Exploring Tourism Advocates' Relationship with Tourism Industry Members through a Political Model of Leadership

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Virginia Tech

Political environments shape the tourism industry. Political support for the industry can result in the creation of competitive and sustainable destinations through which tourism may contribute positive social, environmental, and economic impacts to residents and business owners alike. However, policymakers do not always recognize the potential for these positive impacts. Some tourism representatives argue that policymakers only see their businesses as an engine for tax generation and that the industry as a whole does not receive the respect it deserves from policymakers. The fragmented nature of tourism poses a challenge for advocates desiring to develop a collective voice and legislative agenda for the industry. Such initiatives would appear to demand strong leaders from within the tourism industry itself who can organize a unified approach to gaining political influence. However, few scholars have explored these individuals, who serve as a conduit between the tourism industry and policymakers. Even less attention has been given to their relationship with members of the tourism industry.

Therefore, this study utilized a partnership with the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association to examine how political leaders within the tourism industry, or tourism advocates, establish relationships with members of the tourism industry in order to facilitate political influence. A political model of leadership was employed to conceptualize the contextual elements, antecedents, and behaviors that result in outcomes that influence the relationship between the advocates and tourism industry members. Data was collected through interviews with 26 tourism advocates which were conducted to gain an understanding of the contextual elements and antecedents that influence tourism advocates' political behavior, in regards to building a relationship with members of the tourism industry. Their followers, members of VHTA who represent the lodging, restaurant, and attractions segments of the Virginia tourism industry, were surveyed to evaluate their perceived outcomes of tourism advocates' leadership efforts.

This study determined that contextual elements such as organizational culture and advocates' prior episodes play an important role in determining advocates' participation in political leadership. In turn, advocates' antecedents, particularly their sector-specific knowledge, social capital, and interpersonal style influence the behaviors they use to create relationships with tourism industry members. It was determined that overall, advocates' are far more critical of the outcomes of their behaviors than tourism industry members. The findings of this study can help prepare future tourism advocates to pursue political influence for the tourism industry by suggesting strategies that result in a productive relationship between political leaders and members of the tourism industry.

Tourism, Leadership, Advocacy, Politics