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Innovation typology in tourism

4. The Determinants of Innovation in the Tourism Sector

Considering an approach that emphasizes the similitudes rather than the differences between the tourism sector and other sectors, this chapter aims to apply the topics introduced in the former chapters in order to identify the innovation determinants in the tourism sector. Although some adaptations to tourism have been already made in former chapters, it appears necessary to analyse also the specificities of the sector in order to suggest the appropriate determinants. Therefore, a first section in this chapter is dedicated to the characteristics of the tourism sector. Next, in a second section the different actors that form the sector are analyzed in detail. Finally, the framework provided in former chapters together with the characteristics indicated in this chapter are combined in order to develop of a series of innovation determinants at organizational as well as the macro level.

4.1. Characteristics of the Tourism Sector

The specificities of the tourism sector influence innovation performance. The conditions of the tourism industry are not always the most appropriate to enhance innovation. Therefore, low innovation levels have been usually attributed to tourism firms. However, the potential for a higher innovation activity has been also identified (Hjalager 2002, Sundbo et al. 2007). Besides, it has been stated that the tourism industry is characterized by high levels of competitiveness thus obligating organizations to innovate in order to stay competitive (Hall and Williams 2008). Consequently, it is necessary to analyse in detail the characteristics of the sector that create innovation disadvantages as well as those that enhance innovation.

Competition between organizations in the tourism sector is very high. One reason is that innovations in tourism are difficult to protect from imitation. Given the nature of the tourism product, information about successful innovations inevitably reaches competitors. Therefore, organizations in the tourism sector are challenged to innovate constantly in order to gain competitive advantage. Consequently, it can be stated that competition enhances innovation in tourism.

Both competition and collaboration between organizations in a destination are necessary to innovate. There is a certain degree of competition between organizations in the same destination, but at the same time organizations cooperate in order to gain advantage at destination level. This characterizes the tourism sector as well as other industries, in which the spatial factor influences innovative activity. Hence, organizations have to work together if they want to success in the market.

While collaboration between organizations is a factor of competitive advantage for destinations, cooperation between destinations can also enhance innovation. Destinations are not isolated. They offer their products in the market. Although each destination has its specificities, knowledge and innovation can be shared between them.


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