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Bridging the Gap: Strategic Partnerships and the Creation of New Regions

Lynne Dore and Ken Hopkins

School of Tourism & Hospitality, La Trobe University, Bundoora Victoria 3083
Telephone: (03) 9479 1343 Email:

In response to technological innovation, changing environments and pressures of globalisation, the need for a competitive tourism destination as part of regional and rural economic development has taken on an urgency which was not so evident even a decade ago. One of the strategies employed to create such a goal is the packaging of diverse tourism products and services into a single marketable entity under the banner of regional tourism. Marketing strategies and a sophisticated appreciation of the region, its communities and its attractions now seems to be essential. In Victoria, the Tourism Victoria Jig-Saw plan (Figure 1) and the creation of explicit and marketable product regions (Figure 2) exemplify this approach to regional tourism.

Although very successful from the state’s marketing and promotion perspective, the development of arbitrary boundaries and ‘the product regions’ approach presents both conceptual and practical problems for local and state governments. These problems are both conceptual, in our understanding of what constitutes the region, but also practical, in the formulation and implementation of strategy at a sub-national regional level.

The major cities in Australia are the primary and preliminary destinations for most inbound tourists, either in their own right or as gateways to the main nature-based tourism attractions which tend to be outside urban areas. The images used to promote Victoria (and Australia) rely heavily upon attractions and resources located in regional rural and remote areas. "Over 90 per cent of all international visitors to rural Australia were satisfied with their tourist experience" (Morse: 2000). But are the composite images used by National and State Tourism authorities accurate reflections of the communities involved and do they necessarily translate into an accurate depiction of local values?

There at present seems to be insufficient, real or effective community consultation in tourism development thus creating a problem in terms of gaining local support for tourism initiatives. There seems to be an assumption that provided some introductory consultation or community briefing occurs, then development can proceed with community support. This, of course, is not necessarily the case. Tourists want 'to meet the locals' and if the local community is not supportive of local regional tourism initiatives then this may translate into reduced tourist satisfaction, as well as possible reduced quality of life for the residents themselves. The longer term strategic link between communities and tourism lies in effective consultation, with respect to the impacts upon and attitudes of residents to tourism, how communities value their surroundings and how these values are translated into a sense of place (Craik 1991, Ross 1991, Unwin 1996). The link between communities and the construction and promotion of tourism requires formal recognition and inclusive encouragement. This would require “bridging the gap” between rhetoric, information collection and traditional management and a strategic vision of regional competitive advantage and community sustainability.

Although the relationship between sense of place and the region is a contentious one, it is nevertheless important. Further information relating to community values is needed in order to develop a coherent vision for the future. Such information, when understood, could then be incorporated into regional development strategies. The vision needs to encompass not only business concerns, but also those of a region’s resident community. Therefore, from a tourism perspective, the vision not only requires analysis of existing and potential tourism activity, but also a realistic assessment of the comparative, collaborative and competitive advantages that may be developed within the vision.

It seems evident therefore, that the character of the region, and its internal composition (both natural and man-made) is important for analysing the dimensions and nature of regional tourism. The expansion of regional tourism depends not only on an appreciation of the products and services available, but also on those products which fall inside/outside a specified region. Equally the physical dimensions of a region need to be identified, and therefore it is important to accurately nominate which towns or villages are within specified boundaries. This may in turn provide information helpful in attaining community consensus and support for a conceptualised ‘regional place’. So whilst arbitrary borders or ‘wandering boundaries’ may hold few problems for generalised promotion and advertising, such borders or boundaries are important for social and economic policy, and for more strategic forms of marketing. These definitional and inherent analytical problems provide the framework for investigating the term region and its meaning.

Defining a community however is a difficult task and a slippery concept to grasp and understand (Kenny 1994). As Ensor et. al. comment, “the distinction between what is a rural community versus what is a regional community is far from insignificant, (and that) community boundaries are developed in a myriad of ways depending upon the purpose. For example, the administrative boundary of Local Government areas will be different from the catchment boundaries defined by Catchment Management Authorities, which will be different again from the way in which communities of interest will define themselves” (Ensor, Rogers, Ryan 2000:5). Our research on the Routes to the Region (Hopkins and Dore 1999) which focussed on the strategic implications of sub-national regional boundaries and sense of place has a synergy with these comments.

Issues in Sub-National Regional Research

A number of reviews highlight economic problems of sub-national research dealing with issues of longitudinal studies, the inconsistency of data collection methods, scale and size of an area, and associated multiplier effects providing tourism growth and development information..

Smith has identified “three fundamental types of regions”:

1. a priori (arbitrary drawing of a line);

2. homogeneous (set of internal similarities or common characteristics);

3. and functional (high degree of internal interaction)" (Smith, 1989:163-164).

He stresses, with respect to boundaries, the need for “regional division (to) be exclusive, (and that) the same place cannot be logically assigned to two separate regions. The characteristics used to define regions must be chosen carefully to make sure no inconsistency would violate this principle” (Smith 1989:169).

The business of tourism at this sub-national level requires an appreciation of the temporal nature of the industry, the economic impacts as well as size and scale. The economic impacts of spending and investment are crucial indicators of regional growth and development. As Detomasi points out, “three factors influence the size of the multipliers (involved). These are:

1. the size of multiplier is an artefact of the definition of the study area;

2. the more integrated the economy, the higher will be the multiplier;

3. the nature of the injection of the initial spending is important” (Detomasi 1987, in Wall 1997: 447). However multipliers are of little use if the regional area they are ascribed to is not accurately known.

So whilst the temporal nature of the tourism industry is of concern for analytical purposes, the shortage of longitudinal studies make forecasting difficult. Dann et. al. believes that “the statistical treatment of time based data could be an exciting direction of future research” (Dann et al. in Opperman 1998:25). However, as an OECD survey (1989) highlighted, caution should be used, “because there were significant problems with the inconsistencies of data collection methods and the definitions used in regional research” (Robinson et. al. 1997).

This caution is followed by Smith’s comments wherein he states, “Good or ill, the effects of tourism development are limited in space. Further the nature and degree of those effects varies greatly from place to place, as a function of regional conditions such as the size and complexity of the local economy, the number of tourists, the size of the host population, and the cultural context of development. Redefine or change the scale of a region wherein impacts are being studied and you change the conclusions drawn from those impacts” (Smith:1989:172).

Regional Tourism: Boundaries and the Region

This research although still in its early stages, investigates the nature and dimensions of the region. It seeks to understand the relationship between boundaries, their consequent communities and their inherent sense of place in order to identify the new kind of strategic partnerships required to be commercially competitive and socially sustainable. Whilst some readers might question the value of such introspection, definitional clarity is important for identifying not only a region’s resource availability, but also the communities that tourists wish to meet. If communities are going to be supportive of the development of a truly competitive, regional tourism strategy and hence make it more valuable for all, then their views need to be known and included.

Literature Search

This research was conducted in order to assess how the concept of the region has been used in tourism research and associated literature. The investigation reviewed the use of the region / regional in 14 national and international tourism journals (Table 1). Journal articles containing the word region (or regional) in their title or abstract were selected for analysis. The review examined 2510 abstracts and found that approximately 5.3% had some form of regional focus. Categorisation of the context of use and preliminary analysis of the explanatory power (and utility for future tourism research) of the authors' use of the concept has been conducted.

International groups such as the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) identify six regions in a supra-national way (e.g. South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific), other groups use it in a similar way (ASEAN, Asia-Pacific, Pacific Rim, North/South, APEC, the European region). These supra-national categories are not very useful for this sub-national research and consequently have not been included in this paper. Neither have macroeconomic and other national scale considerations that occasionally confuse the 'national' with the 'regional'.

Table 1


Period of Review

No. of Abstracts Reviewed

Abstracts with word Region/


Annals of Tourism Research

1979-1998 (20 yrs)




Travel Research

1987-1998 (12 yrs)




Marketing Research

1988-1998 (11 yrs)




Sustainable Tourism

1990-1998 (9 yrs)




Hospitality & Tourism Research

1992-1998 (7 yrs)




Travel & Tourism Marketing

1992-1998 (7 yrs)




Tourism Management

1993-1998 (6 yrs)




Tourism Economics

1995-1998 (6 yrs)




Tourism Analysis

1996-1998 (3 yrs)




Tourism Studies

1996-1998 (3 yrs)




Pacific Tourism Review

1997-1998 (2 yrs)




International Hospitality Leisure & Tourism Management

1996 and 1990 (2 yrs)




Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research

1997-1998 (2 yrs)




Progress in Tourism & Hospitality Research

(1997) (1 yr)




Total No. of Journals = 14

Period of review
= 1979-1998

Total No. Abstracts
= 2510

Total No. Abstracts with word 'Region' =132


The results show that 11.4% of abstracts in the Annals of Tourism Research (a primary international journal) utilised the term region and indicates a strong and identifiable focus upon regional issues over time. 7.1% of the reviewed abstracts in the journal, Travel & Tourism Marketing also indicated a similar research focus.

This focus on regional tourism declined across the remaining recognised tourism journals, with 4.2% in Tourism Management and 3.6% in Tourism Economics. A stronger focus on regional issues might have been expected from the Journal of Travel Research (1.7%) and the Journal of Sustainable Tourism (1.4%), whilst surprisingly for 'research' journals such as Marketing Research and Hospitality & Tourism Research no regional focus was evident.

The review suggests that both the manner in which the region was described or used and also the relationship between boundaries, communities and sense of place in the regional context has strategic implications for regional tourism. However the evidence emanating from the tourism literature suggests that there is a lack of clarity in the description and use of the term region, hence affecting its use for strategic policy or community development.

These results may indicate a cyclical interest in regional issues over time. An increased trend in regional tourism research in the newer post 1995 journals is now emerging (although percentage figures in Table 1 are based only on a small number of issues). If ongoing, this trend may indicate a rising interest in tourism as an important factor in sub-national regional development under conditions of 'enhanced globalisation'. The perceived renewed interest in regional issues should see a noticeable increase in the number of articles dealing with regional issues and therefore this trend should be continually monitored.

Regional Assessment


132 journal articles (5.3% of the total journal articles surveyed) had some form regional focus where the word region was found in its title or abstract. The review found that the use of the region could be grouped according to political, geo-spatial, functional, socio-cultural or marketing descriptors or categories. Within the 132 journal articles, 176 references were made to these categories. Other implicit categories were related to sense of place, socio-cultural and historic community attachment.

The results indicate the political/administrative and spatial/geographic categories as primary, if not dominant. In these categories the region seemed to be constructed from an 'a priori' or arbitrary perspective and essentially fails to provide the reader with a useful definition of a sub-national area nor information concerning boundaries, size and scale of a region.

Explanatory codes

The degree of explanatory power used by writers varied in their use of the region. Explanatory codes were used to help in the assessment of their strategic capacity and future (time-series) utility. These explanatory codes were based on whether the definitions and description of a region were either of a:

• cursory nature This explanatory code highlighted a basic use of the region where there was little if any attempt to describe the regional dimensions. An example would be the 'Cairns Region'. The political, geo-spatial, functional, socio-cultural and/or marketing descriptors accounted for 66.4% of the abstracts of regional interest.

• more descriptive (20.1%) These references were considered to provide an element of theory and low level explanatory power. That is, the term was used with reference to central place (growth pole/agglomeration) theory.

Examples include provincial or urban centres with a description of adjoining

areas but to a greater extent than the ‘cursory’ ‘Cairns region’

• Where a more ‘analytical’ approach was found within the literature (13.5%), its explanatory power was used in ‘geospatially’ defined region such as ‘national parks’ or ‘political’ areas wherein the national park spanned a number of local government areas. Therefore problems relating to the aggregation and disaggregation of time series data may be reduced. These regions included descriptions of borders. Eeconomic information such as multipliers was discussed.

33.6% of the abstracts with a regional focus fell in the more useful descriptive or analytical classifications and were deemed useful for regional research. More detailed analysis of the raw regional data and also community content analysis is currently underway. The low presence of functional and marketing categories as a means for classifying a region is surprising. Functional components generally denote “high degrees of internal interaction” (Smith 1989:163-164). General textbooks inform us that functionality, such as railway lines or wine areas for instance are recognised by tourism professionals as an authentic explanation for identifying the region.

General Comment from Literature Search

We would recommend that a cautious approach be taken in the application of the tourism academic literature to the strategic study of regions. The meaning of the term region seems to be complex and although very useful, it is evident that if it is used too pragmatically then the accurate information so vital for economic and social policy may be compromised.

These constraints combined with a lack of definitional clarity, the shortage of longitudinal studies, and the relationship between size and scale of region along with the multiplier effect, all have implications for policy and planning. They also have an impact on the creation of strategic partnerships and the development of a competitive advantage within a complex socio-cultural and political location. In turn, these initiatives may further be impacted upon by community values as Canter has suggested. “… there are two important aspects to descriptions of place. One is the evaluations assigned to a place by people, and the other is the range and type of activity associated with it” (Moscardo & Black 1998). Communities within a predetermined tourism space do not necessarily share these assignations and therefore it is suggested that the issues relating to the growth of tourism within certain areas can become conflictual because of people’s differing senses of place.

Competitive Advantage:

Organisations and "firms create competitive advantage by perceiving or discovering new and better ways to compete in an industry and bringing them to market, which is ultimately an act of innovation" (Porter, 1990). Therefore to be internationally competitive, innovative regional tourism organisations need to create value for the tourist at a higher level than that created by their competitors. Innovation often means breaking out of the traditional ways of doing things. Competitive advantage entails identifying "capabilities of the firm which are valuable, rare and hard to imitate" (Barney in Lewis 1993). Innovation and its appropriate implementation can lead to the creation of highly valued products desired by people prepared to purchase them. It may also lead to increased organisational value for members who gain other kinds of value from holding it. "Most people in big companies have forgotten how to invent. They know how to buy and sell businesses or produce 'me-too' products, but they do not develop new businesses to support these new ideas" (Ohmae, 1990).

Most tourists want to meet the locals! A sustainable tourism community and competitive tourist destination would be able to offer increased tourist satisfaction by ensuring a proud and supportive local community. Competitive advantage is often based upon the innovative 'differentiation' of the tourism product, which in this case is not only the destination itself, but its members. Innovative capabilities lie within the community and encouragement and nurturing of these skills may create a form of collaboration that may ultimately lead to competitive advantage and a strengthening of the regional communities economic base.

Regional Tourism in Victoria

In terms of developing an alliance or partnership within a specified location the example of the wandering tourism boundary problem in Victoria (Figure 2) makes the attainment of collaborative advantage (competitive advantage derived from collaboration) difficult to conceptualise never mind attain in practice. The numbers of Local Government Authorities within any one “product region” and/or the overlapping product boundaries, make decisions concerning strategic alliances, and the appropriate direction for developing a competitive or comparative advantage more complex.

A useful example to highlight this is the position of the Shire of Murrindindi (Victoria). As the Tourism Victoria Regional Development Plan states, "…much consideration was given as to the position of Murrindindi within the product region (as it) is currently located on the border of three product regions, Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, Legends, Wine and High Country and the Goulburn Murray Waters. Much of the debate focused on (which) product brochure operators should advertise in, not on the regional plan itself. To this end it is up to the individual operators to decide for themselves where best to advertise their products, having regard to the differing marketing directions of the three regions". It has been decided that due to its location, Murrindindi should be included in both the Goulburn Murray Waters and the Legends, Wine and High Country Regional Tourism Development Plans" (1999:52).

The plan further states that the "regional tourism development plan now provides a strategic focus so that all stakeholders in the region can develop alliances and linkages and work in a common direction to improve and expand the region's tourism product base and tourism profile. The plan also provides the opportunity for the region to develop linkages with other regions, where appropriate so that limited resources can be combined and targeted" (GMW 1999). However, the placement of Murrindindi into two product regions makes the achievement of a competitive advantage difficult to achieve, remembering Smith’s comments that regions need to be exclusive (Smith 1989:169).

Therefore, apart from nominating the area of study, other reasons for establishing definitional clarity relate to: understanding the power relationships influencing the scale, scope and strategy of local tourism and its competitive development as well as in gaining an understanding of community value and support. As such, the reliance on wandering or overlapping boundaries (in a tourism context) makes the identification and development of such linkages and alliances difficult for gaining either a comparative or competitive advantage. As discussed earlier, the establishment of regional boundaries along with their size, have a significant impact upon multipliers so important for economic growth and development. And as Wall clearly states, “the citation of multiplier values is of little value if the region to which they apply is not specified clearly” (Wall 1997: 447).

Although tourism defined product regions recognise the need to be competitive in a global marketplace; the means for attaining a competitive edge are less apparent. As the Goulburn Murray Waters Regional Tourism Development Plan (1999) highlights,

“Borders and barriers are coming down and while this can give the Goulburn Murray Waters region the opportunity to enter the global marketplace, it also means that numerous other destinations are in the same position. In other words, the Goulburn Murray Waters will find itself in an increasingly competitive market place” GMW 1999:54). To compete or combat competitive threats requires more than a need “to excel and offer quality products with professional and friendly service” as suggested by Goulburn Murray Waters (GWM1999: 54). Although valuable in their own right, top quality products and services are not necessarily the hallmarks of a competitive edge. As Barney has suggested, competitive advantage entails identifying "capabilities of the firm which are valuable, rare and hard to imitate" (Barney in Lewis 1993). Consequently what is required is a more informed understanding of the collaborative, competitive and comparative advantages available through strategic opportunities, and the creation of alliances or partnerships.

As Government studies in Australia have shown, there seems to be a need to improve linkages of communication, information distribution and business training to rural and regional areas (DPIE; Rural Policy Branch, 1994). These studies have also shown that face-to-face contact is the best way to break through to create a more inclusive and hence effective information-exchange. It seems evident that increased trust and credibility in the vision would assist the implementation of strategies intended to strengthen rural and regional communities under enhanced globalisation.

Although programs such as the Regional Tourism Development Plans talk about 'partnership with the community', and the need to create a common goal, the traditional managerial approach seems to engender a lack of effective interaction. Such an approach is often considered piecemeal and short term because of problems arising with communities' dependence upon public sector grants and funding; allocation on a yearly basis where all funds need to be spent within the twelve months, whilst the public sector retains tight control. The 1997 Rural Communities Access Program Evaluation assesses this as a 'minimalist approach' and lists the disadvantages as:

  • No integration of services, reducing the potential efficiency of the overall program.
  • Annual funding base is insecure creating potential difficulties for
  • recruitment and retention of staff.
  • The approach severely constrains long-term vision for the area.
  • (Centre for Rural Research 1997)

If we accept that community is an important, if not essential component of a regional vision, it stands to reason that any alliance or partnership must be inclusive of that community. Competitive advantage for sustaining communities in regional tourism therefore requires an effective almost transformational kind of collaboration.

New Vision

It seems legitimate in a pragmatic way, to consider a sustainable tourism community as an organic set of relationships depending upon collaboration in order to produce a successful long-term community partnership and product. The aim of any such partnership would be to provide or achieve some kind of 'community relations' transformation to create a vision for the future. The challenge for regional tourism communities lies in the creation of something innovative, valuable and hopefully sustainable. A maturing of a partnership intending to attain this kind of goal could lead to the creation of transformational collaborative advantage. The partnership between local government, the business sector and the community must lead to a transformation in order to achieve a vision and therein achieve a collaborative advantage.

Transactional Collaboration

Collaboration and partnerships between public and private service providers are now well known. With the inclusion of 'community' into the equation as part of 'third way' politics in the U.K. and USA having been created. On the surface, and possibly superficially, collaboration and partnerships means working with others to attain some mutually agreed result, the distributional consequences of which are usually unknown. It is accepted that collaboration between people and groups can lead to valuable partnerships. The quality of the collaboration influences and often defines the outcomes of the partnership. Collaboration also relates to the method of communication used, as well as the sharing of resources, and determines the means by which the relationship is developed. Joint ventures, strategic alliances, hotel management agreements, market segmentation, franchising, co-ordinated service delivery, research and development partnerships, supply chain agreements are all examples of collaboration which create partnerships.

The interesting issue is whether such agreements are merely transactional in nature as with traditional forms of management, or whether they are more transformational. Transactional collaboration-partnerships tend to be non-inclusive and usually serve short-term goals. Transactional collaboration-partnerships are relatively easy to imitate if sufficient resources are available. Although such partnerships may create organisational 'strengths', they are not likely to lead to valuable 'super strengths' such as competitive advantages. The traditional goals of management in such partnerships may obscure the vision. Imitation tends to proliferate whilst the short-term nature of the transaction usually ends the collaborative process because there is no enduring purpose for stakeholders. It seems to be very difficult to attain a collaborative advantage using traditional management techniques due to the capacity for them to be copied and imitated.

Transformational Collaborative Advantage

The creation of effective synergy between organisations or groups can lead to valuable, hard-to-imitate innovations that may combine aspects of both transactional and transformational collaboration. When synergies are sophisticated they often create something which "focuses on outputs of collaboration that could not have been achieved except through collaborating" (Huxham, 1996: 14).

The source of collaborative advantage seems to lie within the context of trust, accountability and transparency, whilst leadership skills enhance such trust partnerships. Although leadership is a contentious issue to discuss, the qualities the public tends to admire in a person or group are authority, charisma, respect, knowledge, access to resources, communication, control, compassion, equity and sharing, motivational, admiration, inspiration, integrity, ethics, trust, courage and honesty (Sarros and Butchatsky, 1996). Leadership for transformational collaborative advantage through partnership would actively encourage and resource the time consuming practices required not only for inclusive community participation, but also in reaching understanding and agreement in the attempt to reach the region's/community's vision. We suggest that regional competitive advantage can therefore be gained through the attainment of collaborative advantage.

We also suggest that if transformational collaborative advantage is a generator of regional competitive advantage then there has been a historical transformation away from traditional ways of essentially top-down private-public collaboration. If a sustainable regional community is created, synergies may be such that innovative new products or services (competitive advantage), and new forms of partnerships (hard-to-imitate collaborative advantage) may be created. This may sound difficult! Working in the best interests of the 'partnership' rather than towards private/group interest is difficult and hard to imitate. It depends upon the capabilities and skills of those people with the responsibility to transform the partnership from two or more competitive stakeholders into a team with a common goal. An in-depth understanding of the personal and strategic positions of other stakeholders would need to be actively encouraged to attain goal congruity.

Bridging the Gap

One of the recognised fundamentals for managing change is the ability to communicate, effectively. Local government authorities are often faced with enormous challenges in their pursuit of financial accountability, services provision, planning, implementation and concern for community issues. To achieve a competitive advantage in such a challenging environment therefore requires transformational kinds of communication with stakeholders.

The creation of a strategic alliance between La Trobe University and the Shire of Strathbogie (Victoria) attempts to facilitate such transformational communication with the community. Initially introduced as an initiative aimed at developing the tourism profile within the shire as part of its regional economic development strategy, this partnership is now moving toward a more transformational alliance. The initiative has provided the mechanism for exploring a broader range of issues other than tourism. The strategic links being forged to help facilitate change within the Shire include the introduction of funding for research fellowships. An example of the research conducted is an exploration of a scenic tourism trail within the Strathbogie Ranges and background heritage research projects. Similar strategic partnerships with other regional shires have investigated the introduction of a new tour packaging opportunity in the Macedon Ranges and the controversial introduction of a Macdonald outlet in the Surf Coast region along with four heritage projects to name a few.

The research has identified a series of issues in relation to scale, provision of infrastructure and services, strategic networks and alliances, effective access, resource allocation and community and communication concerns. The Strathbogie Shire fellowship program has been in existence for two years and the initiative has brought forward other projects concerned with business development and incentive, resident impact studies, nature- based activities and the growth of a festival and event portfolio. The partnership has highlighted the importance of community involvement.

The program between the Shire (and that being developed in Victoria with other Local Government Authorities) is managed and facilitated by the Regional Tourism Co-ordinator (RTC) at La Trobe University, Bundoora. The program provides students with 'real life project experience' as well as opportunities for involvement at a community level. The essential 'strategic brokering' link between the community, Shire and project work has been provided by this RTC and has required the creation and development of a series of community support networks. These networks have in turn provided the Shire with a mechanism for tapping into the community values concerning each project. This and related support initiatives with other local government authorities highlight the potential for developing the communication links between the Shires and their communities, and in raising a sense of place, as well as an active level of community commitment. The strategic relationship has strengthened 'the bridge' between the community and Shire and seems to be well placed to aid and assist new regional initiatives.

Similarly the University’s Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities is undertaking collaborative project work in local government areas and in so doing is expanding the breadth of its regional and community involvement.

The strategic partnership with the university brings to the Strathbogie Shire both broad and focussed levels of expertise, and provides a model for other local government authorities seeking to encourage and foster community involvement in developing a shared vision.


Our research has highlighted the importance of definitional clarity in respect to the term region. The tourism literature review revealed how little attention or explanatory power has been given to the term to date. This lack of definitional clarity therefore impacts on the ability to undertake meaningful analysis of regional issues, and is further complicated when assessing community values. The journal review although constrained by the size of the collection nevertheless highlights some of the fundamental problems in dealing with arbitrary boundaries or purpose designed regions.

Our discussion of community and sense of place is provided as a means for establishing an inclusive approach to regional growth. It seems imperative that any future development strategies encompass a shared vision. The University’s role in regional Victoria is helping to promote this approach. The RTC's facilitation role has shown that a new level of collaboration is possible and that the partnership between the University, Shire and community can be enhanced through a more strategic approach to economic development.

The paper raises important questions on how to achieve a competitive advantage and ongoing research by the authors will address how the development of strategic alliances within and between product regions can help to establish this advantage. The ‘wandering boundary’ problem created by the development of arbitrary and overlapping boundaries makes it imperative that alliances and partnerships are established for the right reasons.

The example of the strategic partnership with local government authorities and communities highlights the initiatives being developed for creating a shared vision for the future. Success will be measured by those who achieve a truly transformation form of collaboration that leads to sustainable community development associated with innovation and competitive advantage in the future.


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Figure 1 – Tourism Victoria Jig Saw Plan

Source: Tourism Victoria 1997a

Figure 2: Tourism Victoria’s Product Regions

Source: Tourism Victoria 1997

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