14 November 2012

Collaboration and communication between national government and industry is the key to facilitating tourism innovation, according to a study by The University of Queensland.

School of Tourism PhD graduate Dr Xiang Ying Mei said while a country’s national government may prioritise tourism innovation, its success depends on many factors including the involvement of all key players.

“In past studies, much attention has been given to the innovativeness of firms in the private sector, yet the ability of destinations as a whole to be innovative is crucial - certain development cannot be achieved by the private sector alone,” she said.

The study examined Norway’s tourism policy as it is one of few countries where the government has focused on innovation to develop its tourism industry.

Dr Mei said while Norway offers many funding and support schemes for tourism innovation, their effectiveness was questioned due to the national government’s insufficient knowledge of what was needed in the tourism industry.

“Communication and collaboration within the government itself is critical for successful tourism innovation, but the most important forms of networks and collaboration are public and private collaboration, and collaboration among industry operators which should be encouraged and financially supported by the national government,” Dr Mei said.

“In addition, new forms of networks and collaboration with other industries are also important for tourism innovation."

Dr Mei said although innovation is clearly emphasised in the key tourism development policies, the lack of standard guidelines and frameworks may be an inhibiting factor.

“Since innovation is dependent on the drive from the operators themselves, the national government can contribute to this by providing and fostering the environment and framework for the private sector to innovate."

Dr Mei’s thesis, titled The role of the national government in facilitating innovation within the tourism industry: A case from Norway includes an extensive list of recommendations for government.

Some of the recommendations include: the national government should initiate meetings with the private sector in order to discuss and identify a set of standard tools to identify the various degrees of tourism innovation; the government must obtain sufficient knowledge about the tourism industry in order to effectively provide the proper framework and facilitating schemes to foster tourism innovation; and the connection between tourism innovation and sustainability is a challenge that national government should recognise.

Dr Mei chose her home country of Norway as a basis for the case study as she believes the Norwegian tourism industry is relatively under-researched.

“I was interested in gaining more knowledge of Norwegian tourism in general, and also wanted to contribute to existing knowledge that will benefit the tourism industry on a national level,” she said.

“Although this study has focused on Norway, I believe the findings are useful to other countries that have a similar structure of government and similar stage of tourism development.”