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Article
april 05, 2011
Competitiveness in Destinations

I cannot help being amazed when I realise that, even within the current global crisis scenario, experts, scholars and weekend thinkers in general keep on focusing upon strengthening the measures to boost business profitability rather than improving territories’ competitiveness.


For many years I have been supporting the idea that excellence in any economic activity must always consider and indissociable binomial: Business and Territory which, as a formula, might be expressed as Successful Economic Activity = Profitable Businesses + Competitive Territories. As far as I have ever known, growth, improvement and business consolidation do not occur in uncompetitive territories where different measures and objective conditions propitiating the establishment of such businesses have not been implemented. As a matter of fact, this is a fundamental principle upon which clustering theories are based.


We ought to ask ourselves whether the critical situation some countries are being through is in fact due their own competitiveness as territories rather than to the competitiveness of their business companies. Why territories such as the German landers have real improvement prospects while in other countries others still are and will remain incapable to overcome the present situation?


In terms of tourism development territorial competitiveness is essential as it is difficult to have a tourism destination capable of growth and consolidation if it does not benefit from a set of conditions that allow it to remain highly competitive. Under the present global competition circumstances, the notion of competitiveness requires to understand that the territory upon which tourism activity occurs is not only a mere physical support of such. We also have to understand and envision both destinations and their territories as resources and products as urban planning, even though it is a necessity, is far from being a complete solution. It is no longer enough to have specific infrastructures and the right urban planning since a more comprehensive strategic approach becomes a must have. A destination should also focus both its mission and vision just as if it were any other kind of business or project.


All along my own professional activity I have managed and taken part in several tourism destination strategic plans of all sizes ranging from national or regional to local. I have also had the opportunity to analyse and assess other plans that, further to a more or less brilliant analysis phase, become rather weak where they need to be rather specific. Very few are able to become real destination “road maps” and even less include indicator and assessment tables allowing to correct or finely tune some of the proposed measures and actions or, simply, measure their degree of success


A tourism destination strategic plan is nowadays a key tool to achieve the competitiveness we have been referring to. Such plan should have a vocation of practicability and feasibility and be able to propose a clear battery of mid-term actions along with their respective success indicators allowing subsequent correction and allocating responsibilities for their execution. Far from being politically tampered with, a good strategic plan must be ruled by the inspirational principles of transparency and transversal participation, be potentially implementable and achievable, and to benefit from utmost degree of consensus. It will also have to identify and to set clear strategic lines and to determine objectives that are coincident with such but, by any means, must achieve that business managers get seriously involved in its results by setting various mechanisms aimed at improving participation, co-financing and co-responsibility and making destination competitiveness a shared affair between each and everyone committed to its success.

Xavier Vives
C4T
Managing Partner


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