Integration, broadly conceptualized as a way to think about linkages between stakeholders, businesses, resources and tourism activities, has become an important focus within the tourism planning and management literature (Clark and Chabrel, 2007; Cawley and Gillmor, 2008; Saxena and Ilbery, 2008; Hatipoglu et al., 2016). Taking a holistic systems approach and considering how the different components of the tourism industry interact is important for understanding the phenomenon of tourism. Likewise, this type of approach means that instead of focusing solely on tourism-specific policies, multi-faceted policies that consider horizontal and vertical linkages will help to better position a community to leverage its resources and create opportunities for reaching its full economic and social potential (Clark and Chabrel, 2007; Semone et al., 2011). In this regard, ‘there is sufficient, reliable evidence to show that economies that adopt a whole-of-government approach to tourism development and management are among the most successful in terms of tourism performance’ (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2015, p. 30). Integrated tourism planning is defined, then, as ‘tourism that is explicitly linked to the economic, social, cultural, natural, and human resources of the localities in which it takes place’ (Saxena et al., 2007, p. 351).
Integrated tourism planning is often employed in regional contexts such as those that cross the urban-rural threshold where development strategies are aimed at dispersing tourists, their money and their impacts towards the outskirts of major tourist centres. Thus, the development and support of linkages is especially vital to successful strategic planning in these contexts, particularly on the part of rural communities who are attempting to revitalize or adapt to the changing economic and social landscape of the 21st century (Cawley and Gillmor, 2008; Reimer, 2010). According to Reimer (2010), the four major areas in which linkages occur between rural and urban communities are ‘through the flows of resources, services, people, and information; formal and informal institutions they share; the environments they share; and their common and complementary perceptions, values, identities, and ideologies’ (p. 10). This perspective emphasizes the intangible links (e.g. knowledge, shared social institutions such as family, religion, education, government and the values, perceptions and ideologies that an individual may hold) as well as how rural and urban areas play a supporting, harmonizing role with each other. As such, integrative planning strategies can be developed that capitalize on the strengths of the rural community as it aligns with its urban counterpart.
In tourism, this is captured in the notion that rural areas often provide the appropriate environment and resource base for a complementary tourism product to that offered in urban areas (Koster et al., 2010). The quaint atmosphere of a small town, historic architecture, agrarian lifestyles and close connections to natural resources are commonly represented in rural tourism products (Cawley and Gillmor, 2008), while urban tourists are typically drawn to events, entertainment and evening activities, meetings and conferences, and the built urban landscape (Law, 1993). It should also be noted that the communities that are directly adjacent to urban areas and facing intense pressure from rapid urbanization and population growth, known as fringe or exurban communities, also offer their own unique type of tourism product that includes theme parks, shopping villages, modified-nature based tourism, outlet malls and golf courses (Weaver, 2005).
There are other forms of convergence between rural and urban tourism products that should not be overlooked: for example, farm-to-table restaurants that bring the rural culture to the urban, and concert festivals that bring urban culture to the rural venues. Beyond the tangible distribution channels of the tourism product itself, integrated tourism also links into other areas of life in rural communities and is characterized by its: (i) embeddedness into local systems and everyday life; (ii) complementarity to other industries and ways of life; (iii) scale that is appropriate for the environmental and social carrying capacities of the community; (iv) endogeneity or fit with the local resource base; (v) sustainability ethos; (vi) ability to create networks among stakeholders to develop and manage tourism; and (vii) empowerment of the local stakeholders to exercise political control over tourism development (Clark and Chabrel, 2007; Cawley and Gillmor, 2008). Thus, this chapter focuses on the linkages of stakeholders within a network of integrated tourism planning.