Tourism in small island developing states (SIDS) has long been defined in terms of dependency. However, less attention has been paid to the role of the state in SIDS, particularly the extent to which it supports tourism as an agent of development. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to consider the governance of tourism development in SIDS, specifically the extent to which the state may promote or hinder tourism-related development. Drawing on research in Zanzibar, it reveals the ways in which poor governance has acted as a barrier to development through tourism, concluding that the state has an unwillingness to support tourism. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.