As one of the largest industries in the world, the tourism industry links various stakeholders, such as tourism enterprises, tourists, national tourism offices, infrastructure providers and other types of supporting organizations who are directly or indirectly involved in tourism. The final tourism product is the result of a wide range of services and products provided by various complementary and competing stakeholders operating in the industry.
The tourism industry is a complex environment in which networking among diverse partners seems essential in order to supply integrated tourist products and provide the best service to the end user. The need to form networks of close collaborative relationships appears to be even stronger in tourism as compared to other industries, since tourism enterprises are mostly micro and small-sized organisations, fragmented over a geographic region.
Networking can be defined as those activities in which SMEs owners build and manage personal relationships with individuals and organisations in their environment. Networks are patterns of relationships between different organisations, enterprises and even their competitors. In general, variety of interactions happen on a daily basis, such as cooperation with the customers, suppliers and competitors.
Networks involve commitment by network members to a set of common goals and, quite possibly, the sharing of worldviews. They can be temporary or permanent depending on the goals of the partnership.
Network formations may vary from existing cluster consortia to loosely coupled business systems, online networks, or emerging grass-roots economic community developments. There are various networking forms that may ensue to optimise competitive advantage. Geographically, we can define local tourism networks, European tourism networks and international tourism networks.
As globalisation has meant increased pressure on tourism SMEs to be competitive, the concentration has to be on a local level in order to achieve competitiveness through small innovative steps, cooperation and collaboration. Over the past decade, several attempts have been made in using networking, clustering and agglomeration theories to explain the role of tourism in influencing local growth and stimulating regional development.
The major partners for sustainable tourism development are the industry, the local authority and the local host environment. In the tourism industry potential partners can be attractions, accommodations, restaurants, tour operators, shops and tourism related associations. Local host environment can be actors such as residents, community groups, local organizations, associations and environment supporters. The authorities group represents all government agencies.
⮚One example of local networks are tourism destinations. Tourism destinations might be seen as networks of connected private and public organizations, which can be considered stakeholders of the destinations. Because the tourist perceives the destination as an integrated entity, managing a tourist destination is a very complex task.
⮚Another example is cluster partnership. Cluster is a geographically concentrated cooperation between enterprises which includes all the companies and institutions that are capable of raising the added value created in the value chain. Considering its actual form the tourism cluster is a voluntary cooperation of enterprises and organisations belonging to a certain production vertical, created in order to achieve common goals.
∙The Enterprise Europe Network is a key initiative of the European Commission that helps small companies make the most of business opportunities in the EU. The Tourism and Cultural Heritage Sector Group is a sector group who organise brokerage events to help businesses reach technology transfer or cooperation agreements with other companies in their sector.
∙The EDEN network consists of the winners and runners-up of the EDEN European Destinations of Excellence awards. The network is a platform for exchanging good practice in sustainable tourism on a European level and for promoting contact between award-winning destinations. The network aims to encourage other destinations to adopt sustainable tourism development models. With more than 350 EDEN destinations from 27 European countries as members to date, the EDEN network is the world’s biggest network in the field of sustainable tourism.
∙The European Cultural Tourism Network (ECTN) is a network for Cultural Tourism Development and promotion. ECTN Members are destinations, authorities, NGOs and research institutes. ECTN aims to achieve a high level of collaboration between members in the field of cultural tourism and to establish a close cooperation with the institutions of the European Union and other international organizations, networks and public institutions worldwide.
∙The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the leading international organisation in the field of tourism. UNWTO generates market knowledge, promotes competitive and sustainable tourism policies and instruments, fosters tourism education and training, and works to make tourism an effective tool for development through technical assistance projects in over 100 countries around the world. UNWTO’s membership includes 158 countries, 6 Associate Members and over 500 Affiliate Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.
∙The OECD Tourism Committee analyses and monitors policies and structural changes affecting the development of domestic and international tourism. The Committee provides policy-makers with concrete analysis of key challenges and policy responses that will shape tourism in the years to come. The Committee actively promotes an integrated, whole-of-government approach linking tourism to policies such as economy, investment, transport, trade, inclusive growth, employment, innovation, green growth, local development MSEs and entrepreneurship.