A critical assessment of innovation as a determinant of tourism competitiveness
Innovation is increasingly being regarded as the life blood of growth in any economy. However, the role of innovation as a determinant of destination competitiveness is largely neglected in the majority of models on destination competitiveness. This is despite the pivotal role that innovation can play in enhancing tourism competitiveness of destinations especially those experiencing myriad of challenges like Zimbabwe. Therefore, with reference to Zimbabwe, the goal of the study was to critically assess how innovation can be used as a determinant of tourism competitiveness from a stakeholder perspective. To achieve the main goal of the study five objectives were formulated. First objective was to establish the link between management and tourism competitiveness which was achieved in Chapter two (2) by conducting a review of literature. Objective two (2) was to critically assess the role of innovation in the tourism industry and it was fulfilled in Chapter three (3) through a review of literature. The third objective was to establish the determinants of tourism competitiveness from a stakeholders' perspective. The objective was answered in Chapter five (5) together with objective four (4) through gathering empirical data. Objective four (4) sought to determine the stakeholders' perceptions on how innovation can be used to enhance tourism competitiveness in Zimbabwe. The last objective was to develop guidelines to be used by tourism managers and the government on how to embrace innovation to improve tourism competitiveness in Zimbabwe and it was responded to in Chapter six (6) of the study. To a greater extent the competitiveness of a destination is a product of the concerted efforts from individual organisations that make up the tourism industry. Consequently, this justifies the use of stakeholders in the study. The study adopted a qualitative research methodology and used a semi-structured interview guide to collect data from eighteen (18) participants who comprised of policy makers, entrepreneurs and managers of tourism organisations. Thematic data analysis was used to analyse collected data. Creswell's six steps of data analysis were used to guide the data analysis. Main findings which emerged from the study were: While the participants showed an appreciation of what innovation is, there is still an indication that some participants have not yet realised the value that innovation has in an organisation. This has been professed by the failure of participants to mention innovation as one of the determinants of tourism competitiveness. Resultantly, this raises pertinent questions on the capacity, capability, readiness and competence of the country's tourism stakeholders to come up with innovative solutions for the betterment of the country's tourism product. The economic challenges coupled with a poor political will being faced by Zimbabwe have crippled the capacity of tourism organisations to innovate according to the opinion of the majority of the respondents. However, it has also emerged that study participants have a misconception that a lot of funds are needed for innovation to take place yet innovation can still happen with small budgets and challenges can even provide the impetus to develop innovative solutions. The instability in the economic environment has affected some systems such as maintenance of tourism superstructure and provision of good access to a destination which are key aspects in bringing competitiveness to a destination. There was general consensus among participants that the above challenges have weakened the competitiveness of Zimbabwe. In light of the findings which emerged from the study, a set of guidelines were developed which can be used as basis of using innovation as a strategy in Zimbabwe, despite the tumultuous phase which the tourism industry is experiencing. The study is expected to benefit policy makers, entrepreneurs and managers of tourism organisations by providing them with knowledge on effective and efficient utilisation of innovation to improve the competitiveness of Zimbabwe.