As Porter says, “the function of a cluster is to create a forum for a growth oriented dialogue between key regional stakeholders”. However, as explained by The Cluster Competitiveness Group, “Clusters typically do not develop as a group of firms which join to pursue a common purpose or goal. Clusters exist, they have their own development and dynamic which can be influenced by private and public activities, but it is very difficult to purposefully construct them”. In the tourism industry, however, the dynamics are sometimes different than in other industries, due to its several particularities.

In this regard, the most typical origins of tourism cluster development are:

Local demand: a spatial concentration of competing businesses facilitates the customers purchasing decision making, allowing them to compare easily between several suppliers. In the case of tourism this happens very often for the shopping clusters. Local demand may also apply to different cases where the cluster is mainly developed by one operator, such as the Theme Parks in the outskirts of large metropolitan areas.

Related industries or related clusters: either for taking advantage of the customer flows or for leveraging specific resources, some industries develop in the same location where others are already developed due to the potential synergies between them, which eventually become a key competitive advantage. Such is the case of the Wellness cluster in the Tirol area (Austria), taking advantage of the ski tourists in the most competitive ski cluster in Europe. Other cases are the development of Golf clusters in Sun & beach destinations with little or no local demand for Golf, such as Spain and Portugal; or the development of Theme Parks in mature destinations.

Exploitation of new special interest demand: regardless of the geographical origin of the demand, the reasons for traveling have been increasing also due to new market segments related to interest in specific cultural or natural resources, for instance. The practice of sports related to natural resources such as mountains or underwater natural heritage has boosted the development of tourism in many places where there were neither related industries nor substantial local demand for these activities. The same applies to cultural tourism related to archeological sites and other types of cultural heritage.

When defining the limits of a cluster, we may consider two different criteria:

  • Cluster boundaries are defined by the linkages and complementarities across industries and institutions which are important in market competition.
  • Cluster boundaries are determined by the physical characteristics of the territory, regardless of its exploitation for tourism development.

The first corresponds to generic business cluster boundary definition, whereas the second is more closely related to tourism clusters. However, as explained in upcoming sections of this Whitepaper, some tourism clusters may correspond rather to the first boundary definition.

Do you think of other criteria to define the limits of a tourism cluster?

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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