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Six steps to tourism partnerships for the public sector

Source: Public Sector Executive June/July 2014

Nicole New of responsible tourism charity Hidden Britain explains how public sector bodies can help boost tourism and local economies.

Investing public sector time in tourism could be a resourceful way to bring economic development into an area.

The best way to draw out economic impacts is to collaborate. The public sector can become a driving force in such collaboration,
by starting a tourism partnership that acts as the delivery framework for development. We have worked out six features for a successful tourism partnership.

Tourism overlaps many areas of business and regulation, and therefore whoever leads will have to be prepared and able, to lead across these areas (including anything political). It is a good idea to have a partnership manager from the public sector to coordinate project activity. As public sector bodies are able to access accurate information such as data sets for chambers of commerce or business networking, it speeds up the starting process. They can manage legal aspects and financial objectives internally, as well as externally. It also positions the public sector as a source of knowledge and connectivity, which further assists in acting as a project leader.

Alongside this public sector leadership, all involved – from business groups to community organisations – need to be behind the partnership in order for it to make a strong positive impact. Engaging a multi-sectorial group creates a way into ever-wider groups such as more businesses or volunteers.

For the public sector it is important to reach into these groups and illustrate to them how involvement in the tourism partnership will benefit them. This works as a fine opportunity for breaking down communication barriers and the networks are usually very strong once trust is established. The wider the variety of the people involved, the more skills and services that can be used to ensure success.

It is usually easy to highlight the need for a tourism partnership, difficulty comes from the administration it can entail, and public sector involvement comes in handy when dealing with this. As with any group having a structure in place and responsibilities for activity is the most effective way of holding the partnership accountable for its own progress. There needs to be an agreement over what the partnership will look like, how it will run and what it aims to achieve. This provides a template framework for everyone to work within.

The public sector can bring together the partnership members in workshops for action planning. This opens the field of opportunity and helps separate out the best and most achievable ideas to take forward. It then provides tangible goals for measurement of successes and sustains a level of motivation towards growth and economic targets. The foundation of the framework should be formed by these markers of success. The partnership can offer up their skills and time to help towards these action points, and so it is vital that the public sector leader communicates what is needed and when in order to get high levels of participation.

From this point it is vital to keep looking forward so that the project doesn’t come to a standstill. Scheduling regular meetings and training will ensure the sustainability of the partnership by providing a constant ‘next step’ and enable sufficient time for the tangible benefits to develop.

Tourism is not a quick fix. It needs to be given a chance to develop and evolve as people become more aware of what an area has to offer and then seek it out.

Our final stage is communication. As touched on briefly, it is important that there is good communication within the partnership itself but also to those outside of it. The use of social media, newsletters, mailing lists are all necessary to keep everyone informed as to what and when things are happening. In order to keep information flowing, it can be useful to have marketing and communications training together, or facilitated workshops on how to attain and sustain project outputs and momentum. By learning and developing the project collaboratively, everyone is pulling in the same direction. This gives the partnership a greater chance of reaching its desired audience.

In summary, the six key attributes are: communication, sustainability, action planning, structure, community involvement and leadership. A partnership can operate without ticking all of the boxes, and you may find there are more that we haven’t covered.

One thing is certain and that is where tourism is concerned, partnership collaboration is king.

If you would like to see some examples of tourism partnerships in action Hidden Britain has some freely available case studies, such as the Sheppey Tourism Alliance, Westerham Tourism Working Party, and Hassocks Community Partnership (links available at

Hidden Britain is a tourism charity working across the UK to show communities how tourism can be used as a tool to boost economies.


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