Special Issue 2018 ‘Tourism Competitiveness in the Digital Economy’





Luis Moreno-Izquierdo, Ana Ramón-Rodríguez, María Jesús Such-Devesa

The challenge of long-term tourism competitiveness in the age of innovation: Spain as a case study

This article questions whether the innovation deficit observed in the tourism sector on a global scale also characterises the world’s leading power in terms of tourism competitiveness and whether Spain is taking the right steps so as to guarantee the future leadership of its destinations. Spain’s innovative framework will be analysed in its European context, placing emphasis on the innovative intensity of the most important tourist regions. Spanish tourism companies and their capacity for innovation will also be studied in relation to those operating in other sectors. Formulas for generating tourism industries capable of assimilating and creating innovation will be proposed as a way of tackling the transformations that the sector is currently experiencing with the emergence of smart tourism destinations, the sharing economy and other disruptive changes, such as artificial intelligence. It is important to take a long-term perspective of competitiveness in which innovation and digital transformation have become the centre of political, social and corporate action in the sector. Meeting these challenges will mean the implementation of a series of more specific policies and strategies that will foster Smart Tourist Destinations and the development of a more digitalised and responsible economy in which the collaboration between citizens and tourists within the destination is the frame of reference.

Keywords: competitiveness; sustainability; innovation; tourism intelligence; overtourism; digital economy.
Ana Trancoso González

Venice: the problem of overtourism and the impact of cruises

This article aims to present the current tourism problem in Venice and specifically to analyse how the island and the lagoon are being affected by cruise ship tourism. Made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as recently as 1987, from 2016 it has become a candidate for Heritage in Danger. UNESCO has imposed an ultimatum on the capital of Veneto in order to regulate the flow of tourism and ensure the care of the future of the city. For this purpose, the different socio-cultural factors that have affected the modification of the city will be analyzed, with a primary focus on the tourism sector, such as the relevance of space, the context in a city with such a symbolic past, or the relevance of the market and current economic interests. All these factors have led to one of the most impressive cases of turistification. Amongst all these factors, cruise ship tourism is particularly influential, given Venice’s location at the heart of the Mediterranean circuit. Cruises cause a great impact in cities, particularly in Venice due to its uniqueness: pollution, noise, smoke, alteration of heritage and the environment, endangerment of citizenship, architectural and cultural heritage and the environment. And at what cost? With recent changes in mind, and given the extreme situation which has come to pass, it is hoped that public awareness will lead to heavier tourism regulation —in particular for cruises— which would be a key step towards achieving inhabitable, tourist-friendly cities.

Keywords: tourism; mass tourism; overtourism; cruise tourism; cruises; Venice.
Saúl Cobo-Soler, Andrés Fernández-Alcantud, José María López-Morales, Marta Santamaría-García

Public support for entrepreneurship, human capital and talent in the context of Spanish tourism

The key challenges the Spanish tourism industry faces in the coming years are related to the necessity to promote and develop tourism activities based on entrepreneurship and its associated competitive advantages. This article submits a detailed and up-to-date overview of the contributory effects of governmental and public initiatives on entrepreneurship, human capital and talent in the tourism sector. This work also provides a regional analysis concerning entrepreneurial-tourism related public policies in Spain.

Keywords: tourism; tourism policies; competitivity; entrepreneurs; human capital.
Natalia Porto, Ana Clara Rucci, Matias Ciaschi

Tourism accessibility competitiveness. A regional approach for Latin American countries

Tourism competitiveness is a topic of concern for everyone involved in planning, investing and studying the tourism sector. Researchers face challenges in measuring competitiveness and evaluating which issues to include in their analyses. The aim of this work is to determine to what extent adequate accessibility —defined as a set of conditions that a destination should have to be used optimally by individuals, including people with disabilities— represents an additional determinant for tourism demand, in a regional context. Using data from 17 Latin American countries during the period 1995-2015, we estimate a gravitational panel data model with fixed effects and show that the attractive assets declared by UNESCO as world heritage sites, as well as the component of accessibility, together increase international tourism demand. In this way, this paper shows the value of prioritizing discussion of issues like accessible tourism to reach a broad and «modern» measurement of competitiveness.

Keywords: tourism accessibility; regional tourism demand; competitiveness.
Manuela Pulina, Valentina Santoni

Hotel online pricing policy: A review and a regional case study

This paper provides a literature review on hotel online pricing policy. The review covers pricing strategies from three different perspectives: demand, supply and regional characteristics. From the demand side, the reviewed literature shows that electronic word-of-mouth (e-WOM) influences hotel room revenue and overall performance. Also, e-WOM represents key information for hotel managers to understand customers’ needs as well their degree of satisfaction and loyalty. Notably, reputation, built on online customers’ reviews, has an increasing role in online pricing policy. On the supply side, research is still scarce and mostly anchored to the standard competition framework. The review reveals that hotel pricing strategy requires more innovation within a rather volatile and dynamic online market. Besides, through a statistical analysis, this paper generalizes further the finding that hotel online pricing policy is highly influenced by overall accessibility to and mobility within a region.

Keywords: hotel; demand; supply; regional characteristics; online pricing policy
Luis Moreno-Izquierdo, Galina Egorova, Alexandre Peretó-Rovira, Adrián Más-Ferrando

Exploring the use of artificial intelligence in price maximisation in the tourism sector: its application in the case of Airbnb in the Valencian Community

The use of machine learning is becoming more and more frequent in companies’ search for competitiveness. Literature on the subject show us how in many cases artificial intelligence can help companies to improve their knowledge about users, optimize prices or guide buyers in their choices.

To confirm that the application of artificial intelligence models allows companies to obtain specifically better price optimisation procedures than with other traditional models, we have studied more than 10,000 Airbnb properties in the three main cities in the Valencian Community (Valencia, Alicante and Castellón), noting that the estimation process using neural networks offers significantly more satisfactory results than the use of hedonic models.

Keywords: Machine Learning; Airbnb; tourism; hedonic prices; Valencian Region
Francisco Femenia-Serra, Barbara Neuhofer

Smart tourism experiences: conceptualisation, key dimensions and research agenda

«Smart tourism» has gained momentum in research fostered by the revolution of the latest generation of information and communication technologies and has rapidly become a leading stream of literature. The concept has permeated governments and the business sphere and has been accompanied by the quest for developing smart devices, services and tourist destinations. However, experiences as the main focus of smartness development in tourism and destinations have received comparably little attention in the smart discourse. Smart destinations, as new ecosystems backed by concrete geographical contexts, facilitate the co-creation of a rich, technology-based, smart tourism experience (STE). Yet, a clear definition and examination of the dimensions of what constitutes a smart tourism experience is still to be developed. This paper aims to discuss the main core precedent constructs of STEs, namely: a) technology enhanced experiences and b) smart destinations, to underpin a holistic definition of a smart tourism experience. Based on an in-depth literature review, a novel conceptual model for this concept is developed and an agenda for further research is proposed drawing on the identified key themes and dimensions of this construct. By mapping out smart tourism experiences and providing real examples, this research contributes to the theoretical foundations of smart tourism and tourist experiences.

Keywords: smart tourism experience; tourist experience; smart tourism; smart destination; co-creation; research agenda; smart tourism destination
José Francisco Perles Ribes, Josep Ivars Baidal

Smart sustainability: a new perspective in the sustainable tourism debate

This work tries to contribute to closing the existing gap in the relationship between sustainability and smartness, patent both in the field of research and in the management of cities and tourist destinations. The points in common between the concepts of sustainability and smartness applied to the management of tourist destinations are analyzed, as well as the critical factors that hinder its practical application, as a starting point to move towards a synergistic model for sustainable tourism destinations, called Smart Sustainability. This proposal is based on a true governance of the destination and is aimed at taking advantage of the opportunities offered by information and communication technologies (ICTs) for a more efficient and sustainable management.

Keywords: sustainable tourism; Smart Tourism Destinations (STDs); Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)
Ulrike Gretzel

From smart destinations to smart tourism regions

There is growing interest in developing smart tourism beyond individual smart destinations, but research and practice currently do not supply the necessary conceptualizations that could inform smart tourism development at a regional level. This paper argues that this is the case because of smart tourism’s roots in smart city ideas and literature. It discusses the main pillars of smart tourism and smart destinations and then illustrates how pervasive urban biases are in the smart development arena. The paper then highlights the many ways in which these are problematic for reaching regional smart tourism understandings and designing appropriate regional-level strategies. It calls for smart tourism regions to be defined beyond clusters of individual smart destinations and across all domains of smartness.

Keywords: smart tourism; smart destination; smart city; smart region; scalability; governance
Yurena Rodríguez Rodríguez, Raúl Hernández Martín

Foundations and relevance of delimiting local tourism destinations

There is an extensive literature on delimiting functional areas for management purposes in the social sciences. Nevertheless, in the field of tourism research there is no established set of criteria for delimiting tourism destinations. However, destinations are considered a main object of analysis and decision-taking for tourism management. This paper discusses the most relevant literature on delimiting functional zones and proposes a methodology for an application in the field of tourism. The research is illustrated with the results on zonification and production of statistical information already obtained by the Canary Islands System of Statistics. The results highlight the relevance of zoning in tourism with the support of the foundations and criteria for delimiting functional areas in the social sciences. Subjectivity is considered to play a crucial role among criteria for delimitation both in tourism and in social sciences in general.

Keywords: delimitation; local tourism destinations; functional zones; zoning; tourism micro-destinations.