Partnerships have been a central feature of the tourism public policy landscape in advanced capitalist countries for some time. The intuitively appealing argument is that, by sharing expertise and decision making, commitment to the local tourism project is ensured. By participating in partnership working, small firms – which are almost universally characteristic of the sector – are said to contribute to the form and competitiveness of the tourism offer. Drawing on a variety of sources, this paper argues that in most cases such assertions are misplaced because 'partnerships' organized by the public sector are often predicated on an inadequate conceptualization of small firms in tourism, fail to appreciate the importance and complexity of informal economic relations, and usually ignore the particular power relations at play in local tourism policy formation and change.
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