On the road to destination innovation!
Innovation is now such a buzzword as to be almost a cliché. Organisations are restless for it. Brands want to be recognised for it. People say innovation when they really mean service enhancement. Genuine innovation is change that adds value, drives industry transformation and creates new value chains.
But what should our innovation expectations be at destination level, in a small tourism business environment? Incremental change is perhaps more likely an outcome than the transformational disruptive change associated with brands like Apple or airbnb. Innovation in tourism more often starts in the corporate environment, within large companies such as airlines and hotel groups, where the process of innovation is programmed into corporate planning and resource allocation. But in forward thinking destinations, it can also begin in a small business environment, despite the considerable challenges of time and resources.
By encouraging and facilitating co-opetition, creating a similar collective mandate that exists within a large corporation, we can increase the capacity to innovate at destination level. Small businesses and local tourism organisations become the destination equivalent of corporate departments, working together for the competitiveness of their sector and destination. Individual reluctance to share or work collaboratively can be overcome by providing a structured, facilitated process in which any business can be involved.
And that is exactly what the NCTA’s new Tourism Innovation Programme is designed to do. Professionally facilitated and launching this autumn in Bournemouth, TIP will help generate new ideas that could add real value to the visitor experience, supporting both business and destination performance and sharpening Bournemouth’s competitive edge. It will not only provide a platform for the latent entrepreneurism in the local visitor economy, but will also be a pivotal part of each participant’s professional development, bringing value back to the business.
How ready are England’s seaside towns for disruptive change? And how ready are they to look outside the tourism industry for emerging trends? (visitors don’t live in industry silos, so neither should we). While local context is important, innovative thinking should be universally applicable. The Tourism Innovation Programme aims to embed an innovative mindset at destination level. Harnessing such thinking in a destination’s emerging industry talent will make it more resilient, more progressive and more prepared to meet and exceed the consumer expectations of tomorrow.
By Alex Moss