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Implementing Sustainable Tourism Development Through Citizen Participation In The Planning Process

Year of publication1997
Author(s)C. Marien
Co-authorsA. Pizam
Place of publicationLondon
This book chapter examines at the theoretical level the techniques available for citizen participation in tourism development. The techniques are categorized based on their effectiveness in achieving certain participatory objectives. More precisely, the authors distinguish between: • participation techniques based on administrative objectives, whose goal is to improve citizen trust and confidence in the government; • techniques to meet citizens’ objectives, which are a way for governments to respond better to the citizens’ values and give them real decision making powers. For example, a survey belongs to the former kind of technique, a referendum to the latter. Even though the authors do not use the term “governance”, they are essentially speaking about it: the administrative techniques refer to a “top down” approach to decision making, while the techniques to meet citizens’ objectives refer to a “bottom up” approach to decision making, and are those mostly linked to good governance. Of course, the authors underline the fact that the best participation programs strike a balance between administrative and citizen expectations for participation. A detailed list of the two kinds of techniques is provided, a list that our QT may employ to characterize best practices on the basis of the quality of citizen involvement in decision making. The authors go on by underlying the fact that encouraging citizens to participate in planning will always be a difficult task. Two conditions are required: • the opening of power distribution channels – There are two kind of barriers that affect power distribution. One type is associated with the powerholder, who will resist distributing this power unless they feel they will get something in return. The authors argue that investors/developers should be provided with incentives conditioned to the respect of specific citizen participation requirements, particular when public money is spent on the development project. The other type is associated to the have-nots: the barriers include, first, inadequacies in the citizens’ political and socioeconomic infrastructure and knowledge base; and second, difficulty in organizing a representative and accountable citizen’s group in the face of the distrust that many citizens feel nowadays in relation to their governments. According to the authors, a possible solution is to appoint a person in the local government whose sole responsibility would be to make information regarding planning decisions more easily accessible to citizens. • legitimizing the issues – In order for the development program to be legitimized, it must be incorporated into the community planning structure. Measures need to be taken to encourage direct citizen involvement in tourism planning. Evaluation of participation programmes is critical to their survivals. The authors argue that many failures of citizen participation programmes in western democracies can be directly attributed to the absence of an adequate evaluative framework. A format for the evaluation of public participation is therefore provided.