Competitiveness in the Visitor Economy

This research group is one of our most established, with strong funding, staffing, partnerships and impacts.

Labour is a key part of competitiveness in hospitality, tourism and events, so it is a central focus of this research group.

We aim to address equality and diversity in employment and conduct studies of future labour markets, productivity, career mobilities, skills, flexible employment and entrepreneurial migration, while examining other aspects of competitiveness at both firm and destination levels, such as advances in destination branding, visitor satisfaction, innovation, revenue management, and risk and disaster impacts.

We also aim to maintain our world-leading position in demand-forecasting research, which provides a scientific foundation to support businesses’ and governments’ decision making to improve their competitiveness.

Our partners

This research group has strong collaborations with world-leading institutions in tourism research, such as The Hong Kong Polytechnic Universitythe University of Queensland, and Sun Yat-Sen University.

We also collaborate with governments, businesses and tourism organisations nationally and globally, including:

We would like to collaborate with other leading research institutions and build strong links with national and international organisations and industry partners to generate wider research impact beyond academia.

Current projects

We’ve recently been awarded grants to conduct research, including:

  • Entrepreneurs’ innovation pathways (funded by Marie Curie Fellowships)
  • Youth mobility (funded by EU Horizon 2020)
  • Competitiveness in small firms (funded by Marie Curie Fellowships)
  • Cross-border innovation (funded by Marie Curie Fellowships)
  • Productivity, flexible working and migrant labour in hotels (funded by ESRC)
  • Social entrepreneurship (funded by the British Academy and The Leverhulme Trust).

International research and consultancy projects include visitor forecasting for Shanghai Disney Resort and destination branding, funded by the Norwegian Research Council.


    • Start date: 1 June 2016
    • End date: 31 May 2018


    The main aim of the project is to deepen understanding of the different stages of the innovation journey followed by entrepreneurs in tourism. It will examine not only the classic startup process, involving opportunity recognition, development and early implementation of innovation in the market, but also the subsequent stages of business performance (discontinuance, growth, further innovation, etc.). This understanding will contribute to the design of more effective innovation policies.

    Download the summary information brochure.


    1. Understand the innovation journey initiated by entrepreneurs in tourism, analysing the process and how this differ in the contrasting economic, tourism and institutional environments of Spain and the UK. This involves mainly a qualitative approach and the narratives of innovative entrepreneurs will be gathered through in-depth semi-structure interviews. Secondary data analysis and a first period of secondments with policy partners (SEGITTUR) dealing with tourism and innovation will contribute to set the specific contexts influencing the innovation process in each country.
    2. Analyse the development and performance patterns of a sample of young innovative entrepreneurs in tourism through a longitudinal study in Spain, specifically focussing on the determinants of innovation success or failure. Building on an initial previous contact, this will be accomplished through follow up interviews.
    3. Inform policy guidelines and business practices through co-production of applied knowledge with entrepreneurs and policy partner organizations in the UK and Spain. Key policy aspects identified during the previous stage will be transformed in collaboration with policy partner organisations (SEGITTUR in Spain and the Institute of Hospitality and the World Travel and Tourism Council in the UK) in an online survey targeting entrepreneurs to create validated policy guidelines. In summary, this contribution aims to bring more coherence and effectiveness to tourism innovation policy-practice.


    This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the MarieSkłodowska-Curiegrant agreement Nº 700893.


    Originality and innovative aspects

    This project represents the first attempt to provide a systematic, and theoretically informed analysis of the stages of the innovation process in tourism. Such studies are still relatively scarce in most economic sectors, but are virtually non-existent in tourism. Two other original, dimensions are: a) a comparative analysis of the innovation process in different national economic and institutional environments; and b) a focus on the multiple stages of the innovation journey of startups, and the challenges of subsequent innovation and growth. In short, this research incorporates both the temporal and the spatial or contextual dimension. In contrast, most existing research focuses on only part of the innovation journey.

    This is one of the first attempts to study the links between innovation and entrepreneurship in the tourism sector, rather than researching these concepts as separate entities. This is particularly important because innovation is central to the challenge of becoming a (successful) entrepreneur, while entrepreneurship is the essential vehicle between ideas and innovation.

    This is the first attempt to use a mixed method research design, in tourism innovation policy studies, involving both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Particularly original are: a) the longitudinal study of the innovation process through follow-up interviews with entrepreneurs; and b) a quantitative survey to validate the policy recommendations.

    Policy and practice partner organisations

    • Sociedad Estatal para la Gestión de la Innovación y las Tecnologías Turísticas (SEGITTUR)
    • Institute of Hospitality (IOH)
    • World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).



    Further reading

    Rodriguez-Sanchez, I., Williams, A.M., & Brotons, M. (2017). The innovation journey of new-to-tourism entrepreneurs, Current Issues in Tourism, DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2017.1334763

    Postgraduate research students

    Contact us

    • Phone: +44 (0)1483 686300
    • Fax: +44 (0)1483 686346

    Find us

    School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
    University of Surrey
    GU2 7XH