TOURISM INNOVATIONS AND COMPETITIVENESS IN TIMES OF CRISIS
In the current economic crisis, nations try to identify those sectors that can best elp them find the path back to growth. Spain hopes that tourism will play this role. The problem is that the industry has been losing competitiveness over the last few years as a result of the structural problems arising from mass, low-cost tourism. Innovation seems to be the only way out of this morass and of improving competitiveness and leading the country out of recession.
This paper looks at the relationship between innovation and competitiveness by identifying the nature and degree of innovation applied by Spanish firms in the tourism sector. This fieldwork found ten dimensions of innovation. Analysis of these revealed that Spanish companies tend to see innovation in a reactive way (cost-cutting, staff cuts, greater management and process control) rather than in an active fashion (creating products, re-engineering the business model, internationalisation).
Thus the study makes both academic and practical contributions. On the one hand, the empirical work allows in the management field of the various tourism sub-sectors relating innovation with competitiveness — in which the former is vital for the latter (Larios, 1999; Porter, 1990). On the other hand, given the difficulties for companies in general and tourism firms in particular in articulating an innovation policy, the findings yield innovation models that could be applied to other Spanish and European companies.