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Heritage Tourism • Organizing & Planning

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Organizing and Planning


Organizing for Heritage Tourism

This section focuses on the process of creating and implementing heritage tourism in a community. It outlines the steps of the process, explains what occurs in each step, and builds the organization needed to make it happen. It also describes the planning processes needed to design and implement successful heritage tourism as a community strategy. It identifies the resources needed and available in a community to implement the heritage tourism strategies and uses this as a base to build and utilize local support in the process.


Image of Father and son at the MSU Museum  Image of Skiers in community  Image of The Octogan barn at Gagetown, MI

Father and son at the MSU Museum. Skiers in community. The Octogan barn at Gagetown, MI.

Determining Key Stakeholders and Participants

You must also begin garnering local support for your efforts. Explaining why and how heritage tourism is important and can be done is critical. People must buy into and support the effort or it will not be successful. The community must be behind your efforts, and all the key stakeholders must be involved from the beginning. This Web of Governance exercise will help you figure out who needs to be involved.

Building Partnerships

Critical to this process is the building of partnerships that are needed to get all the stakeholders and others involved and active in the process and implementation of heritage tourism in your community. There are many ways to build partnerships and determine who needs to participate and is integral to your efforts. If you leave key partners out or do not engage them from the beginning, you can fail no matter how hard you work. This Partnership Definition and Process will help you understand how to create viable and lasting partnerships. It is a simple process that builds on:

•    Why you are doing what you do
•    Who needs to be involved
•    What you specifically want to accomplish
•    How you go about getting it done

Working through this simple process can create working partnerships with a minimum of formal organization- building.

Partnerships and collaborations are complex processes. They require shared engagement and mutual decision making. "Rethinking collaboration: Lessons from the Field" by C. Kurt Dewhurst offers food for thought about these endeavors.


Avery, Julie A., Editor. Rooted in Place:  Cultivating Community Culture, Michigan State University Museum. 2002.
Dickerson, Larry, Creating Healthy Communities, The Process of Community Discovery; University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension, 2001.

Dickerson, Adams, Flora, Gulick, Jeanetta, Nakazawa, Building A Strong Community; University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension, Forthcoming Fall 2013.




Planning for Heritage Tourism

Strategic planning and action planning are helpful tools to
establish your goals, actions, and timeline as a guide towards
accomplishing your vision and a yardstick to track your progress.
Julie Avery, Michigan State University


Strategic Planning

Once you have all the partners participating and they have bought into your efforts and are engaged in the process, it is time to carefully and strategically plan how you want heritage tourism to develop in and for your community. The first step is to create a strategic plan to guide your efforts. This description of Strategic Planning and Capacity Approach will provide insights on how to proceed. Remember, good planning results in good results. No planning or bad planning produces bad or no results.

Planning does not have to be tedious or complicated, but it should consider all the possibilities and tasks you need to accomplish to be successful. A simple planning process can result in a short and usable document. The attachment on strategic planning can help you think through and design a planning process that fits your needs, and create the level of cooperation or organization best suited to your community.


    Image of Street Musicians (PhotoMorgue)   Image of University of Michigan exhibition hall  Image of Overlooking the view

Street Musicians (PhotoMorgue). University of Michigan exhibition hall. Overlooking the view (PhotoMorgue).

Strategic Planning: Why Plan?

   • “If you don’t know where you are going, you most probably won’t get there.” Yogi Berra
   • “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
   • “It’s hard to see the forest for the trees.”
   • “It’s difficult to remember you are draining the swamp when you are knee deep in alligators.”
   • “Why am I doing this, Princess?” Han Solo

Strategic Planning: What is it?

  • A guide to the future you want
   • A reason why you are doing things
   • A way to get to a preferred condition
   • A road map to the future
   • A way to identify what is good to keep and what needs to be changed
   • A way to understand capacities/resources for making desired changes
   • A way and method to create ownership and buy-in from stakeholders

Strategic Planning Components

   • Mission / Why do this?
   • Vision / Dream /Desired Condition – Where you want to be?
   • Analysis of Current Situation – What’s really happening; what we have here?
   • Goals / Objectives/ Activities – What you want to do?
   • Strategies /Organization for Implementation – How to do it?
   • Resources –What you need to do it?
   • Action – Specific steps to take in a specific time
   • Evaluation – How did you do?
   • Celebration – Enjoy your accomplishment(s)

Action Planning

A strategic plan is of no use unless it is implemented. An action planning process can guide you from planning to reality. Such a plan can: get you organized, identify tasks, assign responsibility for assignments, develop timelines, and determine how to evaluate progress and success.

Action planning is an exercise to implement a strategic planning process.

•    It involves analyzing the tasks of each plan component, identifying and acquiring resources necessary to carry out required tasks, and identifying and assigning appropriate staff and volunteers needed to complete all activities to implement the strategic plan.

•    It also should include evaluation to help determine when tasks are accomplished and when the various strategic and action plan components have been completed.

•    Action planning is essential to initiate and completely implement any planning process.

•    Using action planning tools, staff and stakeholders participate in a facilitated session that results in an action plan.

•    Action planning is critical to the planning process.

This Action Planning Form can be a tool to help your document and track your planning and accomplishments.