Effective stakeholder consultation is key to the development of any strategy, yet especially within the context of sustainability and regeneration, where engagement, collaboration and powerful partnerships are the tools that can drive your journey towards success, or pull it back from the precipice of disaster.
Stakeholders can be varied and abundant, therefore an initial mapping exercise will allow you to understand which stakeholder types require which level of consultation to collectively build and drive a strategy that is effective for the whole destination.
Priority stakeholders who do not see their challenges and aspirations reflected in your plans, are unlikely to feel motivated to support such plans. Securing stakeholder involvement and feedback is an essential part of strategy development. Albeit seemingly easy, getting this stage right can mean the difference between a strategy that is compelling, productive and stimulates growth, and a strategy that is insular, ineffective and short lived.
The below observations relate to the consultation of four of the most important stakeholder groups for destinations, although this is not intended as an exhaustive list.
Choose your contacts for consultation wisely.
It is great (not to mention really important) to know that local leaders are committed to supporting your strategy to regenerate and steward responsible business in the destination. Furthermore top-down sustainability commitment from Senior Management is always a significant motivator and tool for engaging employees.
Do be aware however that it does not always correspond that Management vision is the best perspective for analysing solutions to sustainability challenges that are often encountered at operational levels. Most often it’s the grassroots employees in hotels, venues and agencies whose actions have the most impact on the sustainable performance of a business – they select and procure the goods, they prepare them, they manage them and finally, they dispose of them. A Director will be able to give an overview of the company policy and strategy results, but understanding the behaviour and challenges of the staff will enable you to develop targeted actions and trainings that generate a much greater impact on your destination’s sustainability performance.
Of course, the ideal solution would be the combination of both – the authority and commitment from Senior Management in the Supply Chain to dedicate resources to support your strategy, and input from Middle Management Supply Chain Operations to identify the every day challenges.
Know what makes them tick.
All those entities who choose your destination as the host for their events and tourism groups, (Associations, Corporates, Tour Operators) require your attention. Furthermore in these times of uncertainty over international travel – local, regional and national clients should be among the first in your client consultation list.
As with all other actions you pursue, your regeneration strategy should also align with the plans, priorities, concerns and aspirations of your clients for a more responsible society. Ensure your consultation with them endeavours to uncover this information. Their responses and behaviour should contribute towards the shaping of your own commitment.
And don’t be afraid to dig deep. As always there is a difference between those who say they are committed to responsible business, and those who are actually active in their commitment. Know what questions to ask. Your own commitment should at least equal theirs, so it’s important to ensure you have the skills and tools to respond.
Too little, too late is a major risk to effective sustainability and regeneration in your destination.
The most potential yet most overlooked group of stakeholders.
This one always amazes me. A business can have the most comprehensive sustainability report in the world, but if one visit to the property reveals employee behaviour that contradicts the publicized values, all those hard won results will be dismissed as Greenwashing in next to no time. And still, with their major potential for brand destruction, employees are the last stakeholder group on the list when it comes to discovering their opinions, challenges and ambition for company achievements.
Employees are the ambassadors of any sustainability and regeneration strategy. Employees will communicate your vision in their conversations with clients, your results in their press releases, your policies in their communications with suppliers. Ask them for their perspectives and contributions. Engage them.
Repurposing tourism end events.
The birth of the concept of “overtourism” a few years back, has thankfully led to much deeper efforts on the part of destinations to work with residents to address issues related to the influx of tourism (business and leisure) in their communities.
The GDS-Movement’s philosophy advocates a shift in focus from sustaining to regenerative thinking. We believe that destination strategies should not focus only on lessening the challenges that tourism can bring for residents; but should integrate detailed consultation that reveals how tourism and events can be repurposed to generate value for the community, and not vice versa.
The GDS-Movement cites Extreme Collaboration as one of its core principles, an integral component in the development of any regeneration strategy. Comprehensive stakeholder consultation lays the foundation for this collaboration, not just at the beginning of strategy definition, but at regular touchpoints throughout the journey.
Ensuring you know your stakeholders and are listening and reacting to their perspectives will guarantee you continued engagement and effective collaboration. For further guidance and support on developing regenerative tourism strategies and all that it entails, do not hesitate to contact us.