How can tourist destinations become more competitive

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SUMMARYHow can tourist destinationsbecome more competitiveWhat key tools can be used to achievethis aim?Jorge Costa and Ana SalazarFernando Pessoa University, Porto, Portugal andIPDT Instituto de Turismo, Santa Maria da Feira, PortugalMonica MontenegroIPDT Instituto de Turismo, Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal, andJoao GomesFernando Pessoa University, Porto, Portugal andIPDT Instituto de Turismo, Santa Maria da Feira, PortugalAbstractPurpose The purpose of this paper is to review the question: What have we learned about howtourist destinations may become more competitive and the tools to achieve this aim?Design/methodology/approach The paper considers the contribution made by each theme issuearticle to an overall understanding of tourism destinations competitiveness and how this can beachieved and improved by using a series of strategic and operational tools.Findings The paper presents examples of key tools for improving destinations competitiveness,how they were applied in industry contexts and recommendations for future use.Practical implications The paper summarizes the strategies and actions undertaken byorganizations and destinations to improve competitiveness and comments on the practical implications.Originality/value The paper takes further the ideas put forward in the editorial and providesa concise analysis of how companies and destinations may improve their competitiveness by takena sustainable and holistic approach to tourism development.Keywords Tourism management, Hospitality management, Competitive strategy,Communication technologies, Marketing strategyPaper type General reviewThis theme issue analysed the competitiveness of tourism destinations through the useof different tools and methodologies. The articles selected explored the theme fromdifferent angles, from strategically planning the destination, to set the context forevaluating its competitiveness, and to understand how the adoption of user generatedcontent (UGC) within a destination may help gaining a better competitive insight intovisitors profiles. From the diverse contributions, it was also possible to acquire a deeperperspective into the evaluation of service quality in hospitality organizations, the use ofe-learning strategies to improve hotels productivity, and the effects of economic andmonetary union (EMU) in the Portuguese hotel sector.The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available tools455Worldwide Hospitality and TourismThemesVol. 2 No. 4, 2010pp. 455-457q Emerald Group Publishing Limited1755-4217DOI 10.1108/17554211011074092In respect of the main topic explored in this theme issue, the competitiveness oforganizations and tourism destinations, it is important to understand that the concept ofcompetitiveness is no longer restricted to economic activities. It has filtered out fromorganizational domains to reach other subjects, such as countries and individuals.Recently, to be competitive has become a central objective, a condition to be achieved byall. From a destinations point of view, the overall competitive position in internationalrankings should form a strong basis for optimizing the allocation of financial resourcesand analysing general marketing strategies. When facing with a decrease in marketshare, and consequently in competitiveness, destinations should increase productdiversification, and look for new markets. These actions need a strong commitment byall stakeholders and a flexible process of planning the destination. This may be achievedby following a strategic planning model which helps: analysing the destinations presentposition, revising its vision and objectives, redefining programs and actions andevaluating the destinations performance.In looking to attract new visitors, destinations are strongly advised to use new waysof communicating with the market. In reality, if we reflect on the fact that there are over1.7 billion internet users in the world today, it is easy to understand the impact of a goodon-line promotional strategy for a destination or organization. Tourism has, no doubt,been one of the economic sectors where the impact of the advances in information andcommunication technologies, namely the development and increasing penetration anduse of the internet, has been higher and more widespread. The internet, and its mostrecent evolution in terms of interactivity, has had a revolutionary impact on all phases ofthe tourism value chain. This ease of access to present and potential customersrepresents a much simpler way of sharing information about products or services, thusgenerating a higher responsibility for suppliers within the tourism industry. When aperson/tourist shares information about her travel experience and uses a web site for thispurpose, the resulting information is called user generated content, which has becomea major feature of the acquisition process, and in particular, of the purchase decision.In this context, UGC should be an integral part of any destinations marketing strategy.Another angle of competitiveness is that resulting from the quality of the serviceprovided by the hospitality sector at the destination. In fact, it is fundamental thathospitality organizations become aware of the dimensions and attributes tourists use toevaluate the quality of the service provided by hotels. A good understanding of themotives that influence customers perceptions may provide managers with a strategictool to positively influence customers to return and recommend their hotel. A service ofexcellence may be seen as a profitable strategy and one leading to improvedcompetitiveness. This normally implies more customers and results in a betterreputation, which means: repeated business.The improvement of quality and productivity in hotels can also be enhanced via othertools now available to hospitality managers. One of these tools is the e-learning tosupport educational processes. In fact, competitiveness and sustainable developmentare related with the capacity of getting information about markets and competition, andtransforming it into knowledge to distribute across the organization. In synthesis, thecompetitiveness of a hotel can be seen as strongly related with its intellectual capital.Competitiveness, however, may also be affected by external factors. An interestingcase to analyse is that of the impacts of the EMU across European countries.In particular, the changes it brought about to the hotel sector. In fact, the implementationWHATT2,4456of EMU has been viewed as the greatest European force influencing the environment inwhich tourism businesses operate and compete. As a catalyst for a closer economicintegration through a single currency, EMU held out the promise of welfare gains for theparticipating countries and their respective industries. From an economic perspective,EMU was expected to provide benefits that would potentially enhance businesscompetition through the creation of a stability-oriented macroeconomic policyframework, including low inflation, low transactions costs and interest rates, theelimination of exchange rate uncertainty, simplicity of transactions, amongst others.From a political perspective, EMU was expected to give more credibility to the policyregime surrounding European enterprises by increasing sovereignty. The reality is thatmost of the expected changes have occurred but the decision- and strategy-makingprocesses of hotels have not been significantly affected.These changes in the tourism and hospitality business environment can be greatlyanticipated when a sound planning process is undertaken. In reality, a highlyparticipated and future-oriented tourism plan can contribute to more coherency,efficacy, efficiency and integration in the development of sustainable policy measuresfor the destination. A good example is the Douro Valley Tourism Plan, developed withthe objective of protecting the natural resources and optimizing the benefits of tourism inthe region, which has been classified by the UNESCO as World Heritage. This plan hasbeen developed based on the principle that a series of actions should be undertaken inpartnership with public and private sectors organizations. However, the coordinatingstructure for the implementation of the plan derives from the North RegionalCoordinating Commission which is the public organization responsible for the regionalplanning of the northern part of Portugal where the Douro Valley is located. Thisdecision results from a strong commitment towards the sustainable development of theregion and of its tourism model.In conclusion, it is never to much to say that in order to preserve the planet and theidyllic places it offers to us and to the practice of tourism, planners, managers and touristshave to urgently adopt a green and sustainable approach to tourism development. This,ultimately, will become the number one competitive advantage of high-qualitydestinations.Corresponding authorJorge Costa can be contacted at: jcosta@institutodeturismo.orgKey tools457To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.comOr visit our web site for further details: