|The Courier N° 122 July - August 1990 - Dossier Tourism - Country Report: Mali (EC Courier, 1990, 104 p.)|
by Eric PETERSON
Forty years ago, tourism was a peculiar little industry based principally in Western Europe and the United States. It was viewed largely as a frivolous endeavour, largely the domain of those with a lot of time and money on their hands with no better way to spend it. As standards of living, levels of education, and means of transportation and communication improved, the ability and the willingness of the worlds upper, middle - upper, and middle class to travel increased.
Today over 170 countries compete for the travel business of their own citizens, and more than 400 million individuals who leave their homelands each year to explore foreign destinatins for business, leisure, and education. In 1989, worldwide expenditures for domestic and international tourism were estimated at over $ 2 trillion, and expectod to double by the year 2000.
Consequently, tourism is the worlds leading employer, and among the leading contributors to the worlds economic, social, and political development. Further, it is one of the most efficient sources of new wealth for most nations.
For developing countries, especially, the construction and maintenance of tourist and travel facilities and the establishment of accompanying services are important incentives for economic growth and development. For those countries with natural tourism resources and limited industrial capability, tourism is an important source of income, foreign exchange receipts and employment.
But whether a nation should develop its tourism industry depends on numerous factors. To make this decision, a nation and its tourism industry leaders must evaluate:
- national interests;
- the national needs tourism could fulfil; and
- the relationship of the benefits of tourism to the costs of a tourism programme.
To be successful, a countrys goveroment, its travel industry, and those outside the industry must place strong emphasis on the demand and supply of tourism services as part of the nations overall economic development strategy.
On the demand side, it is necessary to first research the potential interests and motivations of tourists, locate and identify prospective markets, develop pricing techniques and position marketing and promotional campaigns to attract consumers from those markets.
On the supply side of tourism there are several factors which must be addressed. These include the economic, social and political environments of the country. They also include natural resources such as scenic land, good climate, flora, fauna, water, beaches, etc. Availabilty of water supply systems, sewage disposal plants, transportation facilities, and related kinds of infrastructure are fundamental to meeting the nceds of tourists. Needed also are lodging and eating establishments, shopping facilities, taxis, planes, buses, and an almost endless list of supply components which are integral to a tourism experience. Other important factors include the quality and character of hospitality services such as friendliness of the host nation and its people, and the availability of cultural and entertainment activities which enhance the travel product.
To ensure that the demand and supply of these components are balanced, a carefully developed strategic plan is required. There must be a national commitment to this plan and to quality development of the nations tourism product. The experience of nations which have successfully developed their tourism industry and its products show there are eight key steps in this strategic planning process. They are to:
1. Inventory and describe the nations social, political,
physical and economic environment;
2. Forecast or project trends for the nations future development;
3. Set goals and objectives;
4. Study alternative plans of action to reach the nations goals and objectives;
5. Select preferred alternatives to serve as a guide for recommending action strategies;
6. Develop an implementation strategy;
7. Implement the plan, and
8. Evaluate the plan.
The net effect of this eight - step process will be to:
- gain the cooperation and input of the nations business, political and civic leadership, particularly those in the communities and regions that will be affected;
- develop a comprehensive data base on potential consumer markets (including their interests, expectations, travel habits, and financial abilities) and the competition (including a complete inventory of their accommodations and attractions, as well their pricing structures, their transportation facilities and infrastructure, their markets, and their marketing strategies);
- analyse and interpret this data base; and
- develop and implement a national marketing plan, including both shortrun and long - run components, identifying potential sources of funding for implementation, and gaining the support of these funding sources.
In addition, it is vital that any political or social barriers which either limit or promote the potential for tourism development be identified and addressed. And finally, the professional training nceds of the nations labour force and its ability to provide the services needed and expected by prospective travellers must be determined.
Requirements of a tourism industry
Tn theory these are among the most important considerations in successful tourism development. In reality, they are frequently the most overlooked. To this end, those who look to tourism as a means of diversifying, revitalising, or simply developing a nations economy must be politically attuned, and willing to be responsive to the expectations of the market.
The experience of travel industries no matter where they are located is uniform in this regard. A supportive political environment, and well trained personnel, ensure greater success and larger economic benefit even when the financial resources and/or the definition of the strategic and marketing plans are not completely adequate.
Together, the level of political support given the industry, and the level of training provided to the industrys labour force, demonstrate more than any other considerations a nations commitment to making tourism development an integral part of its overall economic development plan. In turn, a highly integrated economic development plan will provide a balanced approach to the successful development of tourist infrastructure and services. (See the article on page 81. Tourism: a development concept in the South Pacific) E.P.