After 3 months of tourism research in Southeast Asia, the only thing set in my mind was my Thesis (my classmates can corroborate on that). Fortunately, I have had my topic set for quite some time, even before starting the TDM program: Implementing a Private DMO in Baja California, Mexico. This came as the product of research in the Baja California-California (USA) region during my time as an intern at a small consulting office in my home city. I was pretty sure I had a clear goal for my research and how to conduct it…..or so I thought. Upon returning to my home city in Baja California, I realized that, after going through the TDM program, I was now looking at the whole tourism industry and the context surrounding it in a completely different way. It did not take me a lot of time to realize that a private DMO, different from the traditional public/government-agency DMO was just a little tiny dot in the whole “problem” Baja is currently facing.

Besides, focusing straight in what seemed as a “solution” to a “problem” was probably not the right way to approach my research; it is like researching about a problem of which you already know the “solution”.

Thanks to the wonderful job of my thesis supervisors, I decided to change the scope of my research to a wider topic:  Destination Governance. Now it is easy to confuse the term “Governance” with “Government”. Governance refers to how all the stakeholders and actors at the tourism destination interact with each other within their own networks. It deals with how policies and plans are formulated and implemented towards certain purposes. As the definition may have implied, Good Governance is indeed a key element necessary to foster sustainable development.

Measuring “how good” Governance is in a certain place is no easy task. You have probably heard about the Worldwide Governance Index (World Bank), which measures 6 dimensions of governance across several countries:
1. Voice and Accountability.
2. Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism
3. Government Effectiveness
4. Regulatory Quality
5. Rule of Law
6. Control of Corruption

However, replicating such study even at a smaller scale requires a huge amount of secondary information and data which, and that is not feasible under the present circumstances. Besides, in the case of Mexico, governance in every state is different due to the different priorities that ruling political parties have (as such, the score could change momentarily next year with the new elections).  The necessary amount of data necessary to compose a valid score on any given dimension is not available in Baja California.

Therefore, I decided to use the framework provided by the Good Governance Principles (UNDP). These Principles are:

  • Participation
  • Consensus orientation
  • Strategic vision
  • Responsiveness
  • Effectiveness and efficiency
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Equity
  • Rule of Law

In order for a destination to have Good Governance, all Principles must be present, without any discrepancy from each other.

And yes, the Dimensions and the Principles do overlap and converge with each other at some points =) so nothing relevant will be left out (though I am still particularly thinking about that Corruption dimension -_- ). In this case, the aim of the framework is to determine whether the principles are present or not, without considering any rank or score. This allows me to go deeper into the particular circumstances that surround the implementation of each and every Principle, and provide effective advice on such implementation.  I can know why something happens or not, without limiting myself to a closed set of indicators.

Justifying the relevance of my topic choice, Baja California currently faces certain situations related to the manner in which the destination is being governed:

  • Lack of infrastructure in certain areas connecting to the main state attractions
  • The lack of transparency related to the progress of mayor projects, such as tourism centers and airports, which have been “in progress” for at least 5 years.
  • Unclear definition of the responsibilities and attributions of Government agencies that are directly or indirectly involved in tourism.
  • Lack of lobbying capacity (and effectiveness) of State and Municipal authorities when intending to procure Federal funds or apply for the implementation of Federal Tourism Development Support Programs.
  • Lack of transparency and promotion of the projects, programs or plans being (or which have been) carried out by Authorities and other organizations related to tourism development.
  • No clear definition of the current role that the private sector has related to their participation in the planning, promotion and development of the destination
  • No direct involvement of society in the planning, promotion or development of the destination (their views are expressed through political representatives….or at least that is how is supposed to be…..)

These are just some of the topics that have been raising questions from all spheres (political, social and private) in the past few years, and have recently been gaining lots of attention from important media and other organizations across the State. People have been asking me about my thoughts in this matter for the past 2 months, since tourism has become quite a topic nowadays in Baja California. I must say that I currently do not have the answers to all their questions…but I will…. very soon.

Tourism has never been as important for Baja as it is today. I hope me research provides effective solutions for the Governance Problems present in Baja California, and make all spheres more conscious about what is happening, why is happening and what can be done to prevent the same mistakes to be repeated in the future.


This post was written by TDM student: Jesus Cazares Juarez