The local community are the people who directly interact with the visitor. If they do not understand the economic importance of visitors or have a poor opinion of visitors, this will negatively impact upon the visitor experience. An informed member of the community who can welcome and signpost the visitor to a variety of activities and places of interest in the destination will vastly improve the visitor experience.
In order to make any development sustainable the local community should participate.
The appropriate people need to be included from the start – decisions impacting on people not at the table never go down well!
Within your community are many local businesses with direct links to tourism, but also community groups are often responsible for many of the local resources and organise festivals and events which are of interest to visitors. Make sure that any local community groups are invited to participate including town or community councils, community forums/associations, special interest groups etc. A number of the groups which may have a direct interest in tourism have been listed in the Who's Who
section, but there are many more - think about the organisations in your community which could provide support.
Define what you hope to achieve before you choose the engagement technique which will be of most use.
Audit of tourism resources
Development of an Destination Action Plan
There are many different engagement techniques. The LEADER model
has been used for over twenty years to engage with rural communities. Similar engagement techniques to those described below have been used by PLANED
for many years.
There is a difference between:
Consultation – is usually a top down process where by an organisation in authority will arrange focus groups of targeted stakeholders to gather information.
Participation – is a more organic process where a number of different organisations and individuals come together to work towards a joint aim.
Effective engagement should be as participative a process as possible.