A Conceptual and Dynamic Approach to Innovation in Tourism

Topics: Innovation, Tourism, Joseph Schumpeter Pages: 6 (1488 words) Published: March 29, 2012
A CONCEPTUAL AND DYNAMIC APPROACH TO INNOVATION IN TOURISM by Xavier Decelle Maître de Conférences, Institut de Recherches et d’Etudes Supérieures du Tourisme (Irest) Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France


The importance of innovation was long underestimated in service activities. In contrast to the radical innovations vital to growth in manufacturing sectors, innovations in services and tourism were secondary and capital-scarce, and for this reason they were excluded from the scope of government interest and action. It is interesting to note that the discourse changed with the emergence of new information and communication technologies (NICT), which have been especially influential in the realm of tourism. The dissemination of new modes of production and the resulting organisational shock waves, along with the marketing adjustments this has entailed, have been the subject of much research. Yet the issues involved in innovation in tourism are not confined to the information revolution, and many other questions remain.


This contribution presents a portion of a report (2002-2003) to the National Tourism Board on Tourisme et innovation : bilan et perspectives (“Tourism and Innovation: Assessment and Outlook”). Our method has been to:

• Examine statements made during interviews with tourism industry leaders in the light of recent findings of theoretical work on innovation in services.

• Assume a context of complexity: tourism products are composite goods.

• Take an approach that is comparative (on the industry level) and multidisciplinary (on the academic level).

• Take a systemic approach: tourism’s territorial grounding and government intervention are core considerations.

• Avoid common-sense pitfalls: avoid such “myths” as the innate unproductiveness of service activities, inability to innovate (“Can one imagine a hotel-restaurant performing research?”), low capital-intensity, inability to generate substantial productivity gains and the low quality of jobs offered by the tourism industry.

Defining innovation

Innovation can be defined in a multiplicity of ways. The leading theoretician of innovation, Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950), already had a broad vision of the concept, encompassing new

© OECD, 2004 1
products, new production processes, new markets, new raw materials and new forms of organisation. For Schumpeter, the common thread between all these changes is that they involve “carrying out new combinations” which are qualitatively important and introduced by dynamic business leaders, or “entrepreneurs”. The definition generally accepted today does not necessarily entail a major change linked to a particular individual.

Today, it is necessary to take account of the uncertain (risky) nature of the process, and of the need for innovation to lead to the creation of value that in the final analysis is judged by consumers.

“…a process of creating new value … geared first towards customers, as the main arbiters of business competitiveness, but one that can also involve other stakeholders as major beneficiaries, such as the organisation itself (employees), shareholders (profitability), external partners, etc.”1

Newness does not necessarily suggest creation ex nihilo

Innovation differs from creativity. Creativity refers to the production of new ideas, new approaches and inventions, whereas innovation corresponds to the application of new and creative ideas and the implementation of inventions. From this it follows that people and organisations may be creators without being innovators.

Innovation represents the sum total of a joint, social process (and not the result), at the culmination of which an invention is either used or not used. Inventions must be appropriated by user-adopters, which explains why the time lag is sometimes long between invention and innovation. It may involve only marginal changes....
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