Author: Marina de Moraes Lopes

Stakeholder engagement following leader

The support, cooperation, and commitment of stakeholders is essential to ensure long-term, successful sustainable development of the dynamic and highly complex tourism industry.

Tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors in the world, comprised of an intricate network of stakeholders with an interest in the development, marketing, and management of tourism destinations. Other than economic and environmental considerations, the third pillar of sustainable destination development, is the socio-cultural context, according to the UNWTO. Sustainable destination planning and development demand informed relevant stakeholder participation, along with strong political leadership, to facilitate consensus building. Participatory stakeholder engagement planning is the core of strategic destination development and sustainable long-term tourism growth. 

Who are tourism development stakeholders?

A stakeholder is an individual or an organization with an interest in a project, a business, or an industry. Stakeholders may not always have a direct link to the project or even the sector itself, but are nevertheless impacted by the outcomes. Future generations, both tourists and locals of tomorrow, are often considered tourism stakeholders, and while their participation in tourism planning is inaccessible, decisions must be taken considering their best interest and well-being.


So who are the people and organizations interested in about the risks and rewards, i.e. the stakes, of destination development? The list is long and includes local and national governments, visitors and local communities, private sector businesses and organizations, destination management organizations (DMOs) as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are all affected by tourism in different ways. Here are the different types of stakeholders:

1. National and Local Government Stakeholders

Both national and local governments play a significant role in tourism planning through attracting investment, as well as through legislation and policy development. The government is responsible for building and maintaining adequate infrastructure, like roads and airports, to successfully carry out travel and tourism activities. Added to that, they ensure the safety and security of their visitors and residents alike.

Local governments often have tourism departments, particularly in the absence of a DMO, that would take charge of planning, development, and promotion of a destination. They create services along the way to support the industry. Economic returns from tourism oftentimes fuel the overall development of a destination. 

Kenyan stakeholder engagement session presents to DMO

2. Destination Management Organization Stakeholders

A DMO plays a key role in responsible tourism management and marketing of a specific destination. It helps to establish a competitive edge for the destination, ensure long-term sustainability, strengthen institutional governance, and build a strong and vibrant brand identity around a destination. A DMO is often seen as the connector, bringing together all industry stakeholders to build a tourism strategy for their destinations that will benefit the community as a whole. 

3. Local Community Stakeholders

The local community plays a vital role in the planning and development of a destination. For the success and sustainability of any type of tourism development, it is crucial to understand the attitudes and perceptions of residents towards tourism as well as the factors contributing to such opinions. These factors may include construction work, increasing visitor numbers, and public disturbance, environment, air and noise pollution, waste management, inflation of goods and services among other possible factors.

Ultimately, tourism should aim to benefit local populations and improve the well-being of the host communities. Not considering their needs will prohibit residents from acting as destination ambassadors, creating and nurturing a hospitable environment for the visitor. 

4. Visitor Stakeholders

Visitors are often considered the most important destination stakeholders. These are the people that add economic value to the destination by spending money on transportation, accommodation, food, and attractions.

A positive visitor experience may result in destination promotion through user-generated content in today’s social media age. Favorable attitudes will positively impact the formation of a destination brand and attract more visitors.

Negative experiences and the spread of bad reviews threaten the social and economic stability of a destination. It runs the risk of damaging the destination brand perception, decreasing tourist arrivals, threatening local businesses, and worsening rather than improving resident quality-of-life. 

5. The Private Sector Stakeholders

Private sector businesses including hotels, restaurants, attractions, and tour operators generate a fair share of overall tourism contribution to the local economy. As destinations generally have an abundance of said types of businesses, the success of these stakeholders depends almost entirely on the number of visitors. As they are often in competition for the tourism dollar, economic considerations may be prioritized over social and environmental implications, and how projects could affect local communities.                                                                                Stakeholder engagement following leader

6. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Stakeholders

NGOs as servants to humanitarian and environmental causes greatly affect the outcomes of tourism development. NGOs will look out for the interest of their communities and ensure the conservation of a destination’s natural and cultural heritage though their intentions can contradict the private sector goals and create conflict. Inclusive and participatory tourism planning and sustainable tourism development processes mitigate such conflicts through finding solutions that satisfy all stakeholders.

Strategies for Stakeholder Engagement

With a clear idea of who are the main tourism destination stakeholders, now it’s time to think about strategies to include them in your destination planning.

The first step in driving interest and community engagement is information distribution. Transparent communication with your stakeholders about current tourism impacts, possible future projections, and overall benefits of tourism development is perhaps the easiest way to begin engaging with different stakeholder groups. That said, some stakeholders are easier to include than others. Common challenges include resistance to participate, lack of time and money, ensuring equity, problematic relationships among institutions or individuals, and communication issues. 

Furthermore, companies and individuals directly linked to tourism will recognize their role in the industry and participate in the planning and strategic development building process. Meanwhile, stakeholders that do not see the direct economic and social benefits materializing from tourism will struggle to understand why their involvement is required. Lack of participation may result in values and interests being misrepresented or excluded. 

Other approaches to stakeholder engagement include arranging workshops, hosting public meetings, and arranging task forces to collectively identify opportunities, develop ideas, answer questions and find solutions. Ensuring that communication lines are open is essential, while continuous engagement can be achieved through scheduled monthly get-togethers or monthly newsletters. Providing training, consultations and technical assistance can also be a form of stakeholder involvement. After all, committed and connected stakeholders that trust each other will be better equipped to build a sustainable and resilient tourism industry collectively.  

Solimar International has been fortunate to work with destinations around the world leading the way to sustainable tourism and destination planning through stakeholder engagement and empowerment. The Tourism For All project in Timor-Leste, for instance, aimed to boost the industry, help combat environmental degradation and lift the country out of poverty by creating revenue streams and more economic opportunities for local communities. Main project objectives were achieved through inclusive listening, visioning, and planning exercises, including communities, industry advocates, the DMO, and the government to formalize and strengthen the island’s tourism offering. 

Visit our project page for other inspiring tourism development stories produced through successful stakeholder engagement.


Written by Marina Lopes, Alicia Winfield, and Emilija Zagere

My Switzerland website

Understanding what makes a travel destination website successful is crucial for anyone interested in reaching more potential travelers online. Sparking travel inspiration is a tough task, so we have compiled a list of the top 10 destination websites that inspire us and motivate us to imagine creative ways to entice travel plans. Check out these high quality, user friendly travel websites:

Machu Picchu 360 Destination Website

Machu Picchu 360
Machu Picchu 360

Machu Picchu 360 has adopted a creative and unique way to promote this awe-inspiring Peruvian landmark. By creating a highly interactive virtual reality tour, the website allows the visitor to emerge themselves into the ancient city of Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world. From the sound of the birds to detailed interpretive information, the prospective visitor is taken on a truly immersive experience. The website gives such a detailed visual experience that it attracts tourists to understand more about Machu Picchu and inspire a visit to see it first-hand.

My Switzerland Destination Website

My Switzerland website
My Switzerland website

Other than having a complete set of information about Switzerland’s main attractions, My Switzerland promotes experiences aimed at all target markets. Relevant for specific travelers, the site also displays clear information about Covid-19 safety protocols with indications on where and how to get tested. Although it catches the attention for being a very beautifully designed website, one of its most unique features is the separation of experiences by season, promoting a varied experience and showing that Switzerland is a travel destination to see all year round.

Travel Belize Website

Travel Belize website
Travel Belize

One of the first things you will see when entering the Travel Belize landing page is a health and safety warning letting visitors know that the country has reopened and is ready to receive tourists in a safe and internationally certified way. To display such certifications is becoming increasingly important in order to rebuild tourists’ confidence to travel again. The website includes the publication of blogs that together form an excellent guide. The interesting element of this guide is that visitors can make their travel plans around archaeology, backpacking, beaches and coast, birding, ecotourism and hiking so that guests can find their niche and  the experiences that interest them the most. Travel Belize did an excellent job in displaying the colorfulness of Belize’s nature without ignoring the cultural aspects, all while paying tribute to its diverse ethnic background.

Love Cape Town Website

Destination Marketing: Love Cape Town
Love Cape Town

As with many other destination websites, Love Cape Town has been updated with useful Covid-19 information, safety instructions and the latest news affecting tourism. The website is well divided in different types of attractions such as nightlife, eat and drink, wellness and arts & culture. One unique factor of this website is the presence of a ‘Travelwise’ section that highlights responsible tourism practices that gives information about local tours to more off-the-beaten-path destinations. Other than that, Love Cape town also displays the businesses that support the destination so that visitors have the opportunity to chat with the their tourism teams.

Visit Phoenix Destination Website

Visit Phoenix Website: Tourism digital marketing
Visit Phoenix Website

One of the features of Visit Phoenix’s destination website that catches visitors’ attention right away is the high quality use of Instagram pictures from locals and travelers. This strategy shows what Phoenix is truly about and how it is seen from the visitor perspective. Additionally, it makes the visitors interact with the destination management organization (DMO) through hashtags for the opportunity to be featured on their website. Engaging tourists through social media is a great technique to raise awareness towards your destination, especially in attracting younger travelers. As with many of the websites highlighted before, this site is separated in different travel categories showing the visitor what to see and where to stay. But one unique aspect of Visit Phoenix is the LGBTQ+ travel section that shows more about LGBTQ+ historical sites and promotes local artists and events aimed at this market. Website website website

This official guide to New York City provides a unique platform to deep-dive into trip planning for the most visited city in the United States. What stands out with is the sheer amount of content the website covers. From the different boroughs to spotlights on specific communities, the site details so many trip options and features a plethora of locally owned businesses. The site also has their finger on the pulse of why some may be inspired to travel to the city. For example, at the time of writing, In the Heights, a film that was shot and takes place in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan, has an entire section of the website dedicated to visiting the area and exploring spots from the film. The amount of options the high quality travel destination website offers perfectly encapsulates the diversity of things to do found in NYC.

Travel Oregon Website

Travel Oregon: Welcome Again

The Travel Oregon website gives travelers a wide variety of travel options, similar to NYCGo. The difference here is the overall look of the website. It perfectly captures the essence of Oregon with a variety of photographs of the outdoors, an embedded Instagram feed, and a cinematic video that previews your potential adventures when you visit the state. A big part of traveling to a state like Oregon is driven by its natural beauty and the emotional effect it has on those who travel there. Travel Oregon captured this perfectly when they developed their site and even created an entire section devoted to travel inspirations within Oregon. Utilizing emotion and feelings to help curate a trip is one of the most unique ways of travel recommendations that we’ve seen, and think it holds a great key to curating the perfect trip. Be sure to check out their interactive map.

Visit Reykjavik Destination Website

Visit Reykjavik website
Visit Reykjavik website

Set as the jumping off point for the rest of Iceland, Visit Reykjavik paints the city as being more than just a city. What stands out with Visit Reykjavik is that the site knows the demographic of those who visit. Over half of the visitors to Iceland in 2018 were under the age of 35, signaling that the destination has a lot of appeal with younger travelers. The front page highlights their understanding of the core traveler by including subjects like local bars and clubs, coffee shops, and vegan food. It’s important to understand your target market, and Visit Reykjavik demonstrates that well.

Visit Norway Website

Tourism Marketing: Visit Norway website
Visit Norway website

Sometimes a destination doesn’t need a fancy angle for their websites. Visit Norway demonstrates this with their sleek and simple website design that gives curious visitors a jumping off point but without an overwhelming amount of information for those who are looking to plan a trip. It encourages narrowing down exactly what the tourist would like to do, then it gives them the data, which is refreshingly simple.

South Africa Tourism Destination Website

South African Tourism website
South African Tourism website

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Norway’s simplified site, South Africa’s site provides an almost “Choose Your Own Adventure” type of experience. This experience begins with a landing page asking what type of trip the visitor to the site is looking to plan. Then the site eloquently customizes a visitor’s visit to the site by telling them how long it would take to get to South Africa from their location and allows visitors to explore offered activities. Consider this a digital, accessible travel guide.


Solimar has worked on numerous projects around the world to build effective destination websites for our clients, such as the recent development of the Atauro Island site for this emerging Destination Management Organization in Timor Leste.

If you are interested in learning how to make an effective, engaging destination website, contact us today to learn how Solimar can help you with your digital tourism marketing needs. 


By Kevin Lewicki and Marina de Moraes Lopes
“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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