Clustering in tourism
The concept of creating co-operation links is popular mostly in high-tech sectors, where the most valuable capital is knowledge and co-operation between business and science. But the same synergy effect can be arrived at also in more traditional sectors, such as tourism. Clustering may prove a new and prospective direction of development for this sector.
Tourism is becoming an increasingly important sector for many economies worldwide. It owes its dynamic development to the growing demand for tourist products and services. But this development is accompanied by a growth of awareness, needs and expectations of the sector’s clients. In other words, the modern tourist is becoming a very demanding client, which is confirmed not only by service providers (travel agents, organizers of recreational events, owners of hotels, motels and guest houses), but also by the authorities of cities for which tourism is the main source of income. “In the 1970s and 80s, tourists spent their vacation lying on beaches or sightseeing in the neighbourhood. Today, they need diversity, adrenaline and high standard services available on the spot” ― sys Kazimierz Kożuchowski, the mayor of the town of Augustów. In consequence, the notions of “tourism” and “tourist” have acquired new meaning, and now cover a whole range of different forms and behaviour, from classical guided tours (qualified tourism) through active recreation (sports tourism), health and business tourism, to trips to the Earth’s most remote and most difficult corners (extreme tourism, geotourism). Each of the many types of tourism attracts clients with different likes and needs. For example, some of them don’t leave their accommodation facility for days, enjoying its luxury, while others don’t want to waste their time in the hotel room and seek unusual challenges instead. Satisfying all these expectations and needs requires tourism organizers to act toward reconciling two contradictory concepts: specialization and versatility, which is impossible. Well, almost. In certain circumstances combining even the most unrelated tourist products and services is doable, but is connected with giving up actions aimed at close co-operation with other, often competitive entities. Clusters are the best form of such co-operation.
The concept of clustering is becoming increasingly popular in tourism, which is evidenced by the constantly growing number of co-operative links joining together different entities involved both directly and indirectly in offering tourist products and services. Although today the traditional clusters are less often associated with geographical proximity of entities creating such links (technological progress, easy communication, digitalization of the world allow remote, online co-operation), these aspects remain decisive in creating and developing co-operation links. In tourism, the starting point for cooperation between numerous entities in order to join their potential, use the effects of synergy and scale, is big attractiveness of a given area, measured by the number of natural attractions, i.e. resulting from human activity (landscape, climate, land features, natural monuments, etc.), as well as anthropogenic attractions (architecture, folklore, cuisine, accommodation base, style of life of the local community, etc.). Accumulation of this type of attractions in one area translates into the creation and development of tourist regions. It is in such regions where entities providing tourist services can and should create co-operation links. The natural potential (attractiveness) of a region constitutes a foundation on which to build a cluster, but its functioning and development require also other elements in the form of infrastructure, service providers and suppliers, business environment, as well as public institutions, which, as in no other sector of the economy, can become involved in the activities of a cluster by participating in its costs and benefits. The following description best illustrates the potential members of a tourism-sector cluster and the relationships between them.
Tourism is the best-suited sector for an efficient use of the potential of clusters. The nature of a tourist product – comprised of cultural and environmental attractiveness of a place, its brand, hotel services and access to qualified guides – help entrepreneurs act together. Common action can result in enhancing tourists’ enjoyment of staying in a given area by offering them a comprehensive tourist offer. A cluster usually has a complex infrastructure in the form of different service providers, thanks to which it is possible to satisfy clients’ needs, decrease the costs of marketing activities and legal services, etc. The effectiveness and range of advertising is much smaller in the case of individual entrepreneurs than in the case of a network of co-operating organizations. It is also much easier to obtain big funds acting in a large group. It also worth mentioning that tourism is the best sector in which to implement the idea of the triple helix, i.e. triggering relationships, flow of information and common actions by three major actors: enterprises, scientific institutions and administration. The local self-government administration of those regions for which tourism is an important, often strategic area of development, will certainly be eager to become involved in this type of initiatives, seeing them as an opportunity to build or enhance their tourist brands. “In the region of Lubelszczyzna there are many places that have been created out of passion and thanks to the creativity of the local people, but few people know they exist” – says Krzysztof Hetman, the Marshall of the Lubleskie Voivodeship. “Take me, for example. By pure accident I once discovered that there is a place called the Museum of Unusual Bikes in Gołąb near the town of Nałęczów. It’s an incredible place, the only museum of this kind in Poland and Europe where you can ride e.g. a galloping bike. Places like that are often unknown to the local people, let alone tourists visiting a region. Micro-entrepreneurs don’t advertise their products and services for lack of sufficient funds. But operating within a cluster they are able to organize a joint information campaign and create an offer or a website featuring information about all places worth visiting.