Citys glass brand. What do we know about innovativeness in the tourism industry?
When surfing the vast spaces of the Internet searching for information on territorial marketing one can find many interesting phrases like ‘city’s glass brand’ in an article titled ‘Glass Heritage Centre to make a city more attractive for EURO2012!’ (‘Centrum Dziedzictwa Szkła ma uatrakcyjnić miasto przed EURO 2012!’). One has to admit that the phrase is intriguing. What lies behind it? A unique product of the Podkarpackie Voivodeship, so called ‘glass trail’, which inspired the IT and Management University in Rzeszów, the Krosno Municipality and owners of glasshouses to create a ‘Glass Valley’ cluster, which was formalised by signing a cluster agreement in 2011. How are this tourism cluster’s activities innovative? The answer is as follows: by creating a successful marketing strategy basing on a unique tourism product.
It was known for many years that it is the glass work that makes Krosno famous all over the world. Currently, this ‘glass identity’ has become an inspiration to create a Glass Heritage Centre in Krosno. The centre is to be a new, unique in Poland and the whole Europe, tourism product which combines many urban spaces into a one thematic ‘glass trail’. The tourists that walk along it will get a chance to learn the history of the glass industry in Podkarpackie region and to see exhibits from the collection of the Podkarpacie Museum. Moreover, at a nearby studio, the tourists will be able to see spectacular performances of glasswork masters blowing glass. The studio will also host decoration classes, glass photography classes, competitions and other events for the tourists to enjoy in their spare time. Basements of the Krosno market square will be a place for an exhibition of artistic glass, which collects works by artists from all over the World, while the Regional Centre for Borderland Cultures will present world trends in designing glass. We asked dr Tomasz Soliński, the main initiator of the ‘Glass Valley’ cluster’s creation, about the benefits coming from such undertaking: ‘the ‘Glass Valley’ Cluster is aimed to introduce innovative solutions in the glass industry, on one hand, and on the other, to promote the region’s touristic attractiveness. A common initiative can surely bring many benefits to everybody, i.e. entrepreneurs, citizens, self-governments.’
The Krosno initiative surely does not complete the list of perfectly functioning tourism clusters in Eastern Poland. When learning more about them, one will see that their activeness is surprising and captivating through their innovativeness in using natural resources of the region. We can proudly say: finally! Basing on the rich medical potential of health resorts, the touristic attractiveness of resort communes and the research potential of universities in three voivodeships, an Innovative Health and Tourism Cluster ‘Resorts – Gems of Eastern Poland’ was created and financed under the Operational Programme Development of Eastern Poland. The project assumes development of co-operation between its participants acting in the health and resort tourism industry, and including other interested entities. Currently, the cluster includes self-government from seven resort communes from the area of Podkarpackie, Świętokrzyskie and Lubuskie voivodeships, as well as resort – enterprises, sanatoriums and rehabilitation centres. Co-operation also includes universities and business support institutions, totalling to thirty-two entities. The main purpose of the cluster’s activities is to develop healthcare services and health resort tourism. This is supported by: introducing innovative solutions in enterprises, market research and co-operation with research laboratories at universities. Eco-tourism and culture tourism, promotion of health and ecological food are to develop around the health resort tourism, and all that by using a rich cultural heritage of these regions. The cluster’s competitiveness is to increase the implementation of innovative solutions and products at health resort enterprises, create coherent, trans-regional tourism products, and to use the constant monitoring of the health resort tourism market, in order to perfect the offer of the cluster’s entities. While promoting its touristic products, the cluster does not abandon creation of its brand. Because it gathers several dozens of various health tourism resorts, the common brand allows for a more successful promotion and incredibly bonds the idea of a cluster with co-operation and a ‘healthy’ competition.
Wandering through Eastern Poland, we find another interesting example in the form of development of mountain tourism by the Bieszczady Cross-Border Tourism Cluster. A co-operation network that works in this area, connects entities from the Polish Bieszczady poviat, Ukrainian regions of Starosabmorsk and Turczyn that are interested in development of tourism. In towns of Jałowe-Bandrów, Dźwiniacz, Czarna and Lutowiska – on the Polish side, and Stary Sambor and Turka – on the Ukrainian side, there is an interesting initiative that promotes the region and the local services, and is named ‘dispersed hotel’.
Looking at the cluster’s offer, one can see that it was prepared basing on conditioning of a specific space: the advantages of the Ustrzyki Dolne commune include national and landscape parks, together with hiking trails and ski lifts situated near agro-tourism facilities run by persons engaged in the cluster’s activities. Reservoirs and beaches are the advantages of Lutowiska and Czarna communes. The Bieszczady Cross-Border Tourism Cluster includes hotels, B&Bs as well as agro-tourism households. Low level of industrialisation and urbanisation of this region, as well as the protected cultural and environmental heritage are conducive for development of agro-tourism. -households have more attractive price ranges as compared to large hotels that do not act within the cluster. Their placement gives easy access to hiking routes and allows for relaxation in peaceful surroundings. The Bieszczady Cross-Border Tourism Cluster was created under a project titled: ‘Polish-Ukrainian tourism development strategy as a necessary element of common undertakings’ which was financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Neighbourhood Programme INTERREG IIIA/Tacis CBC Poland - Belarus - Ukraine.
In order to compare various ways of using unique products in order to attract tourists, we look at the other side of Poland – the Zachodniopomorski Voivodeship and clusters that are there. The victor’s palm in terms of innovativeness of the touristic product offered, goes to an association named ‘Cross-Border Cluster Tourism Water Trail Berlin-Szczecin-Baltic’ that was created in June 2008 as a result of a transformation in an informal Partners Group, which was engaged in implementation of a programme titled ‘Tourism – a Common Issue’ a year before.
The area covered by the cluster’s activity sees development of both water and land tourism. The cluster promotes water and bicycle routes that are in its areas, together with legally protected areas (Wolin National Park, and Landscape Parks). The opening of the border in the end of 2007 effected in an easier access to borderland areas, sea and river waters, which resulted in an increased activeness of the cluster, as well as development of new ideas for touristic cross-border co-operation. In this area, on Polish and German sides there are 105 marinas and ports in total. This region also has the largest number and size of water areas in Europe. Through that area sea and river yachts, both with sails and with motors sail towards the Baltic Sea. For all of these units coming from Berlin and the Brandenburg it is the only, and the shortest water connection with the sea.
Representatives of the Cross-Border Cluster Tourism Water Trail Berlin-Szczecin-Baltic are achieving success. In a competition of ‘The National Leader of Innovation’ that took place in 2008 in Szczecin, they were awarded a title of an ‘Innovative organisation’. The jury appreciated both innovativeness of the main touristic product of the Water Trail Berlin-Szczecin-Baltic (promotion of tourism along the trail as the main tourist offer of the Pomerania Euroregion, organising sports and recreation events), and the activity of the Cross-Border Cluster Tourism Water Trail Berlin-Szczecin-Baltic. In November 2010 the cluster won another award in a form of a title of ‘the Regional Leader of Innovation and Development – 2010’ in a National Competition ‘National Leaders of Innovation and Development’
Currently the members of the cluster are engaged in a project of promoting the region, entitled ‘Międzyodrze – the labyrinths of the Lower Odra Valley’, that is on the ‘Water Trail Berlin-Szczecin-Baltic’. The project won awards in competitions like EDEN 2010 and Friendly Shore 2011. Particular encouragement for further activities comes from the Status of a European Touristic Destination awarded in the ‘EDEN’10 – water tourism’. Dr inż. Zbigniew Zbroja, the chairman of the Cross-Border Cluster Tourism Water Trail Berlin-Szczecin-Baltic speaks about its meaning and character: „Wecould initiate the project thanks to connections we created within the cluster. The meetings in Szczecin Business Club, the information flow, the opening of the border, they all give us a chance to create a new brand of a cross-border region.”
The tourism cluster could not fully function without the scientific research which significantly stimulates its innovativeness. The role of R&D bodies is usually mentioned in the context of industrial clusters, which does not mean that the scientific circles do not engage in activities of tourism clusters, which is shown by the before mentioned Innovative Cluster Health and Tourism ‘Resorts – Gems of Eastern Poland’.
Dr Tomasz Soliński, the director of the Cluster’s Office, the chairman of the Association of the Innovative Cluster Health and Tourism ‘Resorts – Gems of Eastern Poland’ and the initiator of creation of the ‘Glass Valley’ cluster talks about the important role of universities and their circles in functioning of a cluster.: “Universities connected with the cluster, i.e. IT and Management University in Rzeszów – the co-ordinator, and the Management and Administration University in Zamość – one of the entities, significantly support the cluster’s development through participation of experts in scientific research, which allow for assessment of entities that create it, or in diagnostic analyses. On their basis a cluster development strategy was prepared, which considers not only directions for development, but also cluster’s potential products. Scientists from the universities actively participate in conferences, open scientific seminars on clustering and development of healthcare and resort tourism, as well as workshops for cluster participants and entities interested in the idea of clustering. The universities work closely with resort enterprises under students training, and thanks to this co-operation over a hundred students of Public Healthcare, and Tourism and recreation could train within their chosen majors. Universities have increasingly developed research infrastructure equipped with modern equipment, which allows for researching cosmetics produced in resorts, as well as waters used in resort healthcare.”
Scientific research on technologies is also a stimulus. “Universities provide an incredibly important resource, which is a rich intellectual and technical supply, as well as an innovative way of market activity, together with ‘neutrality, which is very important for development of a cluster” – says dr Tomasz Soliński. He adds: “We think that the basis for creating a modern model of an innovative and successfully competing resort lies with access to knowledge which is a result of research: scientific ones, conducted in laboratories, as well as marketing ones allowing for creation of a marketing concept of managing a resort enterprise and a resort commune. In this area we see close co-operation with cluster’s entities. Currently it is the Centre for Socio-Economic Research and Analyses of Clustering that conducts research for cluster entities. The research results and recommendations are to increase competitiveness of entities through improving the product offer for the needs of clients (patients, tourists). A cluster is also a perfect forum for developing various problems connected with resort tourism because it sees participation from directors of territorial self-government, entrepreneurs from the resort and tourism industry, as well as representatives of universities and entities from the business support industry. The cluster’s self-government makes all entities able to get involved in conducted activities.”
Creation of a complex tourism is a difficult task and requires a common recipient, as well as adjusting the activities to his needs. “Despite wide diversification, enterprises in the cluster are connected by one thing – from the tourist’s point of view they create a chain of values. Comparing this process to activities of Italian clothing clusters, one can see that tourist attractions ‘provide’ the material, hotels and restaurants create a proper cut of clothes, guides, tourist information, or sports equipment rentals sew particular parts, and culture and entertainment sites provide fashionable accessories. Travel agents substitute a network of malls and retailers, while carriers deal with supplies, but not supplying the product for the client, but the client for the product. The tag is the name of a region or a city, of course.” – says dr Piotr Zmyślony from the Faculty of Tourism at the International Economy Department at the Poznań University of Economics.
„The city’s glass brand’, ‘Pomerania water trail’, ‘Resorts – Gems of Eastern Poland’ – these and many other phrases and brands connected with territorial marketing could not exist in the minds of tourists if not for the co-operation of the cluster’s participants. Their success also lies with restless work of caretakers and animators – persons like dr Tomasz Solińskior dr inż. Zbigniew Zbroja. Will there be any worthy followers? While wishing for the best in our tourism, we can only cross our fingers.
Information acquired under the activity of ‘Polish clusters and cluster policy’ implemented under a PAED system project: „Human resources development through promotion of knowledge, transfer and dissemination of innovation’ co-financed by the European Union under the European Social Fund.