– The importance of tourism for regional and national growth
The report is divided into three parts. First, a proposal is presented for how the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth’s programme for sustainable destination development between 2012 and 2014 can be evaluated. Then follows a review of the tourism research settings that exist in Sweden in 2012 and the report concludes with a summary of Swedish and international research on destination development with linkages to tourism.
Evaluation of the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth’s programme for sustainable destination development
Growth Analysis proposes a three-part evaluation with a broad approach and an explicit learning perspective:
- evaluation of the programme logic (interim report to be presented on 31 May 2013),
- evaluation of the implementation process; process evaluation (interim report to be presented on 31 March 2014)
- evaluation of impact and goal fulfilment; has the programme contributed to increased competitiveness in the Swedish tourist industry as a whole? (final report to be presented on 31 May 2015).
The following items have been identified and need to be objectified in a dialogue between the Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth before the work continues:
- Assignment of responsibilities between the different levels: the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, the destinations and the evaluators needs to be defined. Different levels have different needs to be able to follow up and evaluate their efforts. Who is to do what?
- Information about the process must be secured at both national and regional level. How is this best done?
- Selected destinations are to make methods, processes, organisational models, etc. accessible. There are no clear directives in this regard; are they to do so on a continuous basis or after the conclusion of the programme?
- The programme is to contribute to the visiting industry as a whole increasing its innovation capabilities. How are these capabilities to be defined and measured?
Settings for tourism research
Most tourism research is linked to the institutes of higher education that have tourism education programmes, which in their turn are often linked to the subject of Human Geography. This means that the subject of Human Geography features strongly in tourism research. There is probably also other research being conducted in the field, but where researchers do not consider themselves to be conducting research in tourism and are thus also not linked to these research settings. In Sweden only a limited group of researchers touch upon the subject.
Research in tourism and destination development
Destination development is a complex process involving many different questions. There are a great many players, both private and public and with different starting points, who have a shared interest in the development of a destination. It is often a matter of prioritising on the basis of limited resources, which means that a realistic picture is needed of what is most important and most appropriate to allocate resources to and who is to do what. Many things can be influenced with the help of well-founded decision-making and strategic choices. The destination is a complex quantity, where the objective is to give visitors a high-quality holistic experience, which in itself is a difficult task because customers will likely have different reasons for visiting the same destination. Good knowledge of actual and potential visitors is a basic condition for success.
If we define the destination in terms of networks, the question arises of who is included and who is not, which can itself be a controversial issue at destinations. Destination development is at best an integrated innovation process when it functions properly. A destination’s power of attraction has to do with both its actual qualities and characteristics and with how actual and potential visitors perceive the destination. These two dimensions are not always in agreement.
It can be noted that few evaluations have been made of projects and initiatives concerning destination destination.