Dr Isabel Rodriguez

Research Interests

Research Focus

Isabel’s research interests throughout her academic career have focused on broad aspects of tourism, mainly tourism planning and policy issues at multiple geographical scales and settings and more recently on innovation studies. She has long had an interest in working across the border between academia and practice and collaborating with non-academic bodies and public organizations in applied research. With the support of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie action (MSCA) from the European Union within the next two years the  focus of her research will be tourism innovation.

Current Project funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions

The innovation journey of tourism entrepreneurs: evidence from the UK and Spain and policy implications (INNOVATE).

This study seeks to bridge the conceptualization of innovation and entrepreneurship, analyse the entrepreneurial practices leading to tourism innovation in two different countries, and contribute to the design of more effective policies to enhance innovation practices across the EU. Specifically the project will address three main objectives which will be achieved using a mixed method research, involving both qualitative and quantitative approaches:

1) Understand tourism entrepreneurs’ innovation journey, analysing key aspects of the process (resources, facilitators and barriers at different stages) and how these differ in contrasting economic and institutional environments in Spain and the UK.

2) Analyse the development and performance patterns of young innovative entrepreneurs in tourism through a longitudinal study in Spain, specifically focusing on the determinants of innovation success or failure beyond the startup phase.

3) Inform policy guidelines and business practices through co-production of applied knowledge and guidelines with entrepreneurs identified during the research, and via secondments with policy and practice partner organisations.

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

Research Collaborations

Professors Allan Williams (University of Surrey) and Michael Hall (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) on tourism innovation cluster policies.

Professor Fernando Vera (University of Alicante) on tourism planning, evolution and renovation strategies of mature tourism destinations.

Dr Maria Velasco (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) on tourism policy and innovation in Spain.

Dr Paz Such (University of Alicante) on strategies of renovation in mature tourism destinations and nature-based tourism product diversification strategies.

Contact Me

Phone: 01483 68 2853

Find me on campus
Room: 57 AP 02


Journal articles

  • Rodriguez I, Williams AM, Brotons M. (2017) 'The innovation journey of new-to-tourism entrepreneurs'. Taylor & Francis Current Issues in Tourism,


    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.

  • Perles-Ribes J, Rodriguez I, Ramón-Rodríguez AB. (2015) 'Is a cluster a necessary condition for success? The case of Benidorm.'. Current Issues in Tourism, , pp. 1-29.
  • Rodríguez I, Williams AM, Hall CM. (2014) 'Tourism innovation policy: Implementation and outcomes'. Elsevier Annals of Tourism Research, 49, pp. 76-93.
  • Rodriguez I, Such MP. (2014) 'La política turística española de apoyo a la renovación y reestructuración de destinos turísticos maduros: Una valoración a partir de las experiencias piloto recientes | [Support policies for the renovation and restructuring of mature tourism destinations: A retrospective evaluation from case studies].'. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya ACE: Architecture, City and Environment, 9 (25), pp. 437-466.
  • Ivars J, Rodriguez I, Vera JF, Acebal A. (2014) 'New approaches in tourism management: the Innovative Business Group Programme in Spain'. Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles, 66, pp. 521-527.


    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.

  • Ivars JA, Rodriguez I, Vera Rebollo JF. (2012) 'The evolution of mass tourism destinations: New approaches beyond deterministic models in Benidorm (Spain)'. Elsevier Tourism Management, 34, pp. 184-195.
  • Capdepón Frias M, Rodriguez I, Such MP. (2012) 'Exploring the potential of natural parks in the process of renovation of mature coastal tourism destinations: evidence from the Valencia Region in Spain'. Universidade do Algarve Tourism and Management Studies, 8, pp. 19-29.


    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.

  • Rodriguez I, Vera JF. (2010) 'Tourism strategies for the renovation of mature coastal destinations in Spain'. WIT Press WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 139, pp. 21-33.


    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.

  • Rodriguez I, Such MP, Capdepón M. (2010) 'Protected areas: A valid argument for the renovation and diversification of mature coastal tourist destinations in Spain?'. WIT Press WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 139, pp. 283-294.

Conference papers

  • Rodriguez I, Williams AM. (2016) 'The Innovation Journey of New-To-Tourism Entrepreneurs and The Challenge of Traversing The Valley of Death'. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Conference 2016, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK: School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Conference 2016 "Making an impact: Creating Constructive Conversations"


    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.

  • Rodriguez I. (2014) 'Tourism innovation policy in Spain: the evaluation of a cluster experience'. Universidad Rovira i Virgili, Tarrogana, Spain: International Workshop of the Regional Studies Association
  • Rodriguez I, Brotons M, Williams A. (2014) 'The innovation journey of new-to-tourism entrepreneurs.'. Values of Tourism; 23rd Nordic Symposium on Tourism and Hospitality Research proceedings., Copenhagen, Denmark: 23rd Nordic Symposium on Tourism and Hospitality Research
  • Rodriguez I, Perles, JF, Ramón AB. (2014) 'Innovative Tourism Clusters: Myth or Reality? Empirical Evidence from Benidorm.'. Bolzano, Italy:
  • Velasco M, Rodriguez I. (2014) 'Innovación en la política turística española: análisis desde una perspectiva histórica'. Comunicación presentada en el XVIII Congreso AECIT, Benidorm, 26-28 Noviembre 2014, Benidorm, Alicante, Spain: XVIII Congreso Asociación Expertos Científicos en Turismo


    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 go

  • Andreu R, Rodriguez I. (2012) 'Cooperation among public and private tourism sectors in the Costa Blanca Region (Spain).'. Athens, Greece: 2012 Athens Tourism Symposium: International Scientific Congress on Current Trends in Tourism Management and Tourism Policy with a special track titled “Managing Tourism in Times of Crisis
  • Such MP, Rodriguez I. (2012) 'Consideraciones a propósito de una propuesta de indicadores de renovación de destinos turísticos maduros de sol y playa.'. Barcelona, Spain: XIII Coloquio de Geografía del Turismo, Ocio y Recreación
  • Rodriguez I, Conejero AM. (2011) 'Renovation of mature tourist destinations, experts and stakeholders, global-local discourses and future scenarios: the case of Benidorm.'. Algarve, Portugal.: International Conference on Tourism & Management Studies - Algarve 2011
  • Rico E, Rodriguez I. (2010) 'Propuestas para el uso turístico y recreativo en el Parque Natural de las Lagunas de La Mata-Torrevieja.'. Castellón, España.: XII Congreso Internacional de Turismo Universidad y Empresa
  • Vera JF, Rodriguez I, Capdepón M. (2010) 'Reestructuración y competitividad en destinos maduros de sol y playa: la renovación de la planta hotelera de Benidorm.'. Castellón, España.: XIII Congreso Internacional de Turismo Universidad y Empresa: Renovación de Destinos Turísticos Consolidados
  • Vera JF, Rodriguez I. (2010) 'Tourism strategies for the renovation of mature coastal destinations in Spain.'. New Forest, United Kingdom.: IV International Conference on Sustainable Tourism
  • Rodriguez I, Such MP, Capdepón M. (2010) 'Protected areas: a valid argument for the renovation and diversification of mature coastal tourist destinations in Spain?'. New Forest, UK: IV International Conference on Sustainable Tourism


  • Vera Rebollo JF, Rodríguez Sánchez I. (2012) Renovación y reestructuración de destinos turísticos en áreas costeras. Marco de análisis, procesos, instrumentos y realidades.. València : Publicacions de la Universitat de València

Book chapters

  • Ivars J, Rodriguez I, Vera JF. (2012) 'La reinvención de los destinos turísticos maduros: modelos evolutivos y dinámicas turístico-territoriales. Benidorm como paradigma'. in Vera Rebollo JF, Rodríguez Sánchez I (eds.) Renovación y reestructuración de destinos turísticos en áreas costeras. Marco de análisis, procesos, instrumentos y realidades Valencia : Publicacions de la Universitat de València. , pp. 269-296.
  • Rodriguez I, Such MP, Capdepón, M. (2012) 'Los espacios naturales protegidos en los procesos de reestructuración y renovación de destinos turísticos maduros del litoral español: valoración desde el análisis de experiencias.'. in Vera Rebollo JF, Rodríguez Sánchez I (eds.) Renovación y reestructuración de destinos turísticos en áreas costeras. Marco de análisis, procesos, instrumentos y realidades Valencia : Publicacions de la Universitat de València. , pp. 347-374.

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