Tourism Management 31 (2010) 1–12
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Progress in Tourism Management
A review of innovation research in tourism
University of Southern Denmark, Niels Bohrsvej 9-10, DK-6700 Esbjerg, Denmark
Received 27 January 2009
Accepted 31 August 2009
Over the past two decades, there has been increasing focus on the topic of innovation in tourism. This article reviews the research contributions. Various categories of innovation – product, process, managerial, marketing and institutional – are addressed. Important determinants of innovation are acknowledged, including the role of entrepreneurship, technology push and the existence of territorial industry clusters. Representation of knowledge is also identiﬁed as a critical factor for both the occurrence and nature of innovations. The review reveals that there is still only limited systematic and comparable empirical evidence of the level of innovative activities and their impacts and wider implications for destinations and national economies. An agenda for future research is emerging, suggesting that there is quest for both formal quantiﬁcation and for qualitative studies of the foundations, processes, implications and policies of innovation in tourism.
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Throughout history, tourism has been a phenomenon characterized by immense innovativeness. Books and articles have drawn attention to particularly distinctive individuals and enterprises, and their achievements have been analysed and assessed from all
angles. Thomas Cook, for example, broke with the conventional thinking of his time and created – in congruence with the emerging rail infrastructure – a comprehensive concept that included the travel and entertainment ingredients for a completely new
segment of customers, together with an efﬁcient organisational framework that made it possible to provide the services at a price that people could afford (Brendon, 1991). Later examples of equally groundbreaking innovation are found within the Disney Corporation with its movie and media-synergized theme parks, appealing not only to a local audience but attracting a global interest (Weth, 2007). Ray Kroc at McDonald’s transformed the whole idea of the organisation of food provision (Love, 1986) to such an extent that the concepts developed served as inspiration for the whole catering sector and far beyond (Ritzer, 2008).
No matter how spectacular and inﬂuential these innovations, and numerous others like them, they have seldom been taken on board in traditional academic innovation research as built up in the wake of Joseph Schumpeter (1934). The classical innovation literature (reviewed excellently by Dosi, 1988 and contributors in Landau & Rosenberg, 1986) has, until recently, primarily been concerned
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with the manufacturing industries and patenting intensity. The emerging service economy in general, and the upcoming software boom of the 1980s in particular, changed the notion of innovation to include immaterial products, with the result that service industries were also gradually recognised for their measurable innovative potential (Miles, 2003; OECD & Eurostat, 2005).
It has been repeatedly claimed that rigid innovation research has been applied to tourism to only a limited extent and empirical tests of the phenomenon have been modest (Hjalager, 2002; Sundbo,
Orﬁla-Sintes, & Sørensen, 2007). It should also been noted that innovation has become a buzzword which in many cases is used without deeper reﬂection for anything that is moderately novel. It is true that...
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