Organizing destinations

– learning from the past

  • Fredrik Sjöstrand Uppsala university
  • Karin Ågren Uppsala University
  • Sabine Gebert Persson


The hospitality industry can on a general level be characterized as fragmented with several small and large actors working side-by-side with public actors (Nordin, 2017; Wang and Fesenmaier, 2007). Cooperation and interdependencies are important for the survival of the different actors as well as for the regional economic growth (Zahra and Ryan, 2007) and sustainability. Several factors have been identified as influencing different forms of cooperation within the hospitality industry, e.g. formulated strategies, maturity of destination etc. (Mariani, 2016). A number of designated organizations for the coordination of tourist actors have been established under the concept: Destination Management Organizations, DMO (c.f. Elbe et al. 2009), with the ambition to lead activities in pursuit of a mutual gain. In addition, DMOs are proposed as a coalition of different types of organizations and interest although in practice, these organizations have proven to be composed in different ways. With Covid 19, the hospitality industry has been severely affected due to imposed travel restrictions and thus the pandemic have proven to have immense impact on health, life and business.

In this paper, we add to research on the deliberate organizing of a destination in times of crisis. To understand the intentional organizing of organizations and how this could lead to action or inaction in the pursuit of a sustainable viability. What factors appear to be crucial for the sought after mobilization? We do so by following the historic path of a destination to identify to what extent there are patterns evolving over time that can explain mobilizing, framing and levels of cooperation aiming at identifying processes that re-occur over time as actors aim at mobilizing themselves. Mobilization can here be defined as:“ […] dynamic process of engaging actors on broad fronts to tackle a common issue.” (Salmi & Ritvala, 2011:888)

The paper takes on a case study approach and is based, among other things, on 65 interviews with stakeholders over three years’ time. What is more, data was collected through participation observation at meetings, as well as reviewing official documents and news articles related to the deliberate formation of a sustainable cruise network. In addition, the researchers actively took part in a co-organized workshop that dealt with the pandemic´s direct consequences for the hospitality industry. The data collection was focused on capturing the formation processes to give an understanding of which direct activities have been applied over time and how different processes evolved and for what reason.

The current results show that through history the organizing of the destination has shifted from private initiatives, to public organizing, and back to some kind of public-private organization and eventually revolving back into a private organization. The pursuit of an efficient and sustainable way to organize is a recurrent theme, but the power base and ability to influence has shifted continuously over time. The emerging development over time shows a shift from long-term network orientation into a short-term oriented issue-based net. The organizing shifts from facilitating cooperation in a decentralized and activity-focused organization into a centralized management, with higher intensity of interaction among a smaller number of influential actors.

Moreover, in order to enable joint action and mobilization, the purpose of the DMO or events in the context needs to be perceived as urgent or vital enough for the current business community. External pressures affect the level of cooperation, where the degree of centralization affects the activities and commitment to cooperate. Furthermore, the preliminary results indicate that perceived hinders towards collaboration decreased as the extensive crisis hit the industry. Decisions and initiatives tended to became more centralized and new joint activities were initiated.

10.4 Sustainable tourism market practices in post-pandemic times