territorial agency(ies) (CCDRs) took part in the planning process
A5. Governmental non-tourism organization (national or regional or local) opinion influenced the final
strategic direction selected
A6. The local tourism industry took part in the planning process
A7. Local tourism industry opinion influenced the final strategic direction selected
A8. Environmental organizations (regional or local) took part in the planning process
A9. Environmental organization opinion influenced the final strategic direction selected
A10. Ordinary local residents took part in the planning process
A11. Ordinary local resident opinion influenced the final strategic direction selected
Total score Section A
Section B: vision and values
B1. The planning document identifies locally important community values
B2. The planning document identifies locally important lifestyle features
B3. The planning document identifies current issues that are critical to residents
B4. The planning document assesses community attitudes to tourism
B5. The planning document assesses the overall quality of life in the area
B6. The planning document includes a vision for the future that aligns with local community values, attitudes
and lifestyles
Total score Section B

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd
J. N. Simão and M. d. R. Partidário

Tourism planning process evaluation

Plan Score

Section C: situation analysis


C1. The planning document describes the area’s principal geographic features
C2. The planning document describes the main characteristics of the local climate
C3. The planning document identifies flora and fauna that are unique to the area
C4. The planning document assesses the resilience and/or fragility of the physical environment
C5. The planning document identifies current population levels and demographics
C6. The planning document identifies current land use and ownership patterns in the area
C7. The planning document identifies the major economic activities in the local area
C8. The planning document establishes the relative importance of tourism, compared with other industries, to the
economic development of the local area
C9. The planning document quantifies the economic benefit of tourism to the area
C10. The planning document quantifies the employment creation ability of local tourism activity
C11. The planning document describes the principal tourism sites in the area
C12. The planning document evaluates the current capacity of tourism plant and infrastructure
C13. The planning document evaluates the adequacy of business skills possessed by local tourism industry operators
C14. The planning document includes quantitative analysis of current visitor numbers, length of stay and spending
Total score Section C
Section D: goals and objectives
D1. The time dimension of the planning process reflects a long-term orientation
D2. The planning document includes broadly based goals related to the nature and scale of future tourism
development
D3. The planning document includes broadly based goals related to the economic benefits of future tourism
development
D4. The planning document includes broadly based goals related to environmental protection
D5. The planning document includes broadly based goals related to community values and lifestyle protection
D6. The planning document includes broadly based goals that emphasize the local benefits of tourism development
D7. The planning document identifies a range of alternative strategies by which broadly based goals may be
achieved
D8. The planning document evaluates each strategy option prior to determining a range of specific objectives
D9. Specific objectives support previously established broad goals
D10. Specific objectives selected are based on supply capability as opposed to market demand
D11. Specific objectives target the equitable distribution of tourism’s economic benefits throughout the local area
D12. Specific objectives for future tourism activity are quantified and readily measurable
Total score Section D
Section E: implementation and review
E1. Specific objectives are prioritized in terms of implementation urgency
E2. The planning document clearly assigns responsibility for key task implementation
E3. The planning document contains a clearly articulated review and evaluation mechanism
E4. The planning document estimates the resource costs of the recommended development strategy
E5. The planning document indicates specific methods by which the identified resource costs are to be
allocated to development participants
E6. The planning document acknowledges a need to integrate local tourism strategies with other local
strategies and national policies for tourism development
Total score Section E
Overall total score

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/sd