CI-NOVATEC focuses upon Local Tourism Clusters (LTCs) which formulate one of the most significant boosting factors for regional economic growth of the CBC area.
BusinessDictionary.com defines a Business Cluster as “A network of connected businesses, suppliers, & associates in a specific field that are all located in the same geographical area. Clusters provide increased efficiency and productivity so businesses can be competitive on a national and global scale”
Similarly, Local Tourism Clusters (LTCs) consist of geographically concentrated SMEs, providing services to the same customer i.e. the arriving visitor, and belong to various market sectors i.e. Tourism, Creative Industry, Agrofood, Commerce, Leisure, Transportation etc.
At local level, the microSMEs forming the LTCs along with Points of Interest (POIs) managers are responsible for hugely influencing the tourist’s experience & perception of the visiting area, affecting their behavior, which has a sequential impact on the LTCs’ viability.
The project defines two main categories of POIs:
- Focal Points of Interest -FPIs, related to widely recognized tourist spots (archeological, natural, cultural, leisure etc sites and landmarks)
- Pivot Points of interest -PPIs, related to dynamic anthropogenic activities & creative industry products (festivals, art exhibitions, culinary events, combined activities such as sporting events, trade fairs, etc.)
Therefore CI-NOVATEC proposes a new approach/definition for the “Tourism Product”:
A Tourism Ecosystem at micro-region level, which includes Local Tourism Clusters of SMEs (LTCs) along with Focal (FPIs) & Pivot (PPIs) Points of interest. Such Ecosystems exist in CBC area, are considered important economic development assets and need to be studied & enhanced in order to achieve higher competitiveness and ensure future viability.
Therefore, the common challenge is to record & evaluate visitors' experiences & perceptions of individual products as well as composite services at the level of Tourism Ecosystems, in order to collect qualitative end-user data, to draw comparative conclusions (at regional and CBC level) and provide feedback & tools to both Ecosystems and policy making actors.
This challenge is even more important, taking into consideration that data currently collected are generic and quantitative (number of arrivals, duration of vacation, countries of travelers etc), acquired mainly from points of entry (airports, ports), hotel associations & tourism agencies, and therefore do not provide qualitative information referenced per traveler and activity (POI or received service).
However, such knowledge could provide the necessary customer intelligence to better understand economic performance of LTCs, to assist business-level decision making and boost efficiency and sustainability of cluster SMEs. Additionally, data on POIs could enhance managerial and organizational expertise of key persons of PPIs & FPIs.
In total, the ability to capture end-user experience-based data, can become a powerful tool to improve the efficiency of all components of a local Tourism Ecosystem (LTC, PPIs & FPIs), by supporting related market segments (Tourism, Creative Industry, Agrofood, Commerce, Leisure etc) and transforming tourism into a catalyst for progress.
To fulfill these challenges there is a need for both policy making & business actors to be involved in the project, supported by a scientific/technology facilitator. Therefore 3 Regions (Puglia, Western Greece & Epirus), 1 Chamber of Commerce (Bari) and the University of Patras are forming the partnership, supported by 2 more Chambers as associated partners (Achaia & Brindisi).
Project target groups are the members of the Tourist Ecosystems i.e. SMEs (LTCs), Focal (FPIs) & Pivot (PPIs) managers, while final beneficiaries range from local to regional level:
- SMEs of LTCs. Facilitation of decision making at business level based on customer intelligence data
- FPI & PPI managers. Assessment of managerial and organizational skills based on visitors’ user experience
- Chambers/Commercial associations. Improvement of specific market segments performance, LTCs benchmarking, upgrade, marketing etc
- Municipalities. Future investment on public services, infrastructure & transportation based upon real satisfaction data
- Regions. Support of decision making on tourism policies, promotion & investments based on tourism ecosystem performance.