Smart clusters: How tourism destinations can organise for a better future

Smart clusters: How tourism destinations can organise for a better future

How can travel & tourism stakeholders work and play better together within destinations to ensure optimal outcomes? K Michael Haywood suggests clustering in this “Good Tourism” Insight. 

There is strong evidence linking positive business performance and outcomes with societal outcomes and life-affirming values.

Nevertheless, many tourism enterprises remain ignorant, baffled, or disinterested. 

Or perhaps their leaders feel that their organisations are too small, or they themselves are too busy managing the day-to-day operations, to make a difference. 

What are we collectively neglecting to do to help them?

Despite the efforts by many NGOs and industry associations to highlight and address the myriad of current crises, what remains half-hearted is an essential push to re-invent the tourism industry community-by-community, destination-by-destination.

Certainly turnkey solutions are lacking. But more troubling is the distant and disconnected leadership operating from positions at the top of traditional hierarchies rather than from within and among stakeholder groups. 

This might account for the lack of well-developed eco-systems for innovation within the travel & tourism industry, its various interdependent yet operationally independent sectors, and virtually all host communities or communities-as-destinations.

The practical potentialities of tourism industry clusters

Travel & tourism cannot afford to remain a highly fragmented industry.

Tourism’s practical potentialities (some identified in my previous post) can be brought to fruition by applying the cluster concept to tourism. When well-executed, industry clusters can bring different stakeholders together. And they can highlight the essential need for complementary relationships that bolster interdependencies and help us regain the ‘unity’ inherent in community.

In many communities-as-destinations, travel & tourism is perceived as a composite of ecosystems; rarely as a cluster. 

This might change if leaders took to heart the findings of the UNWTO report on City Tourism, and delved into OECD’s support for innovation in tourism. These remind us that travel & tourism clusters aren’t simply economic constructs to be judged on competitiveness, but on their aggregate contributions to the overall rejuvenation of the human spirit and social, cultural, economic, and natural capital.

By engaging in cluster development, communities-as-destinations can enhance their productive growth (while avoiding Ponzi schemes). Moreover, it is far more likely that they will coalesce around more magnanimous “synergistic” forms of value that embrace all aspects of human, economic, social, and cultural development.

Of course, most visitor-serving enterprises try to excel at providing “functional” and “convenience” value. However, by working collaboratively in a cluster, they can do more to ensure that every business, household, and citizen in a place can, in some way, becomes a provider of the emotional, social, and life-affirming value that travel & tourism can bring to communities and visitors.

This is an excerpt from an article by K Michael Haywood, originally published by the “Good Tourism” Blog. 

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