Academic journal article Management & Marketing

Innovation in Rural Tourism: A Model for Hungarian Accommodation Providers

Academic journal article Management & Marketing

Innovation in Rural Tourism: A Model for Hungarian Accommodation Providers

Article excerpt

Abstract. While unspoiled natural landscapes remain a clear attraction for the guests of rural tourism, the motivation behind travel is shifting from seeking pleasure towards acquiring new experiences and knowledge. In the market of rural accommodation services this shift in demand improves the market position of those unique hosts who can provide high quality services. It also implies that accommodation providers can only improve their chances of success via continuous innovation.

Based on the review of the academic literature, we constructed a model that describes the innovation capability maturity of rural accommodation service providers. We first adapted Essmann's (2009) innovation capability maturity model to identify five main capability areas relevant to tourism services and classified the indicators into these capability areas. We then applied these indicators to compile a survey questionnaire for rural accommodation service providers in one of Hungary's outstanding rural tourism destinations, Veszprém County, and used the findings of the survey to refine our model through principal component analysis. Finally, we identified the indicators that drive the five relevant innovation capability areas and explain the innovation capability maturity of rural accommodation service providers in Veszprém County, Hungary. Based on the above we make the following statement: The innovation capability maturity of rural accommodation service providers in Veszprém county, Hungary, can be described by the following capability areas: market knowledge, training, managing possibilities, guest orientation and rationality. The result of our analysis helps rural accommodation providers understand more about innovation and be able to better satisfy the needs of their customers.

Keywords: innovation capability, maturity, rural tourism, accommodation service providers, Veszprém County, Hungary.

1. Introduction

Tourism plays an important role in the economy of all, however structurally diverse, OECD countries as it promotes economic growth and increases employment through travel and the trade of touristic services (OECD, 2000). The sector's central economic role as well as the trend of economic globalization compels nation states to increase touristiccompetitiveness, primarily through innovation (Carvalho-Costa, 2011, p. 24).

Based on the academic literature, we can make a clear distinction between innovation in services, including innovation in tourism services, and product innovation in manufacturing. Several authors explain this difference by highlighting the less technological characteristic of services innovation vis-à-vis manufacturing (Sundbo- Gallouj, 1999; Sundbo, 2007, Ark et al., 2003; Carvalho, 2008). Sundbo (2009) and Gallouj (2002) emphasize the more gradual modifications in the product (service) in both services and tourism innovation. While innovation in manufacturing usually happens through giant leaps ahead, often as a result of technological breakthroughs, services innovation occurs incrementally in small steps. Services innovation emerges from the practice and the experiences gained in the process of working with clients. Therefore, the client-oriented attitude and behavior of the sales staff are key components in increasing customer satisfaction (Sundbo, 1997; Sundbo-Darmer, 2008).

The number of studies on innovation in touristic services has been on the rise since the 1990s (Hjalager, 2008). The innovative business practices of large touristic companies are more frequently discussed in the academic literature than those of their smaller peers, due to the fact that large companies are usually faster to realize new ideas and, thus, gain competitive advantage (Hjalager, 2002, p. 471). Research on innovation in rural tourism, however, is still in its early stage. Existing studies are incomplete or only case studies. That being said, the Scandinavian scholars have already achieved significant results (Hjalager, 2002, 2006; Sundbo, 2007) which may be used as starting point in this research. …

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