The Tourism Areas Life Cycle

Policy, Planning and Development

There are various levels involved in planning for tourism development. Many nations have national tourism development plans. Planning is a very broad concept. It basically entails the use of tourism assets and their subsequent development into states that are marketable. It is necessary to formulate the objectives of tourism development before beginning the planning exercise. This spells out what the development plan seeks to attain. These planning objectives are set out into a tourism policy statement which spells out guidelines that propel tourism into the future. A tourism policy is the reference point against which planning decisions are related and not a tourism plan. Once a tourism policy is established, a tourism planning exercise will tend to achieve the objectives which have been incorporated into the policy. The exercise of planning must include implementation considerations. Following from this implementation, a monitoring mechanism should be established that reviews the implementation of the plan constantly against the set objectives (Licorish, p. 169).

The process of tourism development is complex and involved. For instance, it involves bringing together domestic and international agents of development and vital stakeholder groups with state policy, planning, and regulations. The form of tourism realized not only impacts the host destination but also results in broader potential in terms of developmental outcomes benefiting the destination. In developing nations, for instance, national parks, ecotourism resorts, urban heritage centers, village tourism, and others provide different and diverse tourism products intended to attract tourists (Telfer, 2001, p.1). Elaborate decisions require to be agreed as to the forms of tourism suitable to a destination for the long term so as to satisfy the goals of development. In a highly competitive international tourism market, developing nations choose policies that assist them to diversify their products. It is necessary to recognize that all forms of tourism require to be made more sustainable (Licorish, 1997, p.169). This is because each type of tourism development attracts different tourists, with different levels of disposable income and expectations. It also carries a long different opportunities for locals to participate in the tourism economy. The policy of State and planning on tourism often direct the nature of development in destination (Ghosh, 2003, p.36).

The Key Concept of Tourism Areas Life Cycle

Understanding the key concepts of tourism planning and development is very important. This paper explains Tourism Areas Life Cycle (TALC) as a key concept in tourism planning context. It was developed in the 1980s by Richard Butler based on the concept of product cycle. The model explains four stages that a tourism destination undergoes in terms of tourism development. At the beginning, guests tend to visit in limited numbers and are supported by facilities that are few. This stage is characterized by poor access and limited local know-how of the visitors’ needs. The visitors tend to be highly adventurous at this stage, often looking for destinations that have not yet been exploited by tourism. It is also vital to note that visitors at this stage carry the seeds of change with them and can be a driving force in the actual creation of the type of tourism destination they despise (Beeton, 2006, p.31).

The second stage in the tourism area life cycle entails the growing awareness of the tourism destination together with the number of visitors and tourism facilities. The tourism destination starts to expand its marketing, information communication, and continued provision of further facilities. The popularity of the destination grows at a rapid rate and shifts into the third phase of development of the life cycle. The third phase often develops into a form of mass tourism. As visitors continue to trickle to the destination in large numbers, capacity levels are reached. This poses a number of challenges to tourism destination as it may fail to cope with social and environmental costs brought about by mass tourism. As a result of this, increased rates of visitors reduce to extend that tourism destination does not succeed (Beeton, p. 32).

There are a number of destinations around the world that continue to support tourism. Tourism area life cycle concept recognizes that there is a step just before the decline where destinations can intervene and pursue a number of alternatives to stimulate their tourism. They may do this through a number of ways such as; increasing tourism capacity, encouraging different markets or types of tourism. These measures, however, require political will and substantial theoretical as well as practical understanding of the complexities involved in tourism development and its relationship with the host community. Tourism developers need to carefully understand the key concept of tourism area life cycle. Butler (1980, 1980, p. 5-6) quotes directly from Christaller as an emphasis, who had stated that:

“The assumption that tourist areas will always remain tourist areas and be attractive to tourists appears to be implicit in tourism planning. Public and private agencies alike, rarely, if ever, refer to the anticipated life span of a tourism area or its attractions. Rather, because tourism has shown an, as yet, unlimited potential for growth, despite economic recessions, it is taken for granted that numbers of visitors will continue to increase. These observations also suggest that a change of attitude is required on the part of those who are responsible on the part of planning, developing and managing tourists’ areas. Tourist attractions are not infinite and timeless but should be viewed and treated as finite as possibly non-renewable resources. They could then be more carefully protected and preserved. The development of the tourist area could be kept within the predetermined capacity limits, and its potential competitiveness maintained over a longer period (Butler, 1980, p.11).”

Tourism area life cycle can be viewed as simplistic, but it lays a good basis from which further understanding of tourism development can be approached (Beeton, 2006, p.32).


  1. Beeton, S 2006, Community Development Through Tourism, Elsevier, Amsterdam.
  2. Butler, R 1980, The Concept of a Tourism Area Cycle of Evolution, Canadian Geographer.
  3. Ghosh, R, Muhammed, A, Gabbay, R 2003, Tourism and Economic Development, Ashgate Publishing, Hampshire.
  4. Licorish, L, Jenkins 1997, An Introduction to Tourism, Land Link Press, Massachusetts.
  5. Telfer, D, Sharpley, R 2008, Tourism and Development in the Developed World, Routledge, New York.
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