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Editorial: Networks, Dynamics, And Innovation In The Tourism Industry

H. Ness, L. Fuglsang, D. Eide
Published 2018 · Economics

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In recent years, networks and networking between tourism actors have been of increasing scholarly interest (Baggio, Scott, & Cooper, 2010; Haugland, Ness, Grønseth, & Aarstad, 2011; Mwesiumo & Halpern, 2017; Yachin, 2017). A network can be defined as “a set of nodes and the set of ties representing some relationship, or lack of relationship, between the nodes” (Brass, Galaskiewicz, Greve, & Tsai, 2004, p. 795). In a tourism context, nodes are any actor that take part in the production of the tourism product, or experience, and ties are the relationships that exist between the actors. For example, a destination network can be defined as all those organizations, and their relationships, that take part in the co-production of the total destination product. Typically, transportation firms, hotels and lodging, restaurants, and different kinds of activity and infrastructure providers are important actors, as are also public sector organizations that represent the institutional context and framework conditions. Furthermore, tourists are often considered as they are co-creating their experiences (Boswijk, Peelen, & Olthof, 2012; Prebensen, Kim, & Uysal, 2016). The relationships that these actors form represent social capital (Coleman, 1988) where being in a durable social structure enables access to, and transfer of, resources from other actors thereby facilitating actions, including coordinating interaction and jointly creating value. This is an important aspect because the tourism product typically involves a range of actors that are specialized and interdependent. Research on networks has shown that the social capital associated with having relationships to other actors are effective channels for rich information sharing, knowledge transfer and diffusion of working practices, resource access, learning, and innovation (Brass et al., 2004; Fleming & Marx, 2006; Iversen & Jacobsen, 2016; Uzzi, 1997). Thus, by forming working relationships with each other, tourism firms can exploit complementarities and improve their (joint) performance through dynamic, evolutionary, change processes. Such dynamics can be resulting from the formation or dissolution of relationships, or changing the characteristics, activities, and/or contexts of existing relationships. Innovation is defined as the realization in practice of any new, novel, and useful products, problem-solving idea, or methods of production for firms “to gain a competitive edge in order to survive and grow” (Grønhaug & Kaufmann, 1988 p. 3). Hjalager (2010), addressing innovation in tourism, describes different innovation categories: product or service, process, managerial (internal organizing), management (e.g. marketing), and institutional. Thus, innovation is a broad concept that ranges from incremental improvements that are new to the firm to disruptive technologies changing the competition and value-creating processes. However, being embedded in a network rich in resources is beneficial for innovation to take place resulting from dynamic processes in the network. Hence, the particular focus of this special issue.
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