Words by: Kylie Ruwhiu-Karawana

In the ever-evolving landscape of tourism, the shift from plans developed through traditional Destination Management Planning (DMPs) methodology, to those formed through evolving Destination Stewardship Frameworks (DSFs) marks what I consider to be a significant turning point. This transition is more than just a change in terminology; it represents a paradigm shift towards a more holistic approach where social, cultural, environmental, and economic well-being converge with community aspirations at the heart of it all.

Historically, DMP Plans have primarily focused on attracting visitors, maximising revenue, and enhancing infrastructure. While these elements are undeniably crucial, the broader impact on local communities and the environment has often been overlooked. The emergence of Destination Stewardship Frameworks signifies a commitment to a more sustainable and inclusive future for tourism.

At the core of DSFs is a renewed emphasis on social well-being. Recognising that tourism is not just about places but the people who call them home, these frameworks prioritise the enhancement of local livelihoods and community engagement. By fostering a sense of pride and ownership among residents, DSFs empower communities to actively participate in shaping their destinies, ensuring that the benefits of tourism are shared equitably.

Cultural preservation is another pillar of Destination Stewardship Frameworks. DSFs place cultural sensitivity at the forefront, encouraging the celebration and protection of local traditions, languages, and customs. By doing so, we not only create authentic and enriching experiences for visitors but also contribute to the preservation of our unique cultural heritage.

Environmental stewardship is an integral aspect of these frameworks, acknowledging the undeniable impact of tourism on natural ecosystems. DSFs promote responsible tourism practices, encouraging environmentally conscious initiatives such as sustainable infrastructure, waste reduction, and biodiversity conservation. All of which is building to more resilient communities and environments on which to build a strong visitor economy upon.

Economic well-being remains a focal point, but DSFs redefine success beyond mere financial metrics. Instead of measuring success solely by visitor numbers and revenue, these frameworks consider the long-term economic resilience of local communities. By supporting small businesses, promoting job creation, and ensuring that economic benefits are distributed throughout the community, DSFs create a more robust and sustainable economic foundation.

The shift from traditional Destination Management Plans to Destination Stewardship Frameworks heralds a changed era for the visitor sector. By placing social, cultural, environmental, and economic well-being at the forefront, with community aspirations as the guiding force, we are shaping a future where tourism is not just about destinations but about the people and places that make our destinations extraordinary. It would be beneficial to embrace this paradigm shift and work collaboratively towards a more sustainable and inclusive tourism industry for generations to come.