A Conversation with Donald E. Hawkins

dhawkins-croppedI had the pleasure to interview DONALD E. HAWKINS Professor Emeritus of Management and Tourism Studies at the George Washington University and Special Adviser to the UNWTO Secretary General for the Knowledge Network. We talk about successful Destination Management Organizations, how to build capacity and partnerships, market trends, and Don shares training tools and case studies from: Jordan, Qatar, Jamaica. We are very proud to have Seleni Matus, the new Executive Director at The International Institute of Tourism Studies, The George Washington University, as keynote speaker at the upcoming  PM4SD Summer School happening in Iceland 5-9 Oct 2016.

SB: Tourism remains one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in the world economy and a valuable source of job creation, but still many destinations, especially in least developed countries, can do more. Which are the main gaps that prevent destinations in benefiting from the visitor economy?

DH: The main gap is a lack of a multi-stakeholder destination management organization. The Destination Marketing Association International is developing tools to assist DMOs—Destination First and Destination Next. Contact DMAI at http://www.destinationmarketing.org/

SB: From your perspective can sustainable tourism being combined with big investment plans? Any example?

DH: Investment promotion and tourism marketing are interrelated. A good example is the USAID funded tourism project in Jordan. For details go to http://www.siyaha.org/

SB: Which are from your experience some of the most successful Destination Management Organizations and the key elements that make them a success story?

DH: There are hundreds of successful DMOs. The key to success is a combination of industry and government support. Those DMOs that gain accreditation are good examples. Key elements are listed in the DMAP Readiness Checklist which can be accessed at: http://www.destinationmarketing.org/sites/destinationmarketing.org/master/drupal/files/DMAP%20Readiness%20Checklist%20%282%29.pdf

SB: How governments together with academies, training organizations and trade associations should improve their vocational training and higher education system in the light of the new labor market trends in the industry?

DH: This takes cooperation between government education/labor agencies, the private sector and the educational system including high schools, vocational and training institutes, colleges and universities. A workforce development system is needed to (a) Provide the skills, knowledge and know-how required by personnel at all levels to deliver quality service to domestic and international visitors, (b) Lead to stronger economic growth, increased productivity, and expanded employment opportunities and to (c) Prepare new entrants to the workforce, bring new skills to the existing workforce, and support entrepreneurship.

For a comprehensive case on how this was done in Jordan, go to: https://www.gwu.edu/~iits/Qatar/References/JORDANHRCASESTUDYFINAL.pdf

SB: What are your recommendations to build capacity in a destination? 

DH: Use nine guides and tool kits that I edited and developed into an on line learning system for capacity building at the destination level. Go to: http://lms.rmportal.net/course/category.php?id=51




These nine online courses train students, practitioners, donor agency representatives, and others working in related fields to understand and develop tourism and its role in international development. All the course materials are public access (free), but your registration will allow you to actively participate in discussions of the material, and to take quizzes to check yourself for understanding at the end of each course


SB: If you had a wish regarding the tourism industry what would it be?

DH: Create linkages with other key economic sectors. For example, I have been advising the Minister of Tourism from Jamaica, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, on how Jamaica can develop a knowledge network as part of their Tourism Linkages Programme. The Ministry, through the Tourism Linkages Programme, has in recent times, demonstrated that there are strong synergies between tourism and other key sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and entertainment. Through the programme Jamaica has facilitated increased consumption of goods and services that are competitively sourced locally hence more jobs have been created, more Jamaicans are in the tourism value chain and more foreign exchange has been generated and retained.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has within its Affiliate Members Programme constructed networks which provide a forum of global partnerships to address important tourism focal points. Knowledge, Gastronomy and Shopping are three of the primary networks being led by the UNWTO Affiliate Members. Jamaica sees great merit in modelling elements of these networks given their currency and applicability to the Jamaican context.

The Ministry intends to expand the Linkages Programme through greater emphasis on experiential tourism focused on the following networks:

  • Gastronomy
    • Health & Wellness
    • Entertainment and Sports
    • Shopping
    • Knowledge

It is anticipated that the five networks will:

  • ensure that Jamaica improves its global competitiveness;
  • strategically target new tourism niches for which the country is naturally and culturally suited;
  • respond to the new demographics, new spending patterns and the driving passion points of the traveler;
  • combat seasonality by offering a diversity of events and activities throughout the year; and
  • make the visitor’s experience more experiential and



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