Unveiling the dynamics of Caribbean tourism policy networks: new research sheds light on tourism development

Dr. Michelle McLeod

Dr. Michelle McLeod, a Senior Lecturer at The UWI, Mona Campus

Dr. Michelle McLeod, a Senior Lecturer at The University of the West Indies Mona Campus in Kingston, Jamaica, has unveiled groundbreaking research shedding light on the intricacies of policy-making within the Caribbean tourism community. Titled ‘Tourism policy networks in four Caribbean countries,’ the paper delves into the dynamics of formal power and its influence on policy roles among tourism actors in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Caribbean region, known for its vibrant tourism industry, presents a complex landscape of opportunities and challenges. Dr. McLeod's research provides a comprehensive examination of the political economy within these countries, crucial for understanding the nuances of successful tourism development.

The study focuses on the inter-relationships of tourism actors within state boards, associations, networks, governments, and communities, elucidating their contributions to crucial decisions and actions regarding tourism policy. Utilizing Social Network Analysis (SNA) as a theoretical and methodological framework, the research reveals significant findings regarding the influence of policy networks in the examined Caribbean countries.

Of particular note, the study highlights statistically significant differences in power differentials among tourism policy actors in Barbados, emphasizing the varying impacts within different national contexts. Moreover, it pinpoints Jamaica's unique tourism policy network, showcasing statistically significant differences in policy roles among tourism actors.

One implication, Dr McLeod highlighted, is that the research study suggests that in a smaller island, power expressed through political will may be essential for the progress of tourism development when tourism is critical for economic growth, however, in a larger island wherein tourism is not a dominant economic sector, political will may be less effective, and the progress of tourism development is determined by the policy roles of tourism actors.


Dr. McLeod commenting on the implications of these findings said "Tourism is a very likely choice for economic growth in many islands. This work contributes to understanding steering tourism development in both large and small islands. The paper theorizes the four policy roles within policy networks, formulator, maker, implementer, and taker, and the workings of policy networks determine four paths of tourism development, domestic, international, enclave, or integrated. Notably, the research study suggests that the expression of power through political will holds differing significance based on the size and economic reliance on tourism within an island. While smaller islands may rely on political will for tourism growth, larger islands, where tourism is not a dominant economic sector, show that progress hinges more on the policy roles assumed by tourism actors”.

This illuminating paper will be featured in the Curated Collection on ‘Towards understanding and managing the politics of tourism in a crises-challenged world’ in Annals of Tourism Research Empirical Insights, guest edited by Freya Higgins-Desbiolles and Raoul Bianchi.

The paper can be accessed online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666957923000289