Establishment of the Rhode Island Sustainable Tourism Project (RISTP)

According to the World Tourism Organization planning tourism at all levels is essential for achieving successful tourism development and management. The experience of many tourism areas in the world has demonstrated that, on a long-term basis, the planned approach to developing tourism can bring benefits without significant problems, and maintain satisfied visitor markets.

Places that have allowed tourism to develop without planning, are often suffering from environmental and social problems. These uncontrolled tourism areas cannot effectively compete with planned visitor destinations. Areas usually can be redeveloped, but that requires much time and financial investment.

Sustainable development of tourism is acutely important, because most tourism development, and Rhode Island is no different, depends on attractions and activities related to the natural environment, history, heritage and cultural patterns. If these resources are degraded or destroyed, then tourism areas cannot attract visitors and tourism will not be successful.

Visitors seek destinations that have a high level of environmental quality. Visitors enjoy visiting places that are attractive, clean and neither polluted nor congested. Further it is essential that residents should not have to suffer from a deteriorated environment, poor social conditions and a deteriorated quality of life. Tourism Planning requires an understanding of sustainable development and the guiding values for sustainable tourism.

Rhode Island communities should be made sufficiently aware of how the tourism industry and tourism system works, its impacts, as well as the various processes to integrate and engage in participatory planning, consensus building, and conflict resolution among stakeholders.

Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process that requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures when necessary, and research about current and emerging trends in tourism and potential domestic and international markets. Moreover, sustainable tourism must maintain a high level of visitor satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to visitors, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices.

Rhode Island would be well served by a sustainable tourism development plan to introduce, discuss and analyze the main elements of planning to promote sustainable tourism. This plan would emphasize the key role that local communities play in the achievement of sustainable economic development through tourism, the importance of leadership and skills training programs, and the role of different stakeholders in strategy implementation.

A sustainable tourism plan for Rhode Island would highlight the importance of evaluating performance in achieving these practices in tourism planning and addressing future challenges and issues associated with how planning can contribute to the achievement of sustainable tourism.

Rhode Island’s land, sea and urban areas offer much, but are easy to abuse if the right direction is not set for our tourism industry. While as a state, Rhode Island, led by the Rhode Island Division of Tourism, works marketing itself, the idea of sustainable tourism is elusive. Rhode Island is rich in resources, resources that if depleted or abused, will forever limit opportunities to raise the quality of life for residents, create a premiere visitor destination, and limit economic ability.

An important aspect of sustainable development is emphasizing community-based tourism. This approach to tourism focuses on community involvement in the planning and development process, and developing the types of tourism that generates benefits to local residents. Rhode Island’s regional tourism districts are well suited for the development of tourism in this respect as they represent specific communities.

Sustainable development is related to the concept of quality tourism. This approach can achieve successful tourism from a marketing standpoint and it brings benefits to residents and their environment. Quality tourism refers to attractions and facilities and services that offer value, protect resources and attract the kinds of visitors who will respect the local environment.

According to the World Tourism Organization Tourism, if not planned properly, tourism can destroy the very resources that visitors come to enjoy. The largest losers of this destruction will be Rhode Island’s residents who could see their precious landscape sold to the highest bidder.

For this reason, Rhode Island's tourism industry must work collaboratively with stakeholders, such as but not limited to: the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island’s regional tourism districts, the Rhode Island Division of Tourism, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Rhode Island Statewide Planning, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the Rhode Island Heritage and Historical Preservation Commission, and the Rhode Island Legislature policy offices, to create a plan for Rhode Island that will sustain tourism for future generations. This planning process would be dynamic. It could be titled: Rhode Island Sustainable Tourism Project (RISTP).

University of Rhode Island could lead the project

This project, if accepted, could be housed and managed at the University of Rhode Island. This project would enhance the University’s role as a key contributor to all communities in Rhode Island. The RISTP, through the University, would create the plan and direction necessary to bring tourism to a new level. A level that will make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute the key elements in tourism development, while maintaining essential ecological protection, conserve natural heritage and biodiversity; respecting the socio-cultural authenticity; and ensure viable, long-term economic developments, and providing socio-economic benefits to all Rhode Islanders. Consequently, tourism will be an instrument to create wealth and opportunity for Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island tourism districts and the Rhode Island Department of Tourism, who are responsible for tourism development in Rhode Island, have established the Rhode Island Sustainable Tourism Development Fund. This group is now situated to begin the process of creating sound tourism development policy for Rhode Island.

Specifics of tourism planning:

  • Establishing the overall tourism development objectives and policies – what is tourism aiming to accomplish and how can these aims be achieved.
  • Developing tourism so that its natural and cultural resources are indefinitely maintained and conserved for future, as well as present use.
  • Integrating tourism into the overall development policies and patterns of the state, and establishing close linkages between tourism and other economic sectors.
  • Providing a rational basis for decision-making by both the public and private sectors on tourism development.
  • Making possible the coordinated development of all the many elements of the tourism sector. This includes inter-relating the tourist attractions, activities, facilities and services and the various and increasingly fragmented visitor markets.
  • Optimizing and balancing the economic, environmental and social benefits, while minimizing possible problems of tourism.
  • Providing a physical structure, which guides the location, types and extent of tourism development of attractions, facilities, services and infrastructure.
  • Establishing the guidelines and standards for preparing detailed plans of specific tourism development areas that are consistent with, and reinforce, one another, and for the appropriate design of tourist facilities.
  • Laying the foundation for effective implementation of the tourism development policy and plan and continuous management of the tourism sector, by providing the necessary organizational and other institutional framework.
  • Providing the framework for effective coordination of the public and private sector efforts and investment in developing tourism.
  • Offering a baseline for the continuous monitoring of the progress of tourism development and keeping it on track.
  • Institutional elements for effective tourism development in Rhode Island:
  • Organizational structures, especially government tourism offices and private sector tourism associations.
  • Tourism-related legislation and regulations, such as standards and licensing requirements for hotels and tour and travel agencies.
  • Education and training programs, and training institutions to prepare persons to work effectively in tourism.
  • Availability of financial capital to develop tourist attractions, services and infrastructures, and mechanisms to attract capital investment.
  • Marketing strategies and promotion programs to inform visitors about Rhode Island and induce them to visit, and visitor information facilities and services in Rhode Island.
  • Travel facilitation of immigration, customs and other facilities and services at the entry and exit points.
  • Enhance and distribute the economic benefits of tourism, environmental protection measures, reducing adverse social impacts, and conservation of the cultural heritage.
  • Effective tourism development must be planned in an integrated manner with all components of the tourism system.
  • Planning must be integrated with overall development policies. If it is performed correctly benefits will accrue to the entire community as well as its visitors. (WTO, 2004, P. 6).

Process Steps to be taken in the RISTP:

  • Study Preparation – Outputs and establish team necessary
  • Determination of the objectives – Relate socio-economic benefits
  • Survey of all elements – Collecting data qualitative and quantitative
  • Analysis and synthesis – Multi-market analysis
  • Policy and plan formulation – Set policy by evaluating various scenarios
  • Formulation of institutional recommendations – Conclusions
  • Implementation and monitoring – Insure the plan is realistic

Elements of a three to five year RISTP:

  • Tourism Development Objectives
  • General Background and Analysis
  • Infrastructure Analysis and Recommendations
  • Visitor Attractions and Activities, and their improvements
  • Visitor Facilities and Services and their improvements
  • Recommended Forms of tourism
  • Market Analysis and Projections
  • Recommended Tourism Development Policy and structure plan
  • Economic Analysis and Recommendations
  • Environmental Considerations and Recommendations
  • Socio-cultural Considerations and Recommendations
  • Institutional (state and regional regulations and laws) consideration and recommendations
  • Markets and Promotional Recommendations
  • Plan Implementation and Monitoring through the RISTP

Rhode Island’s Public Tourism Organizations:

  • Rhode Island Division of Tourism
  • Blackstone Valley Tourism Council
  • Block Island Tourism Council
  • Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • East Bay Tourism Council
  • South County Tourism Council
  • Newport Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Warwick Office of Tourism and Culture

Adopted from the World Tourism Organization publications
Robert Billington, Ed D.
Blackstone Valley Tourism Council Inc
175 Main St, Pawtucket RI 02860
1 800 454 2882

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