Governance and Destination Management for Tourism Sustainability


Tourism destinations need sound and planned management. It can be managed by efficient destination management organisations (DMOs) that are becoming leading organisations with broader mandate which includes strategic planning, coordination and management of a full range of activities within an adequate governance structure with the integration of different stakeholders operating in the destination under common goals.

Optimal management of the destination ensures that the various authorities, all relevant stakeholders and professionals are coordinated by a leading entity under a coherent strategy and a collective vision pursuing a common goal: the competitiveness and sustainability of the destination. Public (P) – Private (P) – Community (C) approach engage also the residents and the local community in the tourism policy and decision-making process and its implementation (UNWTO 2019).

DMOs have a crucial role in promoting sustainable development in tourism sector and among policy and decision makers to align their actions with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (UNWTO 2018). DMOs should include Sustainable Development Goals in their plans and policies and monitor its implementation to ensure its compliance with the final goal of maximising the contribution of tourism destination to the SGDs.

United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) prepared Guidelines for Institutional Strengthening of DMOs to stress the relevance of having a leading organizational entity at destination level, to set a sound framework of criteria and indicators which are globally relevant and applicable within any existing or future DMO and to provide a set of recommendations to be considered by existing and future DMOs to improve their planning and managing performance and enhance their institutional governance. These guidelines are globally applicable and can assist DMOs in their effort to strengthen their institutional framework, the competitiveness and sustainability of the destinations they represent. Common objectives for every DMO are to maximize visitor’s value and quality perception while ensuring the competitiveness and sustainability of the destination, as well as the preservation of its natural and cultural assets in the long run, and catalyse the benefits for the local economy and the residents. Nevertheless each destination needs to adapt the nature and functions of its DMO to different variables (UNWTO 2019).

Destination Management

Destination management is “the coordinated management of all the elements that make up a tourism destination (attractions, amenities, access, marketing and pricing) (UNWTO 2019, 10; UNWTO 2007)”. Responsible and sustainable destination management should entail “a process that effectively and harmoniously addresses the interactions between the visitors, the industry that serves them, the community that hosts them and the environment in a broad sense (natural and cultural resources) (UNWTO 2019, 10)”. The DMO’s role should be to lead and coordinate activities under a coherent strategy in pursuit of a common goal including a coalition of many organisations and interests. The ultimate goal is to stimulate sustainable consumption and production and facilitate visitors’ interaction with the destination and its residents (UNWTO 2019).

DMO’s functions may include (UNWTO 2019, 13):

  • Strategic planning,
  • Formulation (or participation in the formulation process) and implementation of the destinati’s tourism policy,
  • Market intelligence (data gathering and analysis, market research, etc.),
  • Tourism product and business development,
  • Digitalization and innovation,
  • Monitoring,
  • Crisis management,
  • Training and capacity building (not only of its human resources but also facilitate training and capacity building activities for local tourism professionals),
  • Promotion, marketing and branding,
  • Funding and fostering investments.

Key performance areas in destination management are:

  • Strategic leadership
  • Effective excution
  • Efficient governance
Strategic leaderships

Strategic leadership means “harnessing stakeholder efforts and energy towards a collective vision, mapping a strategy for achieving the vision, communicating and advocating the advantages and principles of effective tourism management, promoting public-private partnerships, etc. (UNWTO 2019, 17).”

The following actions contribute to achieve a strategic leadership at DMO level (UNWTO 2019, 17):

  • Provide a scope for collective action and common goal-setting under a joined-up approach;
  • Engage in serious conversation and communication with all tourism stakeholders fostering partnerships between them;
  • Coordinate mediation by harmonizing (sometimes) divergent interests and seeking solutions to existing problems;
  • Build up a confidence environment between parties and reduce discrepancies;
  • Articulate roles and responsibilities in order to position the DMO as a knowledgeable and expert party;
  • Act as an influencer in the tourism sector in the destination;
  • Take part in product development processes by boosting fund-raising and resource mobilization;
  • Integrate local communities in a participative process in order to assure a mutually beneficial relationship;
  • Promote a tourism culture in the destination and among its residents;
  • Secure alignments in the pursuit of its collective destination vision by signing agreements and partnerships with relevant stakeholders to ensure synergies and build stronger bonds among them from an inclusive perspective;
  • Formulate a strategic plan for the destination that takes full account of all stakeholders’ priorities and concerns; and
  • Once the strategy has been set, realize its validation by means of agreements and partnerships with all parties responsible for its implementation (public sector: different levels of administration may be involved, from national to regional and local levels; private sector: accommodation, transportation, etc.; academia, clusters, NGOs and representatives of local communities and residents).
Effective execution

Once the policy to develop the tourism destination is established, the DMO advances in the execution of the tasks. The DMO’s have to have appropriate and necessary organizational structure and budget to know, lead and perform their duties and roles. Execution should be realised through a strategic plan, which may provide the framework and strategic vision, as well as through specific operational plans that systematize for each management area actions, available resources and objectives. The strategic plan should fix the roadmap with tangible and specific actions, financial and human resources needs, identification of responsible entities for its execution, potential partners, key performance indicators (UNWTO 2017) and other measurement toolkits, to achieve the goals defined in the tourism policy for the destination (medium-long term view) (UNWTO 2019).

Efficient governance

Efficient governance of the destination management system includes “providing awareness and guidance for the industry on quality and excellence, promoting sustainable and responsible tourism and efficient and transparent corporate governance (e.g., financial, administrative and HR practices, speedy/flexible execution, performance monitoring, evaluation, management and others) (UNWTO 2019)”.

Destination Governance

Destination governance relates to “the development and implementation of a cohesive tourism destination policy, an appropriate institutional framework to ensure the effective implementation of this policy and a consistent operational system (UNWTO 2019, 20)”.

Tourism Governance

Tourism governance can be understood as a “practice of government that is measurable, aimed to effectively direct the tourism sector at the different levels of government through forms of coordination, collaboration and/or cooperation that are efficient, transparent and subject to accountability, that help to achieve goals of collective interest shared by networks of actors involved in the sector, with the aim of developing solutions and opportunities through agreements based on the recognition of interdependencies and shared responsibilities (UNWTO 2019, 20; UNWTO 2013)”.

  • UNWTO. 2007: A Practical Guide to Tourism Destination Management. Madrid.
  • UNWTO. 2013: Issue Paper Series – Governance for the Tourism Sector and its Measurement.Madrid.
  • UNWTO. 2017: Handbook on Key Performance Indicators for Tourism Marketing Evaluation. Madrid.
  • UNWTO. 2018: Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals – Journey to 2030. Madrid.
  • UNWTO. 2019: UNWTO Guidelines for Institutional Strengthening of Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) – Preparing DMOs for new challenges. Madrid.
Collection of relevant bibliography


Author(s): Krce Miočić, B., Razović, M., Klarin, T.

Synopsis: Destination presents a set of different organizations and individuals who can work towards realising the same objectives or their objectives can be diametrically opposed. Harmonisation of such objectives in a unique strategic development of the entire destination is usually taken over by destination management organization (DMO) established to accomplish the mentioned objective. The opposed interests in such a system as complex as tourism result in the degradation of space and society in which tourism takes place. Therefore sustainable development in tourism represents a primary concept of development today. Tourism is a fast growing phenomenon and its sustainable development represents a necessity. Besides the positive economic outputs of tourism, we should also mention its negative impact on the particular destination, the environmental degradation to some extent, as well as socio-economic elements of local community. Accordingly, multi-stakeholder concept in destination management should include all interest and influential groups in tourism development planning. Such integrated destination management connects all stakeholders independent from influence or interest powers to participate directly or indirectly in creating and implementing the quality tourism development. This concept’s basic function is connecting and coordinating stakeholders with different interests within a tourism destination, in order to create quality product and a recognizable destination image, and to achieve a long-term sustainable competitiveness on the market. However, based on the stakeholder approach, the most emphasized issue in sustainable tourism development concept is the government that holds a key role in socio-economic development. In this paper, we analysed current involvement of stakeholders in Zadar County tourism development and examined their interest in future involvement in sustainable destination development. Based on the analysis of focus group research results, that included 87 interested stakeholders from all segments of tourist industry, public services, local administration and self-government, and in comparison with the results of tourism demand research on the non-random sample of 1,697 tourists, we draw conclusions on the level of stakeholder involvement and cooperation in creating the sustainable destination. The aim of this paper is to offer recommendations for harmonizing development directions of the sustainable destination in order to reduce differences among stakeholders.

Link to the corresponding pdf:


Author(s): Errichiello, L., Micera, R.

Synopsis: The  tourism  management  literature  has  recently  shown  increasing  interest  in  exploring  the  potential  offered by the  smart  tourism  destination  initiative,  conceived  as  the  integrated  use  of  ICT  solutions  for  achieving  greater efficiency and sustainability, enriching the tourist experience and boosting destination competitiveness. However, innovative technologies risk to be ineffective without adequate governance structures that are required to ensure the effective  coordination  and  integration  of  tourism  firms,  government  and  communities  in  implementing  a holistic smart-oriented development plan for destinations. This  paper  aims  to  integrate  the  recent  smart  approach  with  the  destination  governance  theory  to  develop  a governance process framework for smart tourism destinations. The framework explains how the smart approach can  inform  the  planning  and  implementation  of  smart  development  goals,  and  specifically  how  smartness principles, tools and methods can be applied to increase the sustainable competitiveness of destinations beyond the  mere  technology  dimension,  making  explicit  the  role  of  collaborative  structures,  user-driven  services,  social innovation and local community involvement. At the theoretical level, the paper offers an integrative perspective for  designing  and  implementing  effective  smart  tourism  destination  governance  structures  and  processes.  In practical  terms,  the  framework  can  be  viewed  as  a  flexible  tool  in  the  hands of destination managers  and  policy makers:  it  shows  how  to  match  the  design  of  governance  structures  and  processes  with  the  specific  destination context and how to exploit “smart dimensions” for its development by relying on an incremental logic based on subsequent, interdependent stages.

Link to the corresponding pdf:


Author(s): Mandić, A., Kennell, J.

Synopsis: The sustainable development of tourism is a major concern for destination management organisations (DMOs) in heritage tourism. Smart tourism advocates claim that technologically-driven innovations can help DMOs to optimise tourism development by addressing issues such as carrying capacity, stakeholder management and community involvement. This study enhances the understanding of smart tourism governance (SG), showing how contextual factors affect DMO perspectives of SG. A mixed-methods approach was used to investigate heritage tourism destinations in the United Kingdom. The results demonstrate that well-established DMOs do not perceive SG as potentially beneficial, as they already perform well in many areas in which SG promises improvements, such as citizen engagement, decision-making, and stakeholder engagement. Despite this, this research highlights the aspects of SG that these destinations can take advantage of as social inclusion, environmental performance and the provision of citizen-centric services. All of these can help heritage tourism destinations to optimise their tourism development. This research additionally demonstrates the effect of contextual factors, such as the level of public-sector support for tourism and the growing influence of non-tourism stakeholders in destination management, on DMO perceptions of SG and makes recommendations for how developments in the use of SG by DMOs can be made, in light of these.

Link to the corresponding pdf:


Author(s): Andraz, J. M., Rodrigues, P. M. M.

Synopsis: We propose the use of a tool recently introduced by Gayer (2010), known as the “economic climate tracer”, to analyze and monitor the cyclical evolution of tourism source markets to Portugal. Considering the period 1987–2015, we evaluate how tourism to Portugal has been affected by economic cycles. This tool is useful as it clearly illustrates the evolutionary patterns of different markets, and allows us to identify close relationships with economic fluctuations. We found that German tourism plays a leading role, since its movements are followed with delays by tourism flows from other countries, and exhibits higher resilience to shocks. Also, domestic and Spanish tourism have both displayed less irregular behaviors than tourism from other source markets. On the contrary, tourism from the Netherlands and the UK, have displayed irregular patterns, which demonstrates the urgency to diversify tourism source markets to reduce the country’s vulnerability to external shocks and economic cycles.

Link to the corresponding pdf:


Author(s): Gretzel, U.

Synopsis: Smart  tourism  development  has  been  adopted  by  destinations  around  the  world  to  strengthen  their  long-term competitiveness  in  light  of  rapid  technological,  societal  and environmental  change.  Destination management organizations (DMOs) are generally endowed with smart tourism governance at the destination-level and typically see it as a great opportunity to prove their relevance. However, these organizations also face enormous challenges and  often  lack  the  capacities  and  competencies  needed  to  successfully  govern  smart  destinations.  While recent literature highlights the importance of smart destination governance, it does not provide much guidance in terms of the functions and roles of smart DMOs. This paper presents a preliminary conceptualization of six smart DMO functions   that   support   smart   governance   roles,   namely   mobilizing,   match-making,   managing,   sensing, shape shifting and stewardship.  As  such,  it  presents  practical  guidance  for  DMOs  trying  to  implement  smart destination governance and outlines the need for research on smart DMOs.

Link to the corresponding pdf:


Author(s): Bučar, K., Hendija, Z., Katić, I.

Synopsis: The research aimed to explore whether ecolabels could be used as innovation tools to achieve sustainable tourism development (STD) at the level of a tourist destination. The paper used results obtained by a questionnaire survey among destination management organizations (DMOs) in cities and municipalities to investigate how much ecolabels are used at the level of tourist destinations in a case study of the Republic of Croatia (in 2017 and 2021). DMOs were chosen as the subject of research due to their crucial role in the development of tourist destinations. The findings from the linear research indicate that DMOs in Croatia still do not recognize the importance and role of implementation of tourist ecolabels as an innovation tool in achieving sustainable tourism development at the destination level. The paper provides new theoretical insights into the application of ecolabels at the level of cities and municipalities as tourist destinations. Thus, it could induce future research by scholars in this field because an analysis of academic literature indicates that there is a lack of such research. Moreover, the results given by this research could provide a basis for DMOs to start to think in a different way about the application of ecolabels at the level of a tourist destination.

Link to the corresponding pdf:


Author(s): Zhu, D., Wang, J., Wang, M.

Synopsis: With the development of the Web 2.0 era, tourists can freely publish their destination experiences through online travel notes. This enables tourists to become important agents to project tourism destination image (TDI), impacting destination-sustainable development. Previous studies have compared the difference in the images projected by destination management organizations (DMO) and tourists through their published content. However, fewer studies have been done to explore the inter-influences between them on the diachronic process of TDI construction. From the perspective of “circle of representation” this question is researched through a case study of Chiang Mai, Thailand, regarding the market of mainland Chinese tourists. Through interviews and the collection of microblogs from the Thailand National Tourism Bureau and tourists’ travel notes from 2009 to 2021, we found that Chiang Mai has experienced four stages of TDI construction, during which the “Xiao Qingxin” image is evolutionally constructed and formed into the representation circle. The inter-influences between DMO and tourists, as well as the influencing factors in this process, are summarized. Our study supplements a dynamic diachronic analysis of TDI from the constructivism perspective. Relevant management and marketing applications for TDI and destination sustainability in the post-pandemic and Web 2.0 era are also provided.

Link to the corresponding pdf:


Author(s): Philipp, J., Thees, H., Olbrich, N., Pechlaner, H.

Synopsis: Digitalization, new work and leisure concepts and global challenges are transforming the way we live. More stakeholders, including residents and entrepreneurs, actively participate in the implementation of alternative socio-economic concepts; as such, entrepreneurial ecosystems are seen as drivers of regional development. The research still lacks holistic approaches to the application of ecosystems in tourism destinations. Hence, the objectives of this article are to capture research on entrepreneurial ecosystems in tourism and, specifically, to derive a holistic model that integrates destination and location management across stakeholders. This research utilizes the method of a systematic literature review, starting with 597 articles on ecosystems. Following four stages of exploring the literature, the results show that most articles have been published in rather isolated fields of smart tourism or quality of life aspects. Based on the rather qualitative review that reveals specific ecosystem components, we propose a model of an “Ecosystem of Hospitality” (EoH). Focusing on stakeholder interaction and encounters, the EoH fosters the adoption of the entrepreneurial ecosystem to destinations in a dynamic approach. The practical implications are, for example, a broader consideration of various stakeholders, including the local population, and a switch in typical destination management tasks from mere tourism service production to regional development and living space management.

Link to the corresponding pdf: