Clusters and Destinations: Complex Adaptive Systems in a New State of Disruption

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This conference proceeding was originally published as:

Keogh, C., Kriz, A., & Barnes, L. (2017, July 1- 5). Clusters and destinations: Complex adaptive systems in a new state of disruption. Abstract presented at the R&D Management Conference, Leuven, Belgium.


150603 Tourism Management

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Industry specific clusters are important features of regional development. Benefits of firm cluster engagement leading to knowledge spillovers and innovation are promoted by the World Bank and OECD. Cluster innovation and economic development require harnessing but as clusters are a form of complex adaptive system (CAS), it is difficult to anticipate how such systems will develop or grow. This study explores how and why micro-enterprises (MEs) engage in cluster development initiatives in a tourism accommodation context. MEs as a tourism service are particularly important in the broader context of R&D management as these enterprises and the cluster they inhabit add substantive value to a regional innovation system (RIS). Using a case study approach, the theoretical framework draws on Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group’s ‘actor, activities, resources model’ to understand ME cluster engagement. Analysis of qualitative interviews and secondary data from three substantial Australian tourism regions adds deep insight of clustering and CAS issues. What was not expected was the incredible growth of Airbnb while the research was unfolding. Combined with stakeholder lack of knowledge, the study provides interesting insights for those confronting similar disruptors. Airbnb has managed to offer a surrogate, more formalised cluster offering where mostly informal clustering existed for the three cases analysed. Providing what becomes an Airbnb open innovation ecosystem to three variations of tourism-related clusters for the ME accommodation sector brings unexpected benefits. Ultimately however Airbnb does have limitations for the three regional cases which for varying reasons have found themselves in a considerable state of flux. Ultimately Airbnb complements but is not a replacement for localised RIS tourism services endeavours.


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