What is tourism? Tourism can be defined in more than one way. Conceptually, it refers to the ideas and opinions people hold which shape their decisions about going on trips, about where to go, and what to do (Leiper 1995). Technically, it refers to the activities of the persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, health, business and other purposes (Leiper 1990, Pearce 1989). From the sociological point of view, tourism also refers to commercialized hospitality, democratized travel, a modern variety of the traditional pilgrimage, and an expression of basic cultural themes (Cohen 1984). However, the most significant form of tourism is its relations with the economic development of a country. In many countries, tourism is an economic activity which consumes a large part of its natural resources, generates revenue of billions of dollars every year and involving thousands of stakeholders and the general public. As a result, it is one of the most important responsibilities of the government as to the planning, facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and protecting of tourism of that country.
The World Tourism Organization (WTO) has conducted an examination on the involvement of the governments in tourism. According to Richardson & Fluker (2004), a government has the responsibilities of establishing the framework of tourism, constructing infrastructure and communications; promoting the tourist destinations to the visitors, providing legislations, regulations and controls for tourism and the protecting the interests of the stakeholders.
As Accrcnza (1985) pointed out there are basic stages in tourism planning which required the involvement of the government. They are analysis of previous tourism development, evaluation of the present position of tourism, formulation of tourism policy, definition of development strategy and elaboration of an action programme. All these require large amount of manpower and resources which are impossible for private sectors to manage. For instance, in establishing the framework of tourism, a functioning tourism system is identified which might affect government’s decision on tourist’s destinations. Two major major force, demand (marketers) and supply (development), are to be considered in this respect. While the demand side is tourists who are going to the destinations, the supply side is related to the land and the geographic characteristics of the destinations (Gunn 1993). In addition, the supply side also made up of five major components, the attraction; transportation; services; information and promotion.
The attraction is the most powerful element as it helps to encourage and increase the desire of the tourists to visit the area. However, to develop the attraction, it may also involve the considerations of such external factors as the natural resources and the cultural resources. The natural resources provide the foundation for tourism development which preferred by tourist, such as water life; vegetative cover; wildlife; topography, soils, geology and climate, atmosphere. The Cultural resources are important for attractions developed as historic; ethnic national, craft and related economic development. As a result it may require the government to win the support of the community regarding the development of these destinations as the community is a significant factor on the functioning of tourism. Its acceptance and willingness to support tourism industries would greatly facilitate the long term development of the sites.
Transportation which enable tourist to travel to different destinations; and services and information such as shops, banks and restaurants; are two other components of the supply side. As Gunn (1993) pointed out it was the responsibility of the government to create new and improve physical plants such as superstructure and infrastructure. Superstructure refers to the land and building developments used directly by travelers, such as hotels, restaurants and attractions. Infrastructure is applied to necessary support developments, such as roads, airports, water supply and fire protection. These public facilities have to be provided by the government so as to promote the growth of tourism.
In addition, (Gee, Dexrer & James 1984) physical development of tourism is made up a great diversity for business, government, and nonprofit components, such as direct provider, include transportation, travel agencies and restaurant; the support services which are tour organizers, management; and the developmental organization include planners and government agencies.
Regarding the promotion of the tourist industry which helps to increase tourist to visit that area, government agencies have an important role as the promoter in this industry. Advertising in mass media and internet is very important in promoting and stimulating travel to the destinations. Familiarization tours and travel shows can provide information and attract tourist to visit that destination. Moreover, if they are organized by the government, they will become promises with reputation and will increase the numbers of the visitors significantly.
Tourism product such as parks, historic sites or convention centers can increase the tourist flow, but these attraction products must be aware as a promised. If tourists discover the destination is not the same as its promise, it may affect the number of tourist who willing to come to the destination (Gunn 1993, Pearce 1989). Therefore, management of these tourism products has to be carefully supervised and monitored. Management is to make institutions capable of producing result (Drucker 1998). According to Richardson & Fluker (2004), the management method which adopted by the WTO are the consulting with various stakeholders through meetings with industry, advisory groups and the general public The aim of these meetings is to discuss specific subjects such as strategic planning; issues on tourism industry such as promotions and regulations; setting up and funding of specialized tourism agencies which help to develop the tourism industry, and providing facilities and operations in order to provide money or facilities for national or communities interest. Moreover the meetings are also about creating the appropriate fiscal, regulatory and social environment within private business; and adjudicating between conflicting interest on society which are concerned with the environment, recreation and wildlife recourses.
As we can see, management is also related to the protection on destination’s interest. It is very important in tourism industry. Decision-making through managerial perceptions and the objective dimensions of tourism industry structure influence the natural environmental resources. The tourism resorts and its environment are necessary for survival and growth. The strategic managers have the most responsibility to that environment. As a result, the planning process in tactical (short-term) and strategic (long term) has to be carefully considered and monitored as it can improve the tourism industry performance and allow an effective response to a continually changing environment (Knowles, Dianmantis & El-Mourhabi 2004).
All in all, the development of tourism of one country is closely related to the policies of that government. According to Richardson & Fluker (2004), policy is a course of action adopted and pursued by a government, expressed as a broad statement of general intent which guides the actions of public servants and others in carrying out the government’s wishes. In other words, only the government has the power to command (including by legislature) such an enormous resources to develop strategy which matches the demand and supply factors such as an evaluation of tourist and market resources; the visitor satisfaction; environmental protection and adequate rewards for developers and investors.
In conclusion, the government plays an important role in the tourism industry. Government agencies have to provide legislations, regulations and controls for tourism in order to ensure its tourism industry can sustain its level and compete with other tourist destination. They have to establish a framework which ensures its tactical and strategic in the attractiveness within the tourist destination in order to increase the amount of tourist visitation. The protection of interest is another important factor of the destination area needed to be considered too. If the attractiveness of its destination decline, it will affect the numbers of tourists who are willing to visit. As a result, to maintain a stable attractive in tourist destination, a new destination may have to be explored or artificial attract resources may be needed. Government agencies have to be concerned with the acceptance in the society whether they welcome or in conflict with the tourist interests.
Government agencies need to make a good balance between two important factors. The promotion on tourist destinations helps its national economic and attraction competitiveness around the world. Tourists who are attracted by the promotion will come to visit instead of other places, so that the national economics will increase. However, if the destination doesn’t match with what the government agencies promote, the national reputation may decline.
As a matter of fact, government agencies play an important role in the tourism industry as the planner, coordinator, legislator and regulator, stimulator, promoter and protector of the destination interest.