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Innovation typology in tourism

personalization can only be considered an innovation if it has relevance in the market, i.e. either for the organization that generates the innovation, for other organizations or for users.

Nevertheless, Sundbo (2007) suggests that if a new behaviour or a new product is reproduced, it can already be considered as an innovation. He points out that the small changes that emerge from a better adaptation to several customers can create profit and growth. Consequently, several small changes can be the factor that enhances development in an organization. Sundbo introduces a change scale, in order to explain different degrees of innovativeness. At one extreme of the scale are small changes, which represent the individual and general instances of learning. At the other extreme are large changes, mainly large incremental innovations and radical innovations. In between, small incremental innovations are localized. This scale is not only helpful to study innovations that emerge from the interaction between provider and customer, it is also useful to analyse innovation processes in other areas of the organization.

The relation between changes in competences and knowledge within organizations and changes in the environment has been studied by Hjalager (2002) through the application of the Abernathy and Clark model to the tourism sector. Four categories are included in this approach. First, in regular innovations both competences and linkages are conserved. In this category, innovation is thus based on incremental changes. Second, niche innovations create new structures, but conserve competences and knowledge. Third, revolutionary innovations emerge when competences and knowledge are enhanced without changing the external structures. Finally, a fourth category of architectural innovations describes changes overall in structures and competences. These four innovation types can be applied at organizational as well as at destination level. Hjalager indicates that, although the Abernathy and Clark model is useful to understand the characteristics of determined innovations, it does not describe how innovations change from one category to another. In this matter, Hall and Williams (2008) also point out that the approach does not explain possible shifts between categories. Nonetheless, it contributes to the topic of degree of innovativeness, since it takes into consideration the combination of several changes in internal and external factors.

Regarding the service sector, innovation usually emerges from incremental changes rather than radical shifts on the current technology (Gallouj 2002, OECD 2005). In this matter, Sundbo (2007) also emphasizes that general instances of learning and small incremental innovations are more frequent than radical changes in services. In spite of few empirical confirmations, incremental innovations have been also recognized as the most frequent in the tourism sector (Sundbo et al. 2007, Hall and Williams 2008). This is partly due to the fact that most innovations in tourism emerge from the interaction between providers and customers or from collective instances of learning within organizations rather than from R&D departments. Besides, many innovations in the tourism sector are acquired from other sectors, which implies that, in order to adapt this innovation, further incremental changes might be necessary.

Several characteristics of the tourism product such as the intangibility of services influence the types of innovation and the degree of innovativeness in the sector. In the next section, these characteristics are studied in detail.


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