Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Benchmarking Service Delivery for Sports Tourism and Events: Lessons for Gorski Kotar, Croatia from Pokljuka, Slovenia

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Benchmarking Service Delivery for Sports Tourism and Events: Lessons for Gorski Kotar, Croatia from Pokljuka, Slovenia

Article excerpt

Introduction

Benchmarking is used in business studies and across a range of disciplines (including tourism) to evaluate and compare practices based on an industry standard (Moriarty, 2011). While the aim of benchmarking is to adopt best practices based on industry demands and standards, this can prove difficult in emerging tourism destinations because such an industry relies on a range of stakeholders and a place is dependent upon various factors such as funding, involvement of the community, quality of infrastructure and the natural environment. Research has highlighted that benchmarking is a systematic approach used to develop strategy (Xiang et al., 2007), but as this paper argues, lessons from how an established destination approaches service delivery needs addressed and critically evaluated in a developing destination. This points to the need for comparison and analyses conducted through fieldwork and direct interaction with destination stakeholders. Such research allows academics to transfer knowledge to enhance management and planning practices to enhance service delivery, and the researchers are the ones who enable access and a platform to disseminate results between other researchers and stakeholders.

The aim of this paper is to conduct an analysis of two destinations, one established and one developing to frame the need for a benchmarking approach to develop a set of recommendations for the emerging destination. Assessing sports tourism delivery in a well-established destination and taking elements of good practice will lead to suggestions and recommendations for a developing tourism destination in a related environment with similar resources. In other words, this paper seeks to discuss how Croatia can learn from its neighbour Slovenia which has well-established winter sports destinations (in rural areas). We consider the 'rural' as well because this paper draws from cases in more remote mountainous areas, as this is in line with attempts and national tourism strategies to further diversify Croatia's tourism offering beyond the coastal destinations. Croatia is regarded as a competitive summer destination, with extensive sea and sun opportunities that have brought much investment and development to the country's coast, but problems persist in more remote inland destinations that have valuable natural resources but largely remain underdeveloped, or lack strategic planning and management agendas aimed at competitive service delivery.

This paper is not meant to be a direct comparison of Slovenia and Croatia, which would be difficult since Slovenia's mountainous areas are Alpine. However, an emphasis on planning, service delivery and community involvement in Slovenia offers useful insight for destinations such as Gorski kotar in Croatia to consider for improving their sports tourism offer. Instead, this paper acknowledges insight from the literature on destination benchmarking, tourism service delivery, destination management and community involvement to argue for the need to conduct research in related destinations (or case sites) so good practice can be considered and adopted in emerging destinations, proved beneficial in previous research (e.g. João Carneiro, Breda & Cordeiro, 2016; Mulec & Wise, 2013; Oses, Gerrikagoitia & Alzua, 2016; Reid, 2011). While case-studies are important when gathering data, and they relate to a specific research focus, it is the points of comparison and recommendations that emerge guided by the academic literature to present how such work contributes to the wider body of tourism literature. Moreover, such work offers practical evidence that local managers and planners can consider to develop their destinations. The usefulness of comparative analysis and benchmarking research is to have an impact on service delivery and organisational improvement locally (see Luštický & Bína, 2014; Müller & Berger, 2012).

The next section will address the importance of destination benchmarking before presenting insight on the need for such research in Croatia. …

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