Marta Najda-Janoszka, Ph.D., Department of Management in Tourism, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, ul. S. Łojasiewicza 4, Krakow, Poland, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


According to the open innovaton model an effectve strategy for increasing innovaton and compettveness of the region should be based on actve and multlevel cooperaton among operators of the local tourism business environment. It is commonly assumed that an exceptonally important role in creatng a favorable environment for the cooperatve practces in the region is performed by local authorites. Yet, a modest number of research fndings presented in the literature indicate a rather high level of inerta of local authorites in creatng appropriate conditons for tourism business development, thus putng in queston the effectveness of performed intermediary functon in the process of knowledge transfer among tourist enterprises. Given the paucity of empirical evidence on effectveness of innovaton policy interventons at the regional level, this artcle presents the empirical fndings regarding cooperaton in innovaton between tourist enterprises and local insttutonal agents.

Keywords: tourism,  innovation,  cooperation,  institutional  environment,  local government.


Competton in a spatal dimension between geographical areas is a complex phenomenon, since regions and communites compete simultaneously on different levels for residents, investors, tourists, public funds (Dziemianowicz, 2008). Local insttutonal bodies responsible for providing favorable conditons for sustainable economic growth of a partcular community need to formulate and implement strategies enabling contnuous development of the community compettve potental and its effectve use while confrontng other locatons. Since tourism is commonly and ofcially recognized as one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world and a key driver for socio-economic progress, a growing number of local authorites turn towards tourism industry in their search for the most promising directon of economic growth. However, tourism business, although highly dynamic, is also characterized by an exceptonally intense compettve pressures. According to subject literature shaping and maintaining compettve advantages of tourism enterprises should be based on considerably high and stable innovaton rate (Bednarczyk, 2006; Hjalager, 2002; Sundbo, Orfla-Sintes and Sørensen, 2007; Weiermair, 2006). Yet, the observed level of innovaton in tourism is rather low and the fndings indicate a weak propensity of tourist enterprises to cooperate in innovaton with operators of local tourism business environment (Bednarczyk 2013; Camison and Monfort-Mir, 2012; Sundbo et al. 2007)

Since the research results presented in the literature confrm the existence of a direct correlaton between the cooperatve actvity of enterprises and their level of innovatveness (Trigo and Vence, 2012), there is a great need for an efcient intermediary agent to enhance the cooperatve capability and further the innovaton rate of tourist enterprises. An emerging literature on tourism management ascribes this intermediary functon to local insttutonal bodies conceptualized as integral co-producers of the value in the tourism innovaton process. However, as pointed by Hjalager (2010) “the literature on tourism innovaton policies is mainly conceptual or prescriptve, and there is stll only vague evidence of its effects and effectveness”. Thus, aiming at flling the cognitve gap, this artcle presents the empirical fndings regarding inefciencies in cooperaton in innovaton between tourist enterprises and local insttutonal agents.

Insttutonal support for innovatons in tourism

The role of the local governmental bodies is an emerging feld of study within tourism research (Hjalager, 2010, p. 8). The literature provides a growing number of concepts of the multdirectonal impact of insttutonal agents on the growth and innovaton of tourism sector. Authors indicate the signifcant potental of local governments by discussing the manifold functons of them raging from formal policy-making, collectng and redistributng funds, to actve promotng, developing favorable conditons for tourism growth, facilitatng and coordinatng collaboratve initatves concerning local sustainable development (Keller, 2006, Decelle, 2006, Weiermair, 2006, Bednarczyk, 2013; Najda-Janoszka, 2010). It becomes a widely applied approach to conceptualize local governments as integral and actvely involved co-producers of the value in the process of tourism innovaton (Bednarczyk, 2013; Hjalager, 2010, Weiermar, 2006). Nevertheless, according to research results presented in the literature innovaton behavior of tourist enterprises indicates a minor engagement of external actors in the innovaton process and very weak or even non-existent innovaton systems in tourism industry (Sundbo et al. 2007, p. 90-91). The high level of imitability of tourist innovatons due to their unsophistcated nature and difcultes with effectve protecton of created value leads to the proliferaton of free-rider behavior and thus rather compettve than cooperatve attudes in tourism sector (Najda-Janoszka, 2013a, 2013b; Sundbo et al., 2007; Hjalager, 2002; Nordin, 2003). At the same tme, it has been emphasized that in tourism successful development and implementaton of original product innovatons (new to the market) require effectve cooperaton with providers of complementary services (Keller, 2006, p. 38).

Highly specifc projects call for complex collaboratve structures that incur high transacton costs unaffordable for micro and small enterprises that dominate tourism industry (Keller, 2006, p. 38). According to Community Innovaton Survey 2010 the most severely experienced barriers hampering innovaton among tourist enterprises are the lack of funds for costly innovatve actvites together with the lack of qualifed personnel crucial for setng social bonds that enable networking. Hence, small tourist enterprises show limited capabilites to apply professional approach to generatng benefts from the networks (Sundbo et al., 2007, p. 101). Taking into account the nature of the tourism business characterized by exceptonal complementariness and interdependence (Camison and Monfort-Mir 2012) together with lack of capabilites to cooperate on one hand and a signifcant increase in the importance of cooperaton as the basis of economic growth on the other, there is a great need for stmulaton and support of cooperatve initatves in tourism destnatons in order to develop insttutonalized systems of tourism innovaton (Sundbo et al., 2007; Weiermair, 2006). Thus, many authors underline the need for actve role of insttutonal bodies in providing support for cooperatve initatves and not for individual frms or outright innovatons that ofen lead to rather rent-seeking behavior than more intense innovatve actvity (Weiermair, 2006; Keller, 2006; Decelle, 2006). According to Weiermair (2006) government’s supportve engagement should be exercised in a form of a facilitator or an incubator for generatng and developing complex, commondestnaton innovatve ideas further implemented by private sector, bearing in mind that the local authority does not create innovatons but provides favorable incentve system for developing innovatons (Keller, 2006, p. 17). Hence, local authorites should encourage tourist enterprises to innovate on the basis of cooperaton in networked structures consistng of public and private enttes (Weiermair, 2006). Reorientaton of local government in the strategy to build social and insttutonal networks should enable developing a friendly and atractve environment for companies, their establishment, development, and relocaton (Blakely and Leigh, 2009, p. 95).

The issue of insttutonal support for the development of tourism enterprises at the local level has been the subject of a research project carried out by the research team of the Department of Management in Tourism at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow in years 2008-2009** as part of a longitudinal study of compettveness of micro, small and medium sized tourist enterprises in Poland run by M. Bednarczyk since 2003. According to the concept of the research formulated by M. Bednarczyk (2011) the content of actvites performed by the local insttutonal bodies determines the three external leverages of compettveness of tourist enterprises defned as:

  • Interacton – concerning common, joint actons of tourist frms and local authorites focused on creatng favorable conditons for the development of tourism business in a partcular region.
  • Co-creaton – encompassing the engagement of tourist enterprises in developing and implementng the strategies of tourism growth in communites and the impact of informaton systems implemented by local authorites on the local conditons for tourism business development.
  • Collaboraton – reflectng the quality of the cooperaton among tourist enterprises, insttutonal bodies and local communites.

Defned levers were evaluated according to the level of the inerta exhibited by the local insttutonal bodies ranging from 0 (the lowest level) up to 4 (the highest level).

Table 1. The inerta of external leverages of compettveness
External leverage of compettvenessInerta
Interacton 3.08
Co-creaton 2.11
Collaboraton 2.62
Source: Najda-Janoszka (2010), p. 53.

The obtained overall picture reflected rather marginal utlizaton of the supportve potental of local authorites in developing a nourishing environment for tourism business growth. Almost half of the surveyed tourist enterprises (accommodaton and food services, travel agencies and tour operator services) indicated lack of any actvity assumed to be performed by the local governments. Hence, during the three-year period covered by the research there was no signifcant improvement in the indicated levels of inerta for defned external levers of compettveness (Najda-Janoszka, 2010). Due to the key role of local insttutonal bodies in the knowledge transfer process in tourism industry the consequences of such high inerta are expected to be pervasive concerning the tourist innovaton process.

Research methodology

The thorough investgaton of compettve potental of tourism business in Poland during the previous research projects (Bednarczyk, 2011, Bednarczyk, 2006) provided a conceptual ground for exploring innovaton process in tourism from the open innovaton perspectve, assuming that the synergy resultng from cooperaton of the key regional stakeholders at all stages of the innovaton process produces the added value within the regional tourism innovaton chain (Bednarczyk, 2013, p. 17). Hence, in years 2010 – 2013 the research team of Department of Management in Tourism at the Jagiellonian University led by Professor M. Bednarczyk conducted a complex study, aiming at developing conceptual and methodological foundatons for the integrated management of the innovatve value chain at the regional level (Bednarczyk, 2013, p. 17). The project was recommended and fnanced by the Ministry of Science and Higher Educaton in Poland (Project No. N 115 321 339).

The concept of the innovatve value chain of the regional tourism (IVCRT) developed by Bednarczyk (2013) provides a methodological basis enabling departure from the common practce of applying to the service sector models of the innovaton process not suitable to its specifcs since they were developed and dedicated to the manufacturing industries. The research model (Figure 1) has been formulated following the logic of the entrepreneurial view of tourism business and its internal (management) and external (environment, local and regional) sources of innovaton capacity (Bednarczyk, 2011, pp. 65-74).

Figure 1. Research model of managing the innovatve value chain of the regional tourism
Source: Bednarczyk (2013), p. 18

The core of the research model is the overlap of three dimensions, namely “the efcient management of tourist enterprises, the quality of the local business environment (insttutonal and social) and the local platorm for cooperaton in order to make the best use of emerging synergies” (Bednarczyk, 2013, p 19). Consequently, the stakeholders of the regional innovaton process were grouped into fve categories: micro, small and medium-sized tourist enterprises (MSMTEs), units of the economic selfgovernment, local government bodies, the customers of the tourism industry, residents of communites where tourism is an important element of economic life. Empirical studies were conducted in 2012 in the southern region of Poland (NUTS 1), selected on the basis of tourist atractveness index and the development status of regional innovaton strategies. The structured questonnaires were directed to all fve categories of stakeholders. In order to maintain contnuity of the long-term monitoring of the compettve potental of tourism enterprises carried out by the research team of Department of Management in Tourism run by M. Bednarczyk, the MSMTEs category included enterprises performing business actvites identfed in the HORECA. The formulated by M. Bednarczyk concept of IVCRT has been empirically verifed in the study sample consistng of (Bednarczyk, 2013, p 32):

  • 55 MSMTEs,
  • 275 units of local government,
  • 11 units of economic self-government,
  • 300 customers of tourist business,
  • 389 community residents.

The resultng frequencies were sufcient for carrying out an analysis and reasoning in line with methodological assumptons of the research project. According to the logic of developed research model nine critcal tasks of the IVCRT have been defned and further thoroughly verifed during empirical research. This paper presents and discusses the issues concerning cooperaton between tourist enterprises and local insttutonal bodies in the innovaton process. The content of this complex problem has been included in six out of nine critcal tasks of the IVCRT:

Area: External sources of innovaton capabilites defned by the local tourism business environment:

  • Ensuring efcient and effectve exchange of informaton used in the innovaton process between the local business environment and business tourism destnatons.
  • Preparing and providing access to creatve and skilled personnel capable of carrying out innovatve actvites.
  • Providing technological support to the info-space, in which the phases of the innovaton process are being carried out.
  • Providing fnancial support and access to sources of fnancial capital for actvites performed in subsequent phases of the innovaton process
  • Area: Synergy of external and internal sources of innovaton capacity:
  • The cooperaton between local tourist business environment and MSMTEs at all stages of the innovaton process.
  • Area: Efciency of IVCRT
  • Generatng added value through innovaton by individual stakeholders in the region.

Results and discussion

Most tourist enterprises, due to their reduced dimension, ofen face the challenge of reaching an optmum rate of innovaton being unable to provide a strategically necessary contnuity of innovatve actvity (Camison and Monfort-Mir ,2012). Resultng diseconomies of scale usually have a direct impact on the proftability of investments made at each phase of innovaton process, and therefore aff ect the propensity to engage resources to innovat ve ventures (Camison and Monfort-Mir, 2012). Thus, in majority of surveyed tourist enterprises, generat ng ideas for innovat ons is based more of en on informat on collected individually by part cular employees than through a more complex market research procedure and systemat c monitoring and analysis (see Figure 2). At this essent al moment of interact on between internal and external innovat on capacity tourist enterprises rely predominantly on internally accumulated knowledge acquired rather irregularly from customers, compet tors and suppliers (Najda-Janoszka, 2013a).

While a marginal interest in informat on provided by inst tut ons performing basic research has rather been expected, bearing in mind the specif c nature of value creat on process in tourism business, the fact that local community inst tut ons are considered of minor importance as sources of informat on for innovat on is somehow puzzling, given the proclaimed intermediary funct on of those inst tut ons in the knowledge transfer process within the tourism industry. Nevertheless, obtained results are consistent with the CIS 2010, in which local inst tut onal bodies belong to the least important sources of informat on for innovat ons introduced in tourism. The unsat sfactory (barely approaching the average level) evaluat on of the exist ng informat on exchange in the local tourism environment made by surveyed tourist enterprises (Batorski, 2013), directly corresponds with the arguments concerning possible penalt es result ng from the malfunct oning of the intermediary inst tut ons (Hjalager 2002, Camison and Monfort-Mir, 2012).

Figure 2. Important sources of informat on for innovatison

Since value creaton in tourism is to a large extent determined by spatal assets, the relatonal embeddedness in the local environment is regarded essental for the successful innovaton process. In the research sample the strongest and most stable business relatons link tourist frms with customers and suppliers, yet other agents on the local arena are evidently marginalized (Kopera, 2013). Almost every second respondent indicates weak or very weak relatons with local community insttutons (Kopera, 2013). The observed tendency to ignore the informatve and relatonal potental of local community bodies does not allow for an effectve improvement of provided content toward the needs of tourism innovaton. Moreover, an extensive, dense network of relatonships is commonly assumed to consttute a fertle ground for cooperatve initatves and ventures. The exhibited paucity of relatonship linkages with local insttutons suggests a weak dispositon toward cooperaton with those bodies. The following Figures 3 and 4 empirically test this suppositon.

The fndings presented in Figure 3 indicate a very litle level of involvement in cooperaton with tourist enterprises exhibited by local insttutonal bodies across all supportve actvites they perform (Kurleto, Chudzik and Marszałek, 2013). On the contrary the majority of surveyed frms declare a multple experience in cooperaton in the area of supply and promoton, which coincides with the above-mentoned distributon of maintained important business relatonships. In case of local community insttutons, neither of the listed lines of actons reaches the average level of cooperatve engagement, even those requiring collaboraton by defniton, i.e. facilitatng cooperaton among tourist businesses, fning business partners, developing new regional tourist products (Kurleto et al., 2013).

Figure 3. Cooperation with tourist enterprises

Consequently, the obtained results conf rm the conclusions formulated in the previous research project regarding a high level of inert a of local inst tut onal environment, wherein detailed f ndings provide an insight to the range and severity of that inert a from the innovat on process perspect ve. According to the surveyed tourist f rms the lack of funds for innovat ons and a high cost of innovat ve act vit es represent the most severely experienced barrier to innovat ons. Thus, the expectat ons directed towards inst tut onal bodies are mainly concerned with direct f nancial support. Looking at the opposite site, transferring f nancial capital to business sector is one of the key tasks performed by local authorit es, however those inst tut ons are to serve as economic development facilitators and not as donators. Therefore, taking into account the aims of both sides, it is surprising that the support ve act vity concerning providing knowledge and sharing best pract ces for raising funds to f nance development ventures does not trigger collaborat ve at tudes among business and inst tut onal ent t es. Undoubtedly, the ineff ect ve informat on exchange accompanied by weak and scarce relat ons linking tourist enterprises and local inst tut ons lead to a mismatch between the content of the supportive offer and the expectations of the potential recipients. In many cases tourist enterprises are not even aware of the variety of services and informat on they can benefit from.

The surveyed local inst tut ons declared rather weak involvement in collaborat ve ventures aiming at developing new local tourist products. Such approach is quite contrary to the postulated funct on of the local authority as facilitator and incubator for generat ng common-dest nat on innovat ve ideas. Thus, it is necessary to obtain an insight into the cooperat on in innovat on from the tourism business perspect ve. The f ndings presented in Figure 4 indicate that only a very t ny proport on of tourist enterprises cooperate with local inst tut onal bodies at all three stages of the innovat on process. According to the f ndings, a joint work of tourist f rms and local inst tut ons can be classif ed as an incidental phenomenon. What is more, the obtained results give evidence of a weak propensity towards collaborat on with all types of potent al partners (Najda-Janoszka, 2013a).

Figure 4. Cooperation in innovation

The “innovat on collaborat ve prof le” of invest gated tourism enterprises overlaps their network of established business relat onships together with the main channels of informat on exchange and the gained cooperat ve experience. Customers and suppliers of equipment and sof ware represent the most welcomed partners for joint innovat ve act vit es. Given that tourism is commonly recognized as a customer oriented service industry, it is not surprising that tourist enterprises prefer to cooperate with clients while generat ng ideas for innovat ons. A shif towards suppliers in the next two stages of the innovat on process can be just f ed by the fact that a great proport on of innovat ons introduced in tourism is supply-driven and in order to translate new ideas into f nal comprehensive solut on tourist f rms choose partners that provide the necessary specif c and complex components. Yet, innovat on in tourism is equally “an intrinsically territorial, localized phenomenon which is highly dependent on resources which are linked to specif c places and are impossible to reproduce elsewhere” (Camison and Monfort-Mir, 2012, p. 782). Therefore, the fact that local community inst tut ons remain at the margin of the innovat on act vity of the tourism business appears somehow paradoxical. Nevertheless, the lack of involvement in cooperat on in innovat on is exhibited by both sides, the business one and the inst tut onal one. According to the f ndings tourist f rms perceive local authorit es rather as providers of f nancial support than potent al partners having an at ract ve port olio of valuable knowledge resources and capabilit es. On the other side, the quest on is if local inst tut ons are indeed aware of and experience the posit ve eff ects of innovat ve act vity of tourism enterprises in a part cular community or region.

Figure 5. Effects of tourist innovation at regional level

As presented in Figure 5 from the local authorit es perspect ve, the eff ects of innovat on act vity performed by tourism business are generally not spectacular. However, average and above average notes have been ascribed to the number of incoming tourists, tourist at ract veness of the region and region brand awareness – the cornerstones for the community development as a tourist dest nat on (Kurleto et al., 2013). Interest ngly, the community residents’ percept on of all indicated eff ects is more opt mist c. The local communit es as f nal benef ciaries of local economic development assess higher the innovat ve act vity potent al of tourism f rms than inst tut ons responsible for planning and implement ng strategies for local development. Hence, given those key eff ects experienced by local communit es and authorit es, and the fact that tourism is of cially recognized as one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world and a key driver for socioeconomic progress, local inst tut onal bodies responsible for providing favorable condit ons for economic growth of the part cular community should exhibit more interest in facilitat ng cooperat ve init at ves among tourism businesses operat ng in that community. According to the f ndings presented in the literature, the level of innovat veness is directly correlated with the cooperat ve act vity (Trigo and Vence, 2012). Since many authors point at the weak propensity of tourism f rms to cooperate in innovat on due to the dif cult es with protect ng and appropriat ng value from innovat ons (Hjalager, 2002; Najda-Janoszka, 2013b), there is a great need for an ef cient and eff ect ve intermediary agent to enhance the cooperat ve capability and further the innovat on rate of tourist enterprises.


According to the open innovat on model an eff ect ve strategy for increasing innovat on and compet t veness of the region should be based on act ve and mult level cooperat on among operators of the local tourism business environment. An except onally important role in creat ng a favorable environment for the cooperat ve pract ces in the region is performed by local authorit es. Results from the previous research project conducted in 2006-2009 pointed to a persistent high level of inert a of local inst tut onal environment in creat ng condit ons for the development of tourism business, as well as in facilitat ng cooperat on among tourist enterprises. The consequences of that adverse level of inert a have been observed in the current study in various areas of the innovat ve value chain of the regional tourism. The local inst tut onal bodies are considered of minor importance as sources of informat on for innovat on, despite the fact that those inst tut ons are assumed to perform an intermediary funct on in the knowledge transfer process within the tourism industry. Thus, the exist ng informat on exchange in the local tourism environment has not received high notes from tourist enterprises. Almost every second tourist frm indicates weak relatons with the local authorites, hence, tourist business exhibits also weak propensity toward cooperaton with those insttutons.

The paucity of joint projects, initatves, ventures, informaton-exchange makes it impossible for the investgated enttes to develop specifc competencies referred to as the ability to cooperate. The logical consequence of the inerta of local insttutonal bodies is marginal, ofen just incidental involvement in the innovaton actvity performed by tourism enterprises. Importantly, the lack of involvement in cooperaton in innovaton is exhibited by both sides, the business one and the insttutonal one. Given the negligible history of cooperaton between tourism business and the local insttutonal environment, the main queston concerns mutual expectatons of the parters and the perceived areas of possible cooperaton. As local authorites are seen primarily as sources of direct fnancial support, it actually limits the partnership optons. That in turn, according to the logic of the innovatve value chain of the regional tourism and obtained results, affects the scale of experienced effects of innovatons introduced by tourist business in partcular region. Therefore, it is essental to develop an appropriate informaton policy directed toward tourist business, to promote and create awareness of all supportve actvites performed by local insttutons and possible areas of cooperaton aiming at developing the tourist atractveness of the region.


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