One of the key strategies to develop in any Tourism Development Plan consists of structuring the territory in different areas according to the kinds of activities to be carried out in each one. The clustering strategy is essential for the tourism development regardless of the dimension of the territory: clusters exist within countries, regions and even towns.

A cluster may be defined as a concentration of interconnected businesses and institutions in a limited geographical area. In most cases, such businesses and institutions belong to the same sector; but, as we will see in some case studies, sometimes there are new business sectors that flourish in a cluster to take advantage of assets related to other sectors in the cluster.

It may also be defined as an area characterised by a set of distinctive tourism assets which all together create a unique value system capable of attracting tourists and competing with other destinations. Many industry players settle down in the same location to cooperate in the search for synergies that improve their competitiveness:

  • Need for specific infrastructures to be leveraged by many industry players
  • Need for collaboration between industry players to create economies of scale and scope
  • Cooperation in joint marketing

Clusters also arise because they help businesses increase their productivity by sharing many strategic resources, diminishing trading costs between suppliers and clients, and fostering innovation thanks to proximity of a sector’s stakeholders. In the case of tourism destinations, clusters are the result of a concentration of operators exploiting a cultural or natural resource, or a concentration of operators developing artificial and complementary attractions.

Clusters are areas that can be considered as being internally homogeneous with specific traits that differentiate them from others. The goal of the clustering strategy is to structure the location of all tourism activities in accordance with the types of experiences and feelings they offer or the characteristics of the physical environment, and also to define a clear identity for every cluster and communicate it clearly to the visitors.

As Michael Porter says “Clusters are not unique, they are extremely typical –and therein lies the paradox: the enduring competitive advantages in a global economy lie increasingly in local settings which distant rivals cannot compensate. In a cluster, interconnected companies, firms in related industries and associated institutions both compete and cooperate”.

The term cluster may apply to many different destination dimensions: at a national, regional or local level. We may use clusters to distinguish several geographical areas within a country, each of which is specialized in a different type of experience, but also within each of these clusters there may be –and usually there are- sub-clusters according to smaller geographical areas with specific characteristics that are different from the rest, so long as these characteristics are relevant to be leveraged for a distinct tourism experience. At the lower scale, we distinguish clusters within local destinations, so long as these comprehend different areas providing unique or clearly differentiated atmospheres, resources and experiences.

Do you think of other reasons to explain the creation of clusters?

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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