The paper aims to propose a method of identifying and evaluating leadership potential of stakeholders in emerging tourist destinations and to verify this method in three Polish destinations. Developing destinations miss well-established networking structures and management experiences. The greatest impact on their success is made by the most active stakeholders who are able to pool and mobilise partners and coordinate their efforts to realise common goals.
The research is based on a stakeholders’ potential analysis and the network approach. To identify destination leadership, the method – adapted from an axiological analysis of regional development participants – is used and verified in rural, coastal and mountain destinations in Poland. An in-depth analysis of stakeholders representing the public, private and non-profit sectors is conducted to assess their leadership potential. Ultimately, 183 interviews were conducted.
Based on literature review, five dimensions of destination leadership were identified, namely, networking capability, analytical abilities, impact capability, economic potential and legitimacy. In emerging destinations, the most influential stakeholders are characterised by strong impact, analytical leadership capabilities and legitimacy.
The paper provides insights into destination leadership discussion and research. The limited number of verification cases and limited qualitative data analysis could be seen as its limitation.
Emerging destinations have incomplete leadership. An imbalanced structure of destination leadership may have serious consequences on stability and development of destinations; it also affects the process of identification of potential leaders.
The paper is original because it proposes an innovative method of identifying destination leadership, especially in emerging destinations.
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