UK Tourism Policy – A Punctuated Equilibrium view

Posted on July 22, 2016


Based on our ongoing research into tourism policy in the UK, Dr Samantha Chaperon and I recently gave this presentation at the International Conference on Tourism in Naples, Italy.

In our presentation, we present research where we tested the utility of the concept of punctuated equilibrium, for understanding recent changes in UK tourism policy.  Punctuated Equilibrium draws our attention to two different groups of people and organisations in understanding change and continuity in tourism policy.  Firstly, the policy community involved in framing, creating and implementing tourism policies in the UK.  Secondly, the role of issue networks in attempting to shift the tourism policy agenda – broadly speaking, this would be activity by non-governmental interest groups, such as lobbying and campaigning.

In our presentation, we presented two brief case studies.  Firstly, we explained how the conservative elements of the UK’s coalition government, which was elected in 2010, slowly worked to change the composition of the tourism policy community until they were able to achieve their ideological goal of significantly reducing public sector support for tourism, despite this having no real support from the broader tourism sector in the country.

Secondly, we discussed how a campaign with very broad support from industry, and from many politicians and organisations outside of this policy community had failed to achieve their aims of achieving a reduction in sales tax (VAT) on the tourism and hospitality sector.

We concluded that the perspective of punctuated equilibrium was helpful in explaining why a long period of stability in tourism policy and been broken by a series of quite dramatic changes in tourism governance in the UK.  Punctuated Equilibrium suggests that we should be able to explain the evolution of tourism policy through analysing the tension between policy communities and issues networks – our initial investigations have led us to conclude that, in the case of the UK, the policy community is the dominant part of this equation.  We plan to develop this further for a paper next year….