The term cluster is used nowadays in many different fields, always to refer to a group of elements that have something in common or do something together. It may be either used to define a large area with many attractions which all together make a competitive destination, or to define an area within a destination with clearly differentiated characteristics compared to the other destination areas. The term cluster may be used as well for conceptual grouping not related to territory, in the fields of marketing and some others.

There may be established an almost endless number of cluster categories in the field of tourism, according to many different criteria, but only a few are considered relevant enough, also to illustrate the different realities in terms of cluster development for destinations.

First of all, depending on the cluster’s resources, regardless of the aforementioned distinctions, there may be three types of clusters:

  • Natural heritage: clusters based on distinguished natural resources for sporting activities or sightseeing such as mountains, marshland areas, etc.
  • Cultural heritage: clusters based on unique or differentiated tangible –monuments- or intangible –traditions, gastronomy- cultural heritage.
  • New developments: clusters based on newly built facilities which attract tourism flows by themselves, such as Theme Parks, Casinos, Museums, Golf, etc.

Second, when referring to clusters that are to define areas with different characteristics within a local destination, there may be:

  • Urban clusters: those differentiated areas within city tourism destinations, either by the architecture style, atmosphere, natural resources like parks, cultural resources such as temples, palaces, museums, etc. Some well-known examples could be Paris with distinct districts and areas such as Montmartre, La Defense, Champs Elysees, Bois de Boulogne, Quartier Latin, etc. where outer connected clusters such as Versailles and Disneyland Paris could also be considered.
  • Mono-product destination clusters: some destinations focused in one main product offer however different areas with distinct atmospheres, based on natural or urban landscape, a different amount of tourism flows, different prices, and even different characteristics directly related with the tourism product. This could be the case of a Theme Park, a Ski resort with ski areas in many valleys or mountains, or National Parks with several areas with different types of landscape and even different animal species to be watched.

Third, when referring to clusters as areas grouping several attractions which all together make a competitive destination, there are also some types of clusters:

  • Touring clusters: these are groups of resources –usually natural or cultural heritage- which are to be discovered by following an itinerary that makes a touring experience. Some of these resources taken individually are not likely to attract many visitors, but as a part of a route they all gain a substantial amount of tourism flows and become a competitive destination. These may be of similar characteristics or quite different. Examples are the Loire Castles cluster in France, the “Norway in a nutshell” route, or the Rhin Castles cluster in Germany.
  • Agglomeration clusters: closely related with the dimension competitive advantage, some destinations become competitive due to the concentration of many attractions of the same kind within a limited area. This usually refers to new development attractions, but may also apply to natural or cultural resources. Such is the case of Theme Park clusters, Golf clusters, Ski clusters, Diving clusters, hiking clusters, etc. Many special interest tourists like to have the chance of experiencing many sites for the same activity during the same holiday period.
  • Multi-product clusters: unlike the agglomeration ones, some clusters base their competitiveness on the variety of products available, attracting those visitors who are interested in living different types of experiences. Some famous cases may be the Hawaii Islands, which are outstanding destination for sun & beach, Congresses & Conventions, but also for Nature tourism –National Parks with active volcanos- and surfing; Eastern Andalucia –in the South of Spain- boasts some of the most popular Sun & beach destinations, plenty of Golf courses, along with hiking & skiing in Sierra Nevada and cultural tourism in Granada.

Do you think of other tourism cluster categories?

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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