Although tourism is increasingly viewed as an important issue for governments, analysis of the politics of tourism policy is less developed than in other areas of leisure policy. This article attempts to link developments in British tourism policy to wider policy contexts. The historic development of tourism policy from private interest group formation, through government subsidy to statutory status reflects patterns evident elsewhere in leisure. Similarly, the subsequent shift from pluralism through welfarism to economic realism in leisure is clearly reflected in the changing role of the national tourist boards in the last 25 years. Although private interest groups in tourism have benefited considerably from government intervention in the past, it seems that government has become progressively less inclined to treat tourism as a special case in recent years. It is argued that application of theoretical perspectives developed in the field of leisure policy can help to illuminate the processes driving the development of tourism policy as well.