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Destination leadership and the issue of power

Bodil Stilling Blichfeldt (Associate Professor at Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark)
John Hird (Visiting Professor, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark and Hird&Ko Aps, Gistrup, Denmark)
Peter Kvistgaard (Visiting Professor, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark and Kvistgaard Consulting, Storvorde, Denmark)

Tourism Review

ISSN: 1660-5373

Article publication date: 14 April 2014




Studies of destination management and leadership may over-emphasize unity and collaboration, thus producing romanticized accounts for such processes. This paper discusses destination leadership from a less romanticized perspective – pointing to the various ways in which it intertwines with power.


The authors focus on the relationship between destination leadership and power networks offering a fresh look at the reality of collaborative processes in destinations. By exposing the latent or manifest networks of complex power relations in destinations, the authors disentangle the analysis of destination management and leadership from romanticized perspectives. A non-conventional vignettes approach is applied.


The concept of power offers more realistic descriptions and “thick” conceptualizations of destination leadership. Moreover, the predominance of more inclusive and bottom-up approaches to destination development necessitates advances in understandings of power relations at work at the destination. Furthermore, if DMOs are to successfully establish themselves as destination leaders, they need to position themselves in the midst of the power networks entailing relationships and interactions with and between destination stakeholders.


The paper demonstrates that power is not a characteristic of individual actors, but is instead a characteristic of relations. Moreover, power is defined as a potential and might therefore be latent and only occasionally be activated. Furthermore, in a destination multiple power-relations co-exist, effecting attempts to lead the destination. Therefore, the paper points to the existence of a series of bases of power and effects hereof on destination leadership.



Received 7 June 2013 Revised 6 August 2013 Accepted 10 August 2013


Stilling Blichfeldt, B., Hird, J. and Kvistgaard, P. (2014), "Destination leadership and the issue of power", Tourism Review, Vol. 69 No. 1, pp. 74-86.



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