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The innovation journey of tourism entrepreneurs: evidence from the UK and Spain and policy implications

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - INNOVATE (The innovation journey of tourism entrepreneurs: evidence from the UK and Spain and policy implications)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2018-05-31

This project provided new insights into the different stages of the innovation journey followed by entrepreneurs in tourism. More specifically, the study addressed the following objectives: 1) to provide an overview of the key issues of the innovation process (risks, networks, facilitators, etc. at different stages) of tourism entrepreneurs’ in Spain and the UK, 2) to analyse the development and performance patterns of young innovative entrepreneurs in tourism through a longitudinal study in Spain, identifying the determinants of innovation success or failure and 3) to provide government guidelines to minimise the risks of innovation in tourism based on key issues and proposals highlighted by entrepreneurs.
The study utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods. Firstly, the project conducted a literature review on conceptual and theoretical issues on: 1) the innovation process and related key issues such as main risks (with special emphasis on resistance to innovation), coalition building, financing, etc., 2) innovation performance with special emphasis on innovation failure and 3) innovation and entrepreneurial policies.
Secondly, the project conducted a total of 57 interviews in Spain and the UK which broadened knowledge on how entrepreneurs understand and negotiate innovation risks and their responses to reducing or mitigating those risks. It also allowed the identification of key policy aspects of the innovation process and the entrepreneurs’ preferred support measures. These were discussed with policymakers and transformed into an online survey to gather opinions about preferred policy measures targeting a wide sample of entrepreneurs. An unusually large number of participants were included in the study, for a survey of entrepreneurs: 269. The data analysis resulted in a policy draft with the recommendations being framed around the issues highlighted by the participants, and a complementary in-depth analysis of other policy documents and literature review. The core policy recommendations were grouped into 9 topics heading relating to government guidelines to minimise the risks of innovation in tourism.
Thirdly, the project extended knowledge of the dynamics of how innovations emerge and their subsequent trajectory through a longitudinal case study method based on 16 in depth interviews and two-stages or study points. This is one of the very few longitudinal studies over the medium term (3 years) in tourism research. The results show that many innovations processes or pathways ended in failure and highlighted multiple types of risks that entrepreneurs could not overcome, as well as the critical events and factors encountered at different stages. The key issues provide valuable lessons for practitioners and policy makers concerned with the evolution of innovations beyond the start-up and early development stages.
In summary, the project has made an original theoretical and empirical contribution, through being the first substantial theoretical and empirical study in tourism of the underpinnings of the innovation process and its risks. Particularly original have been the longitudinal study of the innovation process through follow up interviews and the participative methodology used to elaborate the policy recommendations which contributed to increasing the dialogue and engagement between entrepreneurs and policymakers in the area of tourism innovation. The mediating role of the researcher between entrepreneurs’ needs and policymakers has highlighted opportunities for governments to make their policies more effective by addressing real-life priorities and risks. Besides policymakers, entrepreneurs (already in the market and future ones) are potential users of the project results thanks to the incorporation of stories in the production of case study videos. These were produced with the aim of supporting future and existing entrepreneurs so that they are more likely to avoid those steps and decisions that are known potentially to lead to failure, or at least to make the innovation process more difficult. The project contributions are also relevant to academics lecturing on entrepreneurship and innovation in tourism, and for raising awareness amongst their students of future careers as potential entrepreneurs.
The policy mix to minimise the risks of the innovation process