In line with the origins of cluster development, the combination and cooperation of many resources and operators may result in many types of competitive advantages:

Resource uniqueness: many clusters feature a unique collection of natural or cultural resources. Cases of cultural resources could be the Egyptian Pyramid cluster along the Nile River, or the Maya Pyramid cluster in Yucatan Peninsula. Examples of unique clusters based on natural heritage could be Iceland with its unique combination of volcanos, glaciers and northern lights, or the Tanzanian cluster with Mount Kilimanjaro and the Masai mara safaris.

Experience innovation: some clusters have, beyond competitive natural or cultural resources, a special deed for innovating experiences. Such is the case of Queenstown in New Zealand’s Southern Island, the most innovative destination for adventure tourism activities, where bungee jumping was invented, among many other crazy experiences. Developing unique experiences without unique resources requires building a culture of innovation.

Operators’ cooperation: the good coordination and cooperation among the cluster operators may also be the source of competitive advantage. The case of the Trois Vallées ski area, the largest ski-lift connected ski area in Europe illustrates this type of advantage. This dominion has no unique resources like other areas in the Alps –namely Zermatt-, but the connection between the three valleys offers the best mobility efficiency for skiers who want to enjoy the whole ski dominion, allowing them to enjoy all the ski areas spending the least possible time.

Differentiated product experience: clusters featuring one main product may develop their competitive advantage by creating a unique signature experience, adding an extra value that other cluster rivals do not offer. This is the case, for instance, of the Austrian Tirol for ski holidays, offering a unique “après-ski experience” consisting with traditional Tirolean pubs with local atmosphere and also a world class network of Wellness & Spa facilities. The Ski Resorts’ accommodation facilities are all in old villages, which also give character to the experience.

Dimension: some clusters base their competitiveness in offering the largest amount of facilities or resources for a specific kind of tourism activity. Such is the case of the Golf Cluster in Costa del Sol as a Winter Golf destination in Europe. On the other side of the world, the Australian Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef on earth, a paradise for divers. Another example could be Macau, featuring the largest offer of Casinos in Asia.

Variety: many tourists are not only motivated for one type of activity but prefer to enjoy many different experiences during their holidays. Clusters offering a large number of different attractions appeal to an increasing number of tourists. Such is the case of the Costa Brava, offering not only attractive beaches, but also first class gastronomy, unique cultural heritage sites, a Golf cluster, a protected area for diving, Casinos, facilities for skydiving, Wellness, etc.

Price: for certain products, price is sometimes a decisive factor to gain competitiveness, especially in the case of the most standardized ones. As it happens with clusters in other industries, the competition of many operators may result in a price advantage for the tourist, though this is not usually the main reason. This could be the case of Tunisian coast cluster competing with European beach destinations, the Red Sea cluster for diving, etc.

Do you think of other cluster based competitive advantages?

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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