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BLOG | October 29 2020

Stakeholder Consultation for Destination Sustainability Success

Rebecca Johnson talks to us about the importance of stakeholder consultation for destination sustainability success.

Why does Stakeholder Consultation matter?

Effective stakeholder consultation is key to the development of any strategy.

This is especially the case within the context of Destination Sustainability and Regeneration, where engagement, collaboration and partnerships drive your journey towards success.

Stakeholders can be varied and abundant. Therefore, an initial mapping exercise will allow you to understand which stakeholder types require what level of consultation.

Securing stakeholder involvement and feedback is an essential part of strategy development. Albeit seemingly easy, getting this stage right is vital. It can mean the difference between a strategy that is compelling, productive and stimulates growth, and a strategy that is insular, ineffective and short lived.

The below observations relate to the consultation of four of the most important stakeholder groups for destinations.


Choose your contacts wisely!

Top-down sustainability commitment from Senior Management is always a significant motivator to engage employees.

Do be aware however that it does not always correspond that Management vision is the best perspective for analysing solutions to sustainability challenges that are often encountered at operational levels. Most often it’s the grassroots employees in hotels, venues and agencies whose actions have the most impact on the sustainable performance of a business. They select and procure the goods, they prepare them, they manage them and finally, they dispose of them.

A director will be able to give an overview of the company policy and strategy results. However, understanding the behaviour and challenges of the staff will enable you to develop targeted actions and training that generate a much greater impact.

Of course, the ideal solution is the combination of both. The authority and commitment from Senior Management to dedicate resources to support your strategy, as well as input from Middle Management Operations to identify the everyday challenges.


Know what makes them tick!

All those who choose your destination as the host for their business, (Associations, Corporates, Tour Operators etc) require your attention, especially in these times of uncertainty.

As with all other actions you pursue, your regeneration strategy should align with the plans, priorities, concerns and aspirations of your clients for a more responsible society. Ensure your consultation with them endeavours to uncover this information. Their responses and behaviour should contribute towards the shaping of your own commitment.

And don’t be afraid to dig deep. As always there is a difference between those who say they are committed to responsible business, and those who are actually active in their commitment. Know what questions to ask. Your own commitment should at least equal theirs, so it’s important to ensure you have the skills and tools to respond.


The most potential yet most overlooked group of stakeholders!

This one always amazes me. A business can have the most comprehensive sustainability report in the world, but if one visit to the property reveals employee behaviour that contradicts the publicised values, all those hard won results will be dismissed as Greenwashing. And still, with their major potential for brand destruction, employees are the last stakeholder group on the list when it comes to discovering their opinions, challenges and ambition for company achievements.

Employees are the ambassadors of any sustainability and regeneration strategy. Employees will communicate your vision in their conversations with clients, your results in their press releases, your policies in their communications with suppliers. Ask them for their perspectives and contributions. Engage them.


Repurposing for the greater, overall good!

The concept of “over-tourism” has thankfully led to much deeper efforts to work with residents to address issues related to the influx of tourism in their communities.

The GDS-Movement’s philosophy advocates a shift in focus from sustaining to regenerative thinking. We believe that not only should destination strategies focus only on lessening the challenges that tourism can bring for residents, but also integrate detailed consultation into the conversation. Communication will help show how tourism and events can be repurposed to generate value for the community, and not vice versa.


The GDS-Movement cites ‘Extreme Collaboration’ as one of its core principles. It truly is an integral component in the development of any regeneration strategy. Comprehensive stakeholder consultation lays the foundation for this collaboration. It is not just relevant at the beginning of strategy definition, but important at regular touch points throughout the journey.  

Know your stakeholders. Listen to them and react to their perspectives. It will guarantee continued engagement, effective collaboration, and meaningful success.

Written by Rebecca Johnson; Sustainability Consultant, Trainer and Auditor. Rebecca works as a Senior Changemaker at the GDS-Movement and is happy to be contacted for any further guidance or support.

For more musings on the SoolNua blog, please see here.