Exploring innovative tourism

The term ‘innovation’ is often associated with the use of the digital technologies that have brought about fundamental changes in the way that tourism destinations and businesses undertake their work and will continue to drive change through ‘big data’ analysis, robotics, augmented reality, AI (in multiple forms) and many other smart applications. But there are many other types of innovation in tourism. Here are a few examples, to which readers may wish to add.

The planning and creation of new visitor experiences – an outstanding example is the activity of local communities and entrepreneurs along the Wild Atlantic Way, on the west coast of Ireland, where Fáilte Ireland (Ireland’s tourism development agency) has been working actively ‘on the ground’ to stimulate and support creative ideas and provide guidance around key storytelling themes. This builds on pioneering work undertaken in Canada and Australia over the past decade.

Innovations in design and style – the Moxy hotel brand of Marriot is a leading example of a hotel brand designed for a specific market segment, providing an environment (décor, music, furniture, common room for working and social activity, breakfast on the move, etc), clearly aimed at millennials. Moxy is making the ambience much less corporate, much more individual, offering types of experiences that vary between hotels in different locations.

Innovations in business models – Airbnb is a prime example, of course. The technology is not particularly innovative, but the business platform has been revolutionary – making it easy for anyone to put their available rooms or apartments on the market, review their potential guests and receive payment. Over the past five years, it has drawn hundreds of thousands of new accommodation providers into the market, driving change in tourism behaviour and causing serious concern about its impact on traditional suppliers and on community cohesion. Now Airbnb has extended its scope to experiences, giving providers an innovative, easily accessible route to the market of independent travellers.

Innovations in peer group collaboration – one of the earliest and best examples was the Edinburgh Tourism Innovation Group (TIG), launched by Scottish Enterprise about 20 years ago, bringing together a small group of leading tourism entrepreneurs in Edinburgh to exchange ideas, critique each other’s businesses, go to other leading destinations together to learn about best practice elsewhere, partner with each other in business development, etc. The underlying idea was that the innovative business developments generated in this way would inspire other businesses in the city to follow their example. The concept worked so well that the Edinburgh TIG evolved to become the Scottish TIG and was taken over by the industry body, the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA). The Scottish TIG continued for many years until the concept of innovation was imbued throughout the industry in Scotland and became integral to the raison d’être of the STA.

Innovations in transportation technology that have made air travel available to a hugely increased audience and provided easy access to a much wider range of destinations around the world. There are huge changes ahead in land-based transportation, with the expansion of high-speed rail networks and potentially even faster hyperloop transit; and the advent of driverless cars, which could have a major impact on travel by visitors within destinations.

This post is far from comprehensive. Its aim is essentially to stimulate contributions across a broad spectrum of innovation in travel and tourism.

Please post your contributions of ideas, concepts and case examples, using our TEAM Tourism Consulting LinkedIn page. If you are not already a member of our Innovation in Tourism LinkedIn group, that is used by more than 200 senior tourism professionals, you can request to join.

22 January 2018


Dr Roger Carter, BSc, PhD, FTS, MTMI. Roger is TEAM’s Managing Director and an experienced tourism strategist, destination planner, marketer and operational manager who has played a leadership role in the development of the tourism industry in both the UK and internationally. Read Roger’s bio.