University of Surrey research into innovative entrepreneurs in tourism has found how they have to use initiative and hard work – and often work for nothing – to overcome the barriers in setting up their innovation.
The researchers include University of Surrey’s Dr Isabel Rodriguez and Professor Allan Williams. Dr Rodriguez said: “Tourism entrepreneurs face many challenges and successfully overcame them by being highly dynamic and market-driven. We wanted to highlight how they succeeded doing this in an uncertain process.”
To keep afloat entrepreneurs can save money by running the business from home, ‘share’ employees with other companies, offer a share of the business in return for specialist advice, as business owners work for less than market rates.
Entrepreneurs can build ties and networks with different stakeholders, to ensure that the innovations are successfully developed and implemented.
The research revealed some of the obstacles the entrepreneurs had to overcome. These included some areas of the tourism industry being behind the times when it comes to technology, which empowered the entrepreneur to apply technological knowledge to attract customers.
Another issue for the entrepreneurs, who often had little or no relevant background in tourism, included getting the customer to adopt new technology that the industry was not familiar with, and ensuring acceptance of the innovation, for example by offering free trials.
This might include using apps to decide at a ski resort whether or not to ski that day, or to obtain unused hotel parking spaces when commuting.
The entrepreneurs’ other successful techniques included ensuring that the customer was an integral part of the design of the product from the early days of the innovation process, and being flexible to the customers’ needs.
The University of Surrey research showed that entrepreneurs needed particular characteristics and approaches to succeed, including experimenting with their approach early in the process, and working with a functionally diverse team to utilise plenty of different skills. Another successful approach included carrying out many development activities concurrently rather than in a set sequence, to overcome problems as soon as they were encountered.
Dr Rodriguez said: “This research sheds more light on how entrepreneurs are successfully using technology to transform the tourism sector despite any potential consumer resistance. It highlights that entrepreneurs have to work hard to get their ideas to the market – but with perseverance and hard work they will successfully introduce innovations that make an impact in the tourism sector.”
The research is supported by The Institute of Hospitality.