Planning and Tourism: How do they go hand-in-hand?

With tourism alone accounting for a whopping 7.2% of the UK’s GDP and 10% of all jobs, keeping the industry thriving and maintaining steady growth is absolutely vital to the health of the nation’s economy.

If asked to consider the sectors that contribute to the UK’s tourism industry, you’d be forgiven for forgetting about planning. But tourism and town planning truly do form an impactful alliance.

According to the Good Practice Guide on Planning for Tourism, the planning system can:

  • Facilitate and promote good quality development that can result in a thriving tourism industry.
  • Maximise the social, environmental and economic benefits of tourism.
  • Ensure that the greatest benefits are achieved in the most sustainable manner possible.

Although this Guide is no longer in official use, these points very much still stand. But how can the planning industry achieve these results? Though local planning authorities contribute to successful tourism in a plethora of ways, here are just a few key areas they oversee:

Monitoring Trends and Adapting to Changes

Firstly, local planning authorities can help areas adapt to emerging trends by allowing carefully considered development. For example, in an area where tourism is steadily increasing, it will likely be necessary to evaluate the implications of this on traffic flow and transport systems.

It may also be important to identify where provision of tourist accommodation should be spread into neighbouring towns to diffuse pressures on a resort. Increased tourism requires consideration of how out of town developments will impact the local community.

Alternatively, in areas saturated with one type of development (hotels or guesthouses, for example), planning authorities can guide business owners in adapting new and existing facilities to suit the changing, data-driven needs of the community and tourism industry.

Environmental and Historical Impacts

Local planning authorities should thoroughly evaluate the environmental impacts of tourist developments in an area, assessing how these can be best tackled to maximise benefits for current and future generations.

The protection of valuable assets and areas of interest like national parks, listed buildings, conservation areas and heritage sites is vital, too, and retaining their unique charm and historical value is key to driving in further economy-boosting tourism.


Transport is also a key consideration in planning, and local planning authorities can help identify the best locations for new tourist developments that are easily accessible and sustainable, keeping in mind that what falls into the bracket of ‘sustainable’ varies from area to area.

For example, many larger towns should be accessible via public transport services. On the other hand, more rural areas only accessible by car may still be deemed sustainable, if increased tourism will reduce out-commuting by creating more local job opportunities.

In summary, the planning industry is a key player in maintaining the UK’s booming tourism industry, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic which may see needs and demands shifting like never before. By assessing how new developments fit into the current and future picture, local planning authorities can strive for the perfect balance of economic, environmental and social benefits that last.


Related Content

If you have a site which can accommodate camping/caravans or other forms of recreational activity, get in touch with your local Council or a planning consultant to find out more about permitted development rights open to you.  And take a look at our blog about them: Staycations: Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

However, if you want a more permanent tourism development or use, take a look at our Practical Guide on Assessing Need and Demand for Tourism which will assist you in demonstrating that your proposed development would deliver a sustainable business and would be capable of satisfying both need and demand in the tourism market place.  This type of assessment is very useful when you’re trying to make your case that a tourism facility should be approved planning permission.

Tourism can be a complex planning topic, if you need assistance CONTACT US for a no obligation chat about your project.

Tourism and town planning