Tag: Sustainability

Collaborative business modelsCollaborative cultureEnvironmental sustainabilitySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Voluntourism, beyond responsible tourism

Responsible tourism, Voluntourism, Sustainable tourism…are different concepts with a common idea: the tourism activity in which the visitor brings positive impacts to the destination, either to alleviate poverty, to help in the development of the local economy, rebuilding areas affected by natural catastrophe, etc.

With regards to the kind of people interested in these types of tourism activities, they are not all moved by the same motivations and goals. The visitor travels either passively (holiday trip + sightseeing), actively (holiday trip + volunteering) or as a volunteer (volunteering trip).

Nowadays, Latin America and Asia are the continents offering most of these programs. There are both outbound and incoming travel agencies specialized in this type of tourism, and some tour operators have developed business units based on responsible tourism, whereas in Africa volunteering holiday programs are more popular than responsible tourism programs.

Also in Eastern Europe some countries are discovering in this type of tourism a new source of revenue for its poorest regions. Other Western countries such as the USA, Germany, France, Spain or Italy have also included strategies for the development of volunteering tourism products in their tourism development plans.

These type of holiday programs let the visitor truly discover the local culture, staying in local homes or accommodation facilities managed by locals, visiting the destination and cooperating in different social projects. Some examples may be:

  • Helping in building homes for refugees or in the poorest areas of the destination
  • Working as a teacher in primary schools or supporting in sport camps for children
  • Cooperating with an NGO dealing with the victims of a natural catastrophe
  • Participating in an ecotourism program where to work in the preservation of the environment

Some portals like Xmigrations.com work as a search engine for activities and accommodation where you may find nature, sport and spiritual activities in places where you can work in exchange for a free stay.

http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/turismo-solidario-y-volunturismo/

Business trendsEnvironmental sustainabilityInnovationIntelligenceIntelligence methods

Smart destinations

What is a SMART destination? These may be defined in many ways. They are destinations that think and advance strategically, improving competitiveness and searching positioning through effectiveness. Becoming a SMART is no more than a strategy to enhance the destination value by leveraging both the cultural and natural heritage, developing innovative resources, improving the efficiency in the production processes and the distribution, which finally propels the sustainable development. This transformation generates positive effects in all sub-sectors such as energy, health services, security, culture, etc. thanks to the cross-destination impact of the tourism activity.

The key concepts that set SMART destinations apart from conventional ones are accessibility, innovation, technology and sustainability. Among these concepts, new technologies are the ones which are more likely to be perceived by the tourist, namely mobile applications, augmented reality and everything related to data smart management.

There are 4 key concepts upon which Smart destinations are developed:

-Technology/Big Data
-Innovation
-Sustainability: social, economic, cultural and environmental
-Accessibility

The development of the SMART concept in destinations consists mainly in working to attain a higher profitability in the daily exploitation of the resources. This is to be achieved by engaging both the local community and the tourists in order to enhance interaction between them. There are already some examples of Smart destinations, such as El Hierro island in the Canary Archipelago. Some of its main achievements are the energetic self-sufficiency and the pollution reduction, which have been achieved through actions such as:

  • Waste converted into energy
  • Environment camouflage of telecom and energy facilities and equipment (solar panels, antenna, etc.) within the landscape.
  • Reduction of the visual impact in the buildings and facilities construction, by using local volcanic stone instead of bricks.
  • It has gained awareness and branding by sharing and marketing its experiences in the social networks.

Other actions carried out in SMART destinations encompass:

  • Mobile Applications
  • Tourism Intelligence System, including data transportation and information Smart management, which altogether turn the destination into a SMART destination.
  • Smart office; a common working place where to unify processes which produces a work synergy and allows sense and common methodology guidelines in the transformation towards an intelligent city.
  • Beaches with free wifi

It is important to mention Singapore Smart City, which is on the way to become the first SMART nation worldwide. The country is working on its Master Plan for the next 10 years, which will be focused on the development of smart communities propelled by integration and innovation.

This blogpost is based on http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/smart-destinations/

Environmental sustainabilityMarketing 3.0SustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Sustainable management of tourism destinations: challenges, goals and advantages

Since the concept of Sustainable development became popular in the mid 80’s with the celebration of the UN World Commission for the environment and development (Bruntland, Our Common Future, 1987) where this concept is defined for the first time: “The development responding to the needs of the present without compromising the development needs and satisfaction of the future generations”.

When applying this concept to the tourism industry, the concept of Sustainable tourism development is also born: “Development considering the economic, social and environmental impacts when satisfying the needs of the visitors, the local communities and the environment” (UNWTO).

Balancing the three dimensions. Therefore, a tourism development supported by an adequate balance of these three dimensions guarantees the destination’s sustainability in the long term, in a way that the destination operators have to:

1) Optimize the use of the environmental resources, a fundamental asset for the tourism development, keeping the essential eco-friendly processes and helping to preserve the natural resources and the biodiversity.

2) Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of the local communities, preserving their cultural assets and their traditional values, contributing to the social equality and the cross-cultural understanding.

3) Ensure that the economic activities are viable in the long term, delivering profits to all stakeholders proportionally, creating opportunities for stable employment for the local communities to obtain income and social services, thus contributing to reduce poverty.

The principles of sustainable tourism may turn into a series of management practices, which are applicable to all kinds of tourism businesses. The purpose of these principles is to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the benefits of the tourism activity in the socio-cultural, business and natural environment. Nowadays there are an increasing number of Governments and DMOs that adopt the sustainability principles within their management practices.

It is possible to say that sustainable tourism is a new fashion thanks to the new kind of traveler, who is better informed, and more linked to the destination’s social and cultural reality, so long as he or she is more exigent with the overall experience and looks for authenticity through the connection with locals. To satisfy the expectations of this new tourist demand, destinations face many new challenges and goals.

Goals for a sustainable management. On one hand, destinations have to adopt interdisciplinary and integrative approaches, including four main goals:

  1. Prove a sustainable management. Through actions such as the crisis and emergency management or the policies to counter the climate change.
  2. Maximize social and economic profits for the local community and minimize negative impacts, through supporting local entrepreneurs and public participation.
  3. Maximize profits for the local communities, visitors and cultural heritage, while minimizing the negative impacts, by preserving the tourist sites and managing the visitors’ behavior.
  4. Maximize the profits for the environment and minimize the negative impacts, by protecting the fragile environments and controlling the emission of toxic gases.

Challenges for sustainable tourism. On the other hand, in accordance with the destination’s sustainable management, the destination executives face new challenges:

  1. Reduce demand seasonality
  2. Tackle the impact of the tourism transport.
  3. Improve the quality of the tourism sector employments.
  4. Keep and improve the local communities’ prosperity and life quality.
  5. Minimize the use of resources and the production of waste.
  6. Preserve and leverage the value of natural and cultural heritage.

All these challenges can be overcome by using tourism as a tool for sustainable development through coordination between the public and private stakeholders.

To sum up, the 17 goals projected by the UN World Tourism Organization in its report “Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals” are the following:

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health & well being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equality
  6. Clean water & sanitation
  7. Affordable & Clean energy
  8. Decent work & Economic growth
  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals

This blogpost is from  http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/gestion-sostenible-de-destinos-turisticos/

Business trendsEnvironmental sustainabilityStrategySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Tourism business trends for 2017: Social responsibility is profitable

The UN Global Compact was born as an international Project created in 1999 whose mission was to initiate a global movement to create awareness among the sustainable businesses about the impacts created by their activities, so as to mitigate their negative consequences.

The key points of the initiative are developed upon some clearly defined goals:

  • Doing business responsibly, aligning strategies to the ten universally accepted principles to promote CSR in the areas of environment, labor rules, corruption prosecution, and human rights.
  • Make strategic decisions to develop UN Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing on innovation and collaboration.

There are more than 13.000 supporting organizations in more than 145 countries, being the largest business social responsibility voluntary initiative worldwide.

One of the usual questions is whether CSR is profitable or not. According to the World Business Council for the Sustainable Development (WBCSD) there are five sources of profitability within SCR:

1. Operational efficiency: reducing waste, selling recyclable products, etc.
2. Risk reduction: taking care of the environment, developing anti-corruption practices, etc.
3. Human resources recruitment and retention: increasing productivity by attracting honest, committed and participative talents, and reducing their turnover.
4. Long term protection of raw materials’ sources: development of suppliers and improvement of the price and payment conditions.
5.  Demand growth: customer attraction and loyalty, and compliance with the large buyers’ requirements.

Far from considering Social Responsibility as a fashion trend or a mere philanthropic action, it is considered as a series of practices applied by firms, and that are part of their corporate strategy, as their goal is to minimize the business impacts and aims to create internal benefits for all the stakeholders.

Socially responsible businesses generate profits by improving their reputation. According to Adela Cortina –Director of the ETNOR Foundation about business ethics-, “social responsibility should be assumed as a management tool, a measure of prudence and an exigence of fairness”. However, there are not clear rules and universal criteria on how to apply Social Responsibility within the Corporate Strategy, letting its development be up to the business owner criteria.

Some of the tourism companies which adhere to the UN Global Compact for Responsible tourism are:

  • Ilunion Hotels.
  • Segittur – Turismo e Innovación.
  • Viajes El Corte Inglés.
  • The Ostelea School of Tourism and Hospitality

This blogpost is from   http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/tendencias-de-las-empresas-turisticas-en-el-2017-aplicar-la-responsabilidad-social-es-rentable/

Environmental sustainabilityStrategySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Key strategies to address Barcelona’s tourism challenges

Historic overview. Barcelona is a case study where many of the mentioned strategies have been used. Till 1992, when the Olympic Games were celebrated, the city was a second tier destination within the European circuits. Despite having held two International Exhibitions, it had lost most of its appeal as a destination. However, the city carried out an extensive renovation to be prepared for the Olympics, and this resulted in relaunching many depressed clusters by leveraging their potential, as well as creating some brand new clusters.

Till then Barcelona had lived with its back facing the sea, and many parts of the old town were depressed and abandoned to the lowest class social sectors, also suffering from safety issues. So the greatest renovation was both in the waterfront and the depressed areas of the Old town. Further, directly related with the Olympics, a new district was built to host the Olympic Villa, where there was also the Olympic Port; and in the Montjuic area there was rebuilt the old Olympic Stadium keeping the original facade, and many other sport facilities were created.

The city regained its waterfront as one of the most attractive areas, creating two clusters for entertainment and many kilometers of beaches with a maritime promenade between the two clusters. Further, the Old town was equipped with culture entertainment facilities and many open spaces were created to attract both locals and visitors. The renovation consisted also of fostering the refurbishment of the old buildings with subsidies and building new residential buildings. This renovation drew the interest of the locals as an attractive location for housing.

As a result, these once-depressed areas started attracting new businesses such as shops, cafes, restaurants and accommodation facilities. Within a few years, they cleaned their image to a shining one like the most attractive areas of the town. All in all, the city leveraged all its potential charm and attractiveness namely based upon resources that were abandoned and through the vision of the city planning developers. From then on, the city started marketing itself as a new venue for international events, thanks to the regained reputation for the good organization of the Olympic Games, and as a tourism destination for city breaks among others.

Further on, Barcelona kept on targeting new market segments, leveraging and marketing under exploited heritage and also developing new clusters. In that sense, it took the leading position as a Cruise destination in the Mediterranean, which used to be Genoa. A few years after, the city’s tourism board started promoting the architectural heritage from Antoni Gaudi, as an attraction unique to Barcelona. At the same time, a new cluster was being created, also in the waterfront, to hold the International Forum of Cultures –a new kind of International Exhibition-, where a new residential area was built, along with Congress & Convention facilities and an iconic building which was later on to the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Over the last years two more clusters have been developed. First, the extension of the International Exhibition facilities in L’Hospitalet –Barcelona’s neighbor town- to host large international exhibitions and congresses such as the Mobile World Congress; and second, the last cluster to be developed –in this case, extended- was that of Sagrada Família Temple –the city’s top attraction- with the opening of St. Pau Hospital as a cultural center boasting the largest modernist enclosure in the city, within a five minute walk from the Temple.

New challenges. Despite being one of the top European urban destinations in terms of tourism revenue, the tourism development has raised the residents’ protests on the tourists’ behavior, the proliferation of tourist apartments which overload certain areas with too many visitors, the effect of these tourist apartments on the real estate prices, and the dominance of tourists in many public spaces. Further, there has been a growth of low budget travelers, whose expenditure is barely profitable for the city. At the same time, the raise of the Airbnb model has spread the tourism use of the residential areas. All these issues have invited the residents and the City Council to a reflection on what is the adequate Tourism model.

While the debate is still in process, this is a very good case to exemplify how the aforementioned strategies may solve some of the challenges typical of mature destinations. First are explained the clusters diagnosis and the corresponding cluster based solutions for each one, and finally the cross-destination programs to tackle the aforementioned challenges. In this case, only four clusters concentrate the suggested renovation.

Montjuic Mountain: “The Garden of Barcelona”. This is where the main Olympic facilities where built, nowadays used for sporting and cultural events. Despite the Montjuic Castle and two art museums, the area is quite underexploited, and is clearly a second tier cluster, with no must see attractions. However there is a large space where attractive attractions could be developed to make most of the tourists spend at least half a day of their stay in this area:

  • Using the Montjuic Castle as a venue for cultural events, combined with a street food market area with small outdoor restaurants, open on high season weekends and summer weeks.
  • Creating a first-class “botanical themed garden” with plants and urban aesthetics representing different world areas (Mediterranean, Japan, etc.), colorful vegetation, etc.

Forum Port: “Innovative entertainment”.  This is one of the most underexploited areas of Barcelona, where the International Forum of Cultures was celebrated in 2004. At present there is one Convention center and the Natural Science Museum in the Forum’s iconic building. This could be a cluster characterized by imaginative entertainment experiences, combined with iconic buildings with futuristic architectural style. These could be:

  • Imax & 3D Cinema in a ball shaped building with mirroring facade in a central location within the Forum area, as one of the most iconic buildings.
  • Large Aquarium in iconic building boasting species from different world regions, and including restaurants inside or beside the tank and a hotel with room views to the tank and the sea.
  • Seaplane terminal in the Port, offering sightseeing flights all over Catalonia, and possibly to some seaside destinations within Catalonia or the Balearic Islands.
  • “Dancing Springs Show” in the central area of the Port, installing a stable platform underwater with programmable springs to perform a light & music & water show.
  • Celebrity chef restaurants along the waterfront terraces of the Port, with exclusive views to the “Dancing Springs Show” and other selected performances.

Old Harbor: “Mediterranean history & tradition”. This is one of the clusters with the highest potential, given its privileged location nearby the Old town, and the most touristy waterfront area. Although it is already a very exploited cluster, the mix of attractions is far from optimum, as it is offering only a standardized experience, without any character related to the destination identity, nor with distinct value proposition. The proposal is to create:

  • Mediterranean Village with stores, restaurants, hotels and night entertainment. It would reproduce the local fishermen villages’ style, providing a truly Mediterranean experience.
  • 3 caravel reproductions in real size representing the ones with which Columbus discovered America. One would be a boutique hotel, another one a restaurant and the other a museum.

Poblenou district: “The art district”. This is a district with many faces at present: the Olympic Villa near the waterfront, the old Poblenou town with its village’s charm, and the old industrial Poblenou, full of warehouses and old factories with an abandoned atmosphere. The idea is to transform all this semi-abandoned area into an art district, filling both the open and the indoor spaces with sculptures and various types of art pieces. This would entail creating a new cluster from scratch, although leveraging most of the existing infrastructure, but filling it with an innovative experience system.

The Art district concept is both an incubator for new artists and an art marketplace. It is a destination model 3.0 in its full extent: a platform where many service suppliers (artists) can participate under a series of stated rules to contribute in creating a memorable experience characterized by both harmony and variety. The artist portfolio would encompass many types of art: scenic arts, sculpture, painting, handcrafting with glass, ceramic, etc.

An approach on the strategic and operational functioning may be found in the Whitepaper “Envisioning destination models 3.0”, but the upcoming Whitepaper “Envisioning Art Villages 3.0” will explain in more detail how this has to work.

These cluster developments are to create a sum of tourism attractions that correspond to and strengthen the aforementioned cluster identity, such as that of a Theme Park, but with original and authentic experiences targeting all segments, that you would never find in any Theme Park.

Beyond these key cluster developments, it is necessary to encourage tourists to visit these new areas, which should not only be achieved through good marketing but also by creating a network of charming transport systems. In the case of Barcelona, it could be a network of Old tramways, like the ones that used to circulate in the city many decades ago. The network would be the minimum necessary to reach all of these clusters through the nicest streets and avenues of the city.

Furthermore, as stated in the theoretical introduction, these new clusters should host many of the new accommodation developments to contribute in spreading the tourism flows.

Further, the development of these clusters would solve some of the mentioned issues:

  • Increasing the tourism expenditure: through the creation of the new clusters both the average stay and the visit repetition would likely increase, and many of the clusters would be to attract high expenditure tourists, namely that of the Forum Port. Concentrating the development of new accommodation in top end hotels or boutique hotels would strongly contribute to attract such kinds of tourists.
  • Demand for new accommodation development: many of the new clusters –if not all- could contribute in hosting some of the new accommodation facilities, also offering innovative concepts like art boutique hotel in the art district, garden boutique hotel in Montjuic, Mediterranean village boutique hotel in the Old harbor, the aforementioned hotel in the Aquarium tank, and many others, namely near the Forum Port cluster.
  • Conviviality with residents in the night-time: some of these clusters –namely the Forum Port and the Old harbor- could concentrate the nightlife of the city from a certain time on, prohibiting the operation of discotheques and night clubs in residential areas, so as to deviate all the noisy tourists in the non-residential clusters during the night-time. To make that work, there should be good public transport availability until the closing of these clubs.

Other issues regarding the proliferation of tourist apartments, the need to share the benefits of tourism with the poorer layers of society, and the rise in Airbnb based offers and its effect on the increase of the real estate prices could be addressed through policies such as:

  • Limiting the offer of Airbnb rooms to 1 room per apartment, 1 apartment per owner and also depending on the offer of every district, being more constrained in the areas suffering from congestion issues and with more accommodation offer.
  • Creating a body to control the non-regulated accommodation offer, enforcing the previous regulations to prevent the issues that residents complain about.
  • Offering the current night clubs in the areas suffering from conviviality issues a priority treatment to settle in the new clusters where nightlife is to be relocated, before they have to close or reconvert their current business.
  • Implement a limited capacity system and advance online booking in the cultural facilities such as monuments or museums, to avoid congestion and queues, and to enforce visitors to plan their visits in advance.
  • Create a tourism tax to make the tourists and tourism business contribute to the public expenses related to tourism spaces and subsidized public services they take advantage of. This could also help, by diminishing the business profitability, to lower the upward pressure of the real estate prices.

Do you think of other strategies to address Barcelona’s tourism challenges?

Environmental sustainabilityStrategySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Typical challenges in mature destinations (II)

Lack of infrastructure renovation. Old destinations usually suffer from some kind of obsolescence at some point, not only regarding the transport or accommodation infrastructures, but also others such the buildings facades, the urban aesthetics, etc. All together, these elements may eventually give an image of decadence. However, this need for renovation may be regarded as an opportunity to develop each cluster’s identity, leveraging their uniqueness and their heritage to make them shine to the utmost.

Beyond usual competitiveness programs regarding accommodation facilities upgrade or quality labels certification, in line with the Re-clustering strategy suggested before in this section, some programs regarding the facades refurbishment and the development of unique urban aesthetics style for each cluster, using typical designs or elements that represent their identity.

Furthermore, beyond urban aesthetics renovation, an excellent way to change the atmosphere from decadence to lively and vibrant is to introduce elements of animation such as artists performing in the public spaces (painters, musicians, etc.) and imaginative illumination at night, in accordance with the type of atmosphere that is to be created.

Lack of new tourism businesses. A very different problem occurs when there is lack of private initiative to start up new businesses related to tourism. This may mean that the destination has no demand growth, but also that it is not capable of attracting new market segments or inspiring new experiences based on the current resources.

This challenge may be solved through either new cluster development or cluster reconversion, opening a new area with new resources to be exploited for tourism, which necessarily needs new business to operate, may inspire new experiences and attract new market segments. Complementing this move, there are two other possible programs to foster entrepreneurship. First, using one of the key concepts of Tourism 3.0, the development of an open innovation system is likely to bring in new business ideas and identify unsatisfied demands.

The second possible program is to create a tourism business incubator, facilitating entrepreneurs to start-up their business with a co-working space and business training at a subsidized cost for a certain period of time. Business incubators are to diminish the risk of business failure throughout the first months of the new business life. It is therefore a platform to encourage creative entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into the market.

Tourism expenditure & seasonality stagnation. Expenditure depends on many factors, such as the targeted segments, the geographical markets, the infrastructure and experiences attractiveness. Generating higher expenditure requires namely developing segments that target the wealthiest tourists: Luxury, MICE, Golf, Gambling, Special Interest, etc. with the adequate infrastructure and offering a charming and harmonic atmosphere leveraging the character of the destination, to attract investors, operators and, of course, the tourists.

Demand seasonality is another issue. It depends also on market segments and geographical markets, as some types of holidays or tourism related activities take place during the mid and low season. Also not all countries have their holiday at the same time, so there are many opportunities in this regard for marketing in new countries.

In both cases the idea of developing new or reconverted clusters to attract new market segments is more than appropriate, as it is also convenient to upgrade accommodation facilities and enhance the charm of the clusters to attract new businesses such as hotels, branded stores, prestigious restaurants and other entertainment infrastructures.

Poor branding, lost reputation, low brand awareness, etc. Marketing is always part of the problem and part of the solution. The cluster related solutions to brand challenges may be either the creation of new clusters, cluster reconversion or re-clustering the destination by developing each cluster identity and character. In this regard, providing a sense of variety to the visitor is strengthening the brand with more value.

Based upon these new developments, reconversions and re-clustering, it is important to define an identity for each cluster, where the experiences and the atmosphere feelings are reflecting this identity and character. So long as the most powerful marketing comes from the visitors’ opinions and recommendations, their experiences on site are the key brand developers.

Then, beyond the destination cluster development, a very effective marketing is –especially when there is a new cluster development- to organize a noteworthy international event that puts the destination in the spotlight of the outbound markets’ media and thus puts the destination brand at the target visitors’ top of mind.

What other challenges are usual in mature destinations?

Environmental sustainabilityStrategySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Typical challenges in mature destinations (I)

Conviviality between locals and tourists. The most tourist crowded areas are sometimes also residential, and so there are usually many issues related to difficult conviviality between the local residents and the visitors, such as nightlife noise, tourists’ inappropriate behavior, or just a certain invasion of the public spaces and facilities, which are designed for the residents’ use only.

This may be solved with the development of other clusters to spread the tourism flows, and more specifically by regulating nightlife schedules in a way that from a certain time on nightlife entertainment is only allowed in specific areas with no residents, fully dedicated to leisure and entertainment. Further these and other rules concerning the tourists’ behavior should be well communicated through the tourist establishments and agents, and also enforced by local policemen controlling the problematic areas.

Finally, it is essential to control the concentration of accommodation facilities in the most demanded areas, not only by limiting the licenses for hotels and hostels, but also by limiting the allowance of Airbnb offers to a minimum, like 1 room per apartment and 1 apartment by owner, avoiding the proliferation of tourist apartments in the residential buildings. In accordance with the new clusters’ development, the demand for accommodation should be directed to the new clusters, also to help them grow and create demand for their businesses.

Congestion issues in popular areas. Closely related to the previous point, congestion issues are not only affecting the resident’s life, but also the tourists’ experience. Solving the issue for the tourist entails spreading the tourist interest hot spots and constraining visitors’ flows according to carrying capacity and bottle necks’ capacity.

First, the cluster development strategy should create new attractions in clusters other than the most crowded, even changing the location of some attractions from the crowded areas to the new cluster, as long as it is possible. This may be the case of museums or other cultural entertainment facilities. This may be done either through new cluster development or through reconverting existing clusters. Also the new accommodation facilities should be concentrated in the new tourism clusters, both to give them life and discharge the most popular areas from some of the tourism flows.

This new cluster development or reconversion should be complemented with the creation of tourism itineraries encouraging visitors to discover the destination off the beaten track, and the creation of charming transportation systems to move visitors from one place to another, encouraging them somehow to visit the new tourism clusters.

Excessive dominance of tourism businesses in the residential areas. Some residential areas popular among tourists have seen an increase in the percentage of tourism related businesses over the commercial mix, up to an extent that they lack some of the services they used to have close to their homes and many traditional businesses have had to close.

Being more profitable, some tourism businesses take the premises traditionally dedicated to services or products for the residents, up to the point where they barely exist or are too scarce according to the residents demand. The tourism business profitability allows them to pay higher rents than many residents’ oriented businesses and therefore it’s hard for these ones to keep their location. Such kind of business cannibalism obviously goes against the residents’ interest and so it is likely to put those residents against the tourism development.

Many solutions may be implemented to tackle this issue. A special tax for the tourism businesses could be fixed, so as to diminish their profitability after taxes and eventually lower the premises rental prices. The revenues from these taxes should be invested in helping the affected businesses to reconvert or start-up in another location. Another solution, combined with this one, could be the creation of micro-clusters for tourism businesses, allowing them to settle down in certain areas, but preventing them to settle in other areas reserved for the residents’ oriented businesses.

What other challenges are usual in mature destinations?

StrategyStrategy planning & executionSustainability

Clustering strategy for mature destinations

Destinations operating since decades ago reach a stage of maturity sooner or later, in which they stop growing and lose the strength and vibrancy that made them grow. At this point, depending on the conditions of the environment and will of the local inhabitants, many destinations prefer to manage this situation without growing anymore, so long as they are not willing to receive more tourists or they don’t want to extend the destination’s urban area with accommodation facilities or second residences, and keep the destination as it is to preserve its original charm, and avoid the risk of spoiling it with tourism overflows.

Other destinations, however, due to the need or will for the tourism business growth, try to find other solutions to satisfy a higher demand trying not to spoil the charm that attracts the tourism flows. Further, these destinations face many challenges such as:

  • Congestion issues in the most popular areas
  • Difficult conviviality between locals and tourists
  • Excessive dominance of tourism related businesses in residential areas
  • Lack of infrastructure renovation, which may give an image of decadence
  • Tourism expenditure stagnation
  • Seasonality stagnation due to incapacity to overcome seasonal occupancy gaps
  • Poor branding, lost reputation, low brand awareness, lack of well-defined identity, etc.
  • Lack of new tourism businesses creation

These and many other issues may be resolved through adequate tourism development planning, in which a good cluster development strategy is to have a key role in overcoming them successfully.

Which other issues affect mature destinations?

StrategySustainability

Clustering benefits for sustainability

Cluster based destinations may also have many benefits for sustainability. First, adequate cluster development planning makes it also easier to prevent the tourist flows from overflowing the carrying capacity of the environmentally fragile areas, or having negative impacts on the residents’ lives. The cluster based development plans assess the carrying capacity of all areas to avoid congestion and protect the environmentally fragile points. Then, as long as possible, the Plans should locate the attractions in a way that spreads out the visitors’ flows within the cluster, through controlled itineraries where the flow dimension is monitored and may be constrained. So long as the flows are predictable, it is also easier for the transport and other service operators to offer the adequate services that the tourists need.

Regarding environment sustainability, so long as this is not homogeneous throughout the destination territory, dividing it into clusters is necessary as a part of the process of identification of the critical issues to be managed to ensure sustainability, as these issues are to be different in each destination cluster. Therefore, clustering is a key strategy to manage the destination’s sustainability.

Furthermore, the concentration of activities in specific areas fosters a more efficient development of infrastructures for accessibility (roads, railways, airports, etc.), reducing the negative impacts in the environment to the minimum possible. This also makes the tourism development more cost-efficient for the government, and in some cases, this cost-efficiency affects directly or indirectly the local operators and the visitors.

Cluster based destinations are also more likely to be targeted for research purposes and are easy to study, so long as  they are clearly defined areas. This facilitates gaining knowledge about the key issues that affect the destination’s sustainability. Further, as a part of the cluster infrastructure, it is quite likely that the cluster attracts educational centers, and these attract researchers at the same time, so a virtuous circle is developed in this regard.

Finally, so long as the resources are taken care of, and the activity concentration reinforces competitiveness, this also enhances the economic viability of the tourism development over the long term, ensuring the economic sustainability of the destination.

Do you think of other clustering benefits for sustainability?

StrategyStrategy planning & executionSustainabilityTourism trends

What is a cluster and why are they created?

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?