In: Tourism review, 2012
Purpose – In South Tyrol, Italy, and in other alpine destinations, the role of publicly financed tourism destination management has traditionally a strong focus on image promotion. In South Tyrol, three further regional public management organisations have recently been founded with the aim of developing the location by expanding its innovation and export capabilities, especially for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). All four public organisations aim to increase the competitiveness of local companies through creating a more efficient management of destination and location. The cooperation between the four organisations and further public and private regional stakeholders might be regarded as a regional innovation system (RIS). This paper aims to analyse and discuss within the frame of a case study, the structure of the cooperation between the four public organisations and if it can be regarded as a developing South Tyrolean regional innovation system. The paper aims to focus on the roles of the four organisations, possible synergies and implications for regional governance.
Design/methodology/approach – Four qualitative interviews were conducted with the directors of the four organisations, based on four open questions. The interviews were analysed using the GABEK technique and WinRelan software. These combined techniques helped to visualise the processes within and between social organisations. Further, they helped to show, structure and organise respondents’ experiences and opinions, and enabled the researchers to identify opportunities and difficulties, even in such complex structures.
Findings – The results of the study show there exists a cooperation of semi-private organisations in South Tyrol, which shows characteristics of being a central part of a developing regional innovation system. The four analysed organisations work on different tasks and positions in the promotion and management of the region under a set of common goals. The destination management organisation takes a central and important part in the regional innovation system. Its umbrella brand is an integrating element for the entire cooperation. Nevertheless, the analysed organisations have unrealised potential for further cooperation. The realisation of synergies, and a clearer definition of responsibilities by the regional government, are seen as the bases for better regional governance and for the implementation of an effective regional innovation system in South Tyrol.
Research limitations/implications – This study has some limitations, including that further research on this approach is needed in order to characterize the whole regional innovation system. Furthermore a comparative study with other regions should be conducted.
Originality/value – The processes behind the development of an integrated regional management and marketing can be observed in several alpine regions (such as Graubünden, Tyrol) and major cities (for example, Zürich, Bern). South Tyrol underwent a long process of umbrella brand development – the basis for the integration of economic and tourist promotion. Through the integration and development of the product, other facets were enhanced, including marketing, innovation, the establishment of new enterprises and exports, which together can be regarded as regional innovation systems. This case study shows the synergies of the different regional actors, as well as implications for the governance of such regional innovation systems. In this way, the paper adds value to the discussion, how regional innovation processes can be initiated and governed, considering the role of the destination management organisation.