An Open Innovation system works like a platform where innovation seekers (operators, tourism boards, governments, consultants, etc.) look for new ideas on how to tackle their challenges by connecting with innovation solvers (trade professionals, consultants, designers, and experts in various fields) through open challenges where the problem is precisely formulated so as to help solvers envision possible solutions and submit proposals, which are then to be assessed and rewarded as long as they help in solving the problem effectively.

The Open Innovation platform should be structured in many areas of innovation, according to the nature of the needed expertise. Five areas of innovation are envisioned:

  • Technological solutions (mainly IT-related to streamline operations)
  • Technological solutions for environmental challenges
  • Product development
  • Marketing designs, contents and merchandise
  • Business model innovation, marketing and competitiveness (strategy and operations)
  • Strategy innovation to tackle environmental and social issues

Every innovation area should have its pool of contributors, who receive updates about the new challenges where they are invited to participate. There are three categories of challenges:

  • Private challenges posted by private companies
  • Public challenges posted by governments or public institutions, including marketing contests
  • Public challenges for mission purposes, posted by non-profit organizations, related to cooperation programs or for mission-driven destinations

The difference between private and public challenges is mainly the publicity of the challenge, which in the case of private challenges is more likely to be directed exclusively to a short list of innovators without revealing the name of the innovation seeker, thus keeping maximum confidentiality. Conversely, public challenges are open to the whole platform, without the need to keep the identity of the innovation seeker confidential. The main operation system for professional contributions should be challenge-driven innovation, as previously explained in section 2.

The public challenges for mission purposes should be non-rewarded and tackle issues such as cooperation with destinations in developing countries, those recovering from natural disasters, social and environmental issues, etc. which should showcase how contribution to the greater good is one of the most powerful motivators in innovation, drawing attention of a large pool of creative talent compared to other challenges. Such a strategy is not only to support the mission-driven challenges, but also to raise awareness throughout the industry about the potential of mission-driven tourism, as the Open Innovation system leverages more intelligence for this type of purpose than for any other, hence providing mission-driven destinations with a great competitive advantage, and compensating many of the constraints.

Furthermore, there could be an “Ideation bank” to collect solvers’ initiatives on identified problems or opportunities which have not yet been presented as a challenge, as they are not among the top priorities for seekers or there is no budget to award solutions at that moment. This “Ideation bank” should give room to creative initiatives and work as a social media platform where solvers may pay for enhanced advertising of their ideas and participants may vote for their favorite ideas. The posted ideas should comply with a series of parameters, requiring detailed and structured explanation of the idea, to filter the mass participation. The “Ideation bank” would not only foster innovation, but also promote new talents in the industry.

This article is from the White Paper “Envisioning Open Innovation in Destinations”, available for download in

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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