Dr Isabel Rodriguez is a Research Fellow associated with the Research Group “Competitiveness of the Visitor Economy” in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey. Dr Rodriguez received both her BA and MSc degrees at the University of Alicante where she worked as research assistant at the Tourism Research Institute, a tourism multidisciplinary research centre. From 2009 to 2012 was co-coordinator of a number of projects awarded by the Spanish National R&D&I Plan dedicated to the renovation and innovation of mature tourism destinations, tourism clusters and innovation. In 2012 started her PhD studies which were completed in 2015. The main objective of this research was to conduct a historical analysis over innovation as part and outcome of tourism policies with emphasis on the study of innovative clusters and entrepreneurship policy programmes. With the support of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie action (MSCA) from the European Union, Dr Rodriguez joined the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in June 2016 to conduct a 2 year research project “The innovation journey of tourism entrepreneurs: evidence from Spain and the UK and policy implications (INNOVATE)”. In February 2019 was officially appointed Research Fellow at the School.
12 OCT 2020
Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management teams up with UNWTO and the G20 to foster sustainable and inclusive tourism
24 SEP 2020
Centre for Competitiveness of the Visitor Economy hosts Tourism Recovery and Competitiveness webinar
In the media
Tourism innovation, entrepreneurship, policy and planning. Dr Rodriguez has extensive experience in conducting research projects to study tourism innovation in both the public and private spheres and working closely with tourism public bodies.
This project set out to provide insightful knowledge on different stages of the innovation journey followed by entrepreneurs in tourism. It examined the innovation process of a total of 57 entrepreneurs in Spain and the UK and carried out a longitudinal study of business performance of a sample of 16 innovators, the latest revealing high failure rates for innovation. The fact that innovation is a highly complex and uncertain process explains the high failure rates. The analysis of the innovation pathways of a total of 73 entrepreneurs (both successful and unsuccessful) during this 2 year project highlighted critical factors for success or failure which were discussed with policymakers in Spain. The results of this discussion was the co-production of an online survey allowing the potential policy measures and issues to be discussed with a wider sample of innovative entrepreneurs. The survey was completed by 269 tourism innovators both in Spain and the UK. The views of all the participants at different methodological stages were included in a policy recommendations report. The project findings were also disseminated via conference and published papers, videos and a policy briefing.
Start date: 1 June 2016
End date: 31 May 2018
European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement Nº 700893
- INNOVATE Evidence Briefing. Challenges and opportunities to minimise the risks of innovation in tourism [Report]
- Opportunities to minimise the risks of innovation in tourism [Report]
- Innovate YouTube channel
- Case study videos: Learning from innovation failure in tourism - five most common pitfalls and Learning from innovation failure in tourism – lessons and advice
- INNOVATE research story: "Learning from innovation failure in tourism - five most common pitfalls"
Research collaboration on the topic of tourism innovation with Prof Allan Williams and Prof Teemu Makkonen (University of Eastern Finland). Collaboration with experts on entrepreneurship (Dr Vlatka Škokić, University of Split), sustainability (Prof Xavier Font and Pablo Doel, University of Surrey), digital experience (Prof Iis Tussyadiah, University of Surrey) and tourism policy (Dr Velasco, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain).
Long trajectory of collaborative work with the public body dedicated to tourism innovation Sociedad Mercantil Estatal para la Gestión de la Innovación y las Tecnologías Turísticas (Segittur) in Spain.
Contributing member of the Alliance for Innovators and Researchers in Tourism and Hospitality (AIRTH), a network of innovation-minded scholars and practitioners.
Postgraduate research supervision
I currently supervise:
Jose Francisco Melenez on his project "Co-creation of sustainability-oriented innovations in tourism destinations".
I am looking forward to accepting new PhD students on topics relating to entrepreneurship and innovation to start from September 2022.
Co- participation in the Module Entrepreneurship in the Hospitality Tourism and Events Industry
Originality is an important goal of research. However, relatively little is known about the characteristics and motivations of individual researchers or about the facilitating or hindering factors that, in combination, can lead to original research outputs; a gap this study aims to fill. Interviews with twenty highly original academics (identified by their peers) active in the field of tourism identify four shared main traits amongst such researchers – nonconformism, commitment, self-confidence and interdisciplinarity – and the importance of situational factors. The findings also show that there is no single optimum way of “becoming original” and, therefore, efforts to “replicate” originality may constrain rather than enable originality. From a managerial perspective, this suggests that it is easier to remove barriers than to positively facilitate original research
The renovation of coastal destinations characterized by a standard and mature tourist offer is a key subject that compromises the future of this important socioeconomic activity and thus the analysis of possible strategies focused on the improvement of the offer is essential. This paper focuses on the use of natural heritage to create tourist products in the mature destinations of the Valencia region based on the enhancement of natural parks. With this aim, other experiences have been analyzed where protected natural areas have been incorporated to the renovation process of some main mature destinations on the Mediterranean coast. In a final stage, the natural parks’ potential to be incorporated into the tourist offer has been explored and then contrasted with the opinions of the managers responsible for these protected areas. The work has contributed to check the willingness of the environmental public entities to make a better use of the natural parks with a tourist scope and on the other hand to know the managers’ opinion about the parks current level of use. The paper concludes that the natural parks of the Valencia region have a great natural and cultural heritage which has been underestimated and a potential that needs to be considered; even though these natural areas still present a limited tourist use, there is a growing development of recreational activities that complement the traditional tourist offer of coastal destinations.
During the last two decades, tourism policies in Spain have had as a priority objective the diversification and differentiation of tourist destinations, together with the improvement of service and infrastructure quality levels as the best strategies to guarantee the competitiveness of tourism activity. Although Spain has managed to maintain its leadership as a sun and sand tourist destination, the strategies undertaken up to the present day have failed to achieve a real change in the tourism dynamics that must respond to the new demand trends and the challenge of sustainability. In this respect, before the apparent need for renovation, mature tourist destinations should insist on the enhancement of their offer through the valorisation of territorial components and particularly those associated with the protected areas that still survive after the urban process that most tourist destinations have characteristically gone through. In fact, both town-development and the mechanisms for the creation of new accommodation infrastructures and residential homes have seriously threatened the environment of protected areas and have had an influential role on the environmental impact of coastal areas. This paper seeks to present the diagnosis and conclusions obtained about the role that protected areas may play in the diversification of the tourist offer through the optimal enhancement of their public use. Based on empirical findings from Serra Gelada Natural Park, located in the Benidorm tourist destination, key issues related to the tourism strategies recently developed for protected areas are explored focusing on the potential to create new nature-based tourism products. Keywords: protected areas, public use, renovation, diversification, mature coastal destinations, nature-based tourism products.
Although deterministic models of the evolution of mass tourism coastal resorts predict an almost inevitable decline over time, theoretical frameworks of the evolution and restructuring policies of mature destinations should be revised to reflect the complex and dynamic way in which these destinations evolve and interact with the tourism market and global socio-economic environment. The present study examines Benidorm because its urban and tourism model and large-scale tourism supply and demand make it one of the most unique destinations on the Mediterranean coast. The investigation reveals the need to adopt theories and models that are not purely deterministic. The dialectic interplay between external factors and the internal factors inherent in this destination simultaneously reveals a complex and diverse stage of maturity and the ability of destinations to create their own future.
Tourism geography has studied the evolution pattern of tourism areas on a regional and local level through theoretical models and empirical analyses, which have been widely discussed. These research issues are still valid regarding the new trends in the tourist markets that have created a new scenario that makes it necessary to reopen the debate around the sun and sand tourism model. The mature coastal destinations with an economy that is fully dependent on tourism, or on the tourism-real estate relationship, face difficulties adapting to the tourism scenario created by the new demand trends linked to the cultural change in the era of post-modernism and the evolution towards a post-Fordist model. In this context, some theoretical models, such as Butler’s tourist area life cycle theory, present mature tourist destinations in the Mediterranean as doomed to an irreversible decline. The significance of the changes, as well as their effects on the tourist areas, justifies a research project that is being developed to give an answer to some controversial questions: how can the decline of a tourist destination be defined and how can we measure it? How do we distinguish a critical crisis from a structural decline? How valid is the Tourism Area Life Cycle model as a theory to describe and predict future situations? What role do tourism planning and management play to avoid the decline of a tourist destination? What are the most convenient strategies and the most appropriate planning and management tools that can be used to renovate tourist destinations? The present paper precisely seeks to answer the last question, analysing the recent tourism policies developed in Spain on a national, regional and local level and focusing on the renovation of mature coastal destinations. It is with this aim that policies, programmes and current actions are explored not only within a context characterised by the maturity of many destinations in their life cycle, but also in a scenario of global economic crisis.
The paper opens the "black box" of tourism innovation policy implementation through an analysis of the Spanish Programme of Innovative Business Groups that foster innovation through hybrid top-down bottom-up collaboration embedded in clusters. The focus is on three main issues: process of policy implementation, types of innovation that emerged, and the outcomes and barriers. The findings show the contradictions of this hybrid model of implementation with mixed outcomes of successful collaborations and abandoned trajectories. The Programme has stimulated the 'propensity' to innovate resulting in different types of innovation but has revealed the existence of mutually-reinforcing barriers. Some suggestions for future improvements of tourism innovation policies are offered including the importance of polycentricity in effective policy formulation and implementation.
This paper analyses the application of the cluster concept to tourist destinations using Benidorm as a case study. A questionnaire was administered to tourism firms based in Benidorm in order to determine whether this destination currently constitutes a tourism cluster or whether it possesses the ideal characteristics to become a cluster with the private agents' collaboration, that is, whether it is a potential cluster. The results obtained from this research indicate that Benidorm's success is not derived from the presence of a cluster due to a series of elements that prevent its existence. In this destination there is a need to strengthen cooperation between public and private agents (especially in those areas that determine the competitive advantage of the destination) and to design a strategy based on shared goals. Both of these elements are fundamental for the characterisation of a cluster.
This paper analyses the applicability of the cluster concept to tourist destinations, taking Benidorm as the reference for study: a destination on the Mediterranean coast of Spain which has attained a high degree of competitive success with the sun and sand product in which it has specialized. The main result obtained is that Benidorm's success is not derived from or favoured by the existence of a cluster in the destination, since important elements are present that prevent affirmation of its existence. This paper is the preliminary result of a research project that has been carried out within the framework of the project "Methodology, criteria and impementation of the cluster theory in consolidated tourism areas: innovation, competitiveness and territorial synergies" under the Spanish National R&D&I Plan 2008-2011 supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.
Innovation is inherently associated with risk and uncertainty, and the engagement of entrepreneurs with these is central to the innovation process. Entrepreneurs are not passive actors but, through learning, they contribute to the dynamic capabilities of the firm across the innovation process. Drawing on 57 interviews with entrepreneurs in tourism SMEs in Spain and the UK, the paper identifies how risk and uncertainty are understood to change throughout the innovation process in the key areas of technology, finance, markets and organizations. It also examines how tourism entrepreneurs respond to risk and uncertainty through a range of strategies, especially the harvesting of knowledge and networking. However, engaging with uncertainty remains elusive and relies as much on intuition as on reasoning.
Smart destinations have become an esteemed concept among researchers and policy makers. Discus-sion of the concept is optimistic in tone and commonly linked to information rather than knowledge and more to design than innovation. This partly explains the relatively limited critical discussion of the (potential) benefits of smart destinations. The article raises selected issues from the innovation, as opposed to the design literature, to offer insightful perspectives on analyzing smart destination. The discussion emphasises that: 1) smart destinations are driven by uncertainty; 2) knowledge pro-vides deeper insights than information into smart destinations as innovation; 3) entrepreneurs play an important role in facilitating smart destinations; and 4) smart destinations constitute innovation sys-tems.
This is a policy note from the project “The innovation journey of tourism entrepreneurs: evidence from Spain and the UK and policy implications-INNOVATE”. The project aims to deepen understanding of the different stages of the innovation journey followed by entrepreneurs in tourism to contribute to the design of more effective innovation policies. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement Nº 700893. This briefing is based on more than 70 interviews with tourism innovative entrepreneurs (both successful and unsuccessful).
El Estado es un agente favorecedor clave de la innovación que tiene lugar en el sistema turístico, tanto en el ejercicio de su función de diseñar e implantar política pública, como a partir del estímulo deliberado a la innovación. En esta investigación el análisis se centra en la innovación generada dentro de la política turística española que afecta a sus propias estructuras e instrumentos y se hace desde perspectiva histórica. El objetivo de este estudio es aplicar el concepto de la innovación, sobre el que se ha reflexionado fundamentalmente en un ámbito de mercado, al ámbito del diseño e implantación de políticas públicas que se rige por unos objetivos y reglas de funcionamiento distintas a la lógica del mercado. A partir de la observación rigurosa y sistemática de los instrumentos de la política turística del gobierno central se ha tratado de discriminar qué novedades reúnen las características necesarias para ser consideradas innovación por cuanto intensidad de cambio inducido, efectiva ejecución, impacto generado y ruptura respecto a lo previamente existente, requisitos considerados condición ineludible para su identificación como tal. El análisis demuestra que gobierno central en su ejercicio de diseño de políticas ha dado muestras de abundante creatividad y de un esfuerzo notable por introducir soluciones nuevas y cambios para dar respuesta a nuevos y antiguos problemas aunque no todos los intentos han desembocado en innovación. Se confirma, por tanto, que la innovación como resultado no es un fenómeno fácil ni frecuente. Ésta se ha identificado fundamentalmente en los instrumentos organizativos y programáticos de dicha política turística. Asimismo, los cambios institucionales radicales o las situaciones de crisis del sector han forzado a la búsqueda de estrategias más innovadoras y han constituido entornos más fértiles para la innovación. | | | The estate is a key agent that influences innovation in the tourism system via its actions of public policy design and implementation and also its direct intervention to stimulate innovation. The analysis focuses on innovation in tourism policy that affects its own structures and instruments from a historical perspective in Spain. The aim of this study is to apply the concept of innovation, mainly thought from a market perspective, to the domain of public policies design and implementation which obeys rules and objectives different than the market. From a systematic and rigorous observation of central government tourism policy instruments an attempt to distinguish innovation has been made based on criteria such as intensity of induced change, effective implementation, impact and disruption from previous existent knowledge and action. The analysis shows that central government in its exercise of policy design has demonstrated a great deal of creativity and has made efforts to introduce new solutions and induce change to solve new and old problems. However, not all creative efforts have become innovation. It is thus confirmed that innovation is not frequent or an easy phenomenon. It has mainly been identified in the management and programmatic tourism policy instruments. Also radical institutional changes and crisis situations have stimulated the search for more innovative strategies and have constituted more fertile environments to innovation.
Innovation is inherently associated with risk and uncertainty, and the engagement of entrepreneurs with these is central to the innovation process. Entrepreneurs are not passive actors but, through learning, they contribute to the dynamic capabilities of the firm across the innovation process. Drawing on 57 interviews with entrepreneurs in tourism small and medium enterprises in Spain and the United Kingdom, the article identifies how risk and uncertainty are understood to change throughout the innovation process in the key areas of technology, finance, markets, and organizations. It also examines how tourism entrepreneurs respond to risk and uncertainty through a range of strategies, especially the harvesting of knowledge and networking. However, engaging with uncertainty remains elusive and relies as much on intuition as on reasoning.
This paper is part of the analysis of the new policies drawn up to promote innovation in the field of tourism. Traditionally, innovation has had a marginal role in tourism, despite its territorial, social and economic importance. There are a series of barriers that hinder tourism with regard to innovation. The level of innovation is rather low compared to that of other economic activities, although the existing systems used to measure this are more appropriate for industrial sectors, so they probably underestimate the innovative capacity of the tourism sector. In any case innovation is a source of competitive advantage for companies and tourist destinations and therefore it is becoming increasingly more important in tourism policy. This paper analyses an initiative developed in Spain: The Innovative Business Group Programme (IBGs). Before embarking upon the analysis of this Programme however, the evolution of the role of innovation in tourism policy is first summarised and then secondly, a review is carried out on the use of the cluster concept and the policies associated with this concept in tourism, insofar as the inspirational principles of the IBG Programme liken the innovative groups to clusters. Innovation has had little bearing on Spanish policies in tourism until quite recently. For the first time ever, innovation and knowledge have become two of the central points of Spanish tourism policy within the context of the Strategic Spanish Tourism Plan Horizon 2020, the tourism policy instrument in force between 2008 and 2012. This Plan advocates a new tourist economy where innovation, knowledge, the acquisition and the development of talent are fundamental aspects. Within the context of this Plan, the Tourism Administration tries to encourage the participation of the tourist sector in the Innovative Business Group Programme (IBGs), which is an industrial policy instrument used to promote innovation and competitiveness within the corporate sector. Although it is not a specific tourism policy instrument in the strict sense of the word (it accommodates any industrial/business sector), what is new about this initiative is the pioneering participation of the tourist sector in a programme that traditionally focused on industrial sectors and the access to typical cluster policy innovative cooperation processes.
The innovation journey of tourism entrepreneurs: evidence from Spain and the UK and policy implications-INNOVATE is a research project that aims to deepen understanding of the different stages of the innovation journey followed by entrepreneurs in tourism to contribute to the design of more effective innovation policies. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement Nº 700893.This 2 year project included an analysis of the innovation pathways of 70 entrepreneurs (both successful and unsuccessful). Critical factors for success or failure were identified from the innovators’ narratives and were discussed with policymakers in Spain. The results of this discussion was the co-production of an online survey allowing the potential policy measures and issues to be discussed with a wider sample of innovative entrepreneurs. The survey was completed by 269 tourism innovators both in Spain and the UK. The policy recommendations included in this report are informed by the views of all the participants at different methodological stages.
The need for a reformulation of the touristic development model associated to the “sun and beach” formula in the Spanish Mediterranean coast have been present in the touristic policy over the last twenty years, which conducted to has led to the implementation of various strategies, programs and actions aimed at the improvement and renewal of the mature tourist destinations on the coast by the public and private sector. Along these lines, the analysis of the latest and most emblematic initiatives and projects undertaken is of interest for the best illustration of the complex reality in which processes of restructuring and renovation of coastal tourist destinations operate. For this reason, this paper discusses an analysis and inclusive synthesis for the four pilot restructuring projects promoted by the Tourism Administration in order to reflect on its nature, the execution level of its initial proposals and, at the same time, facilitate an easier understanding and assessment of the support policy for the mature destinations conversion. Analyzed pilot experiences have demonstrated positive effects in the renewal yet far from the fulfillment of large magnitude objectives, revealing the existing gap between what is projected from political arena and what is actually achieved in its implementation. This work tries to evaluate in a pioneer manner from a critical, objective and overall perspective, the performance of these projects.
Entrepreneurs undertake the innovation journey every time they follow a sequence of events to transform a new idea into an implemented reality or innovation. The journey has often been referred to as a “black box”, where the internal workings are complex and poorly understood, and this is especially true of tourism. In order to understand this process this study aims to present a comprehensive model which integrates existent information from different strands of literature to describe and understand the tasks and subtasks in which the process can be divided. This paper focuses on the innovation journey of a specific type of innovator: new-to-tourism young entrepreneurs who followed a distinctive start-up process. It analyses the sequence of events and associated micro processes and actions in the innovation journey that broadly correspond to the unfolding innovation process: idea generation, coalition building, idea realization and transfer or diffusion. The analysis draws on the narrations of a sample of tourism innovators recipients of loans from a Spanish tourism innovation programme about their journey, backed up by desk research about the types of innovations and the entrepreneurs’ identities to reconstruct each innovation biography. The findings show that these innovators, coming from other fields (mainly engineering), consider tourism to be a lower-risk sector with low barriers to entry, and high potential for technology-based innovations. However, the lack of tourism experience has forced the innovators to build coalitions with tourism stakeholders at different points. The findings also confirm the key characteristics of the process outlined by innovation scholars: the journey is highly dynamic, uncertain and fraught with difficulties of a dynamic nature which require quick, creative – and mainly collective - responses. This is particularly important when traversing the so-called Valley of Death, the gap between set-up costs and revenue generation.
Originality is an essential element of academic research and the peer review system plays a key gatekeeping role in its acceptance. However, there is no consensus as to the precise definition of the concept, its measurement nor the importance attached to it. Primary data from 26 interviews with editors or editorial board members of top ranking tourism journals inform a discussion of the nuanced understanding of the concept and of how different levels of originality (radical vs. incremental), among other peer review assessment criteria, influence tourism publication. Finally, the main challenges relating to recognising originality in the peer review process are identified leading to recommendations for improvements to how originality is assessed.
This study addresses the neglect of an overall analysis of the generative process of innovation in tourism studies. A conceptual framework draws together the fragmented literature on the innovation process which is visualized as a series of non-linear tasks from idea generation to diffusion. The conceptual framework is explored through a systematic analysis of the tourism innovation journey of 24 new-to-tourism entrepreneurs establishing start-ups in Spain. The analysis draws on the innovators’ narrations about their distinctive journeys to provide a more holistic picture of the innovation process. Drilling down into the sub-processes within each major task reveals the complexity of an innovation journey that is highly dynamic, uncertain, experimental and market-driven. A model of the innovation process is proposed based on the findings.
Customer resistance is the greatest risk to innovation for the entrepreneur. The aim of this exploratory study is to provide insights into this underdeveloped area in the tourism innovation literature. A qualitative approach is adopted to understand the resistance experienced by 57 entrepreneurs when introducing their innovations into the market, the causes and the actions taken to minimise resistance. Findings indicate that most entrepreneurs often encounter resistance from sceptical customers, satisfied with their status quo and with no or low appetites for innovation. The analysis reveals two main sources of resistance: the association of the innovations with particular risks, and the customers' lack of understanding of the innovation value. Communication strategies are crucial to decrease the associated risks and for trust building. The paper provides a critical perspective on the challenges faced by innovators, challenges which are often overlooked given the near-iconic status of innovation in studies of economic development.