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The number of innovative tourism companies falls but there is a rise of almost 13% in innovation spending, says the ESADE and EY report

Technology is again the main field in which tourism companies innovate, especially in catering and transport, the study finds

“The number of tourism companies investing in innovation has fallen between 5 and 6.1% compared with last year. Nevertheless, the amount spent (in Euro terms) has risen by 12.9%” stressed Prof. Josep Francesc Valls, who holds the Chair of ESADE-URL’s Marketing Management Department and is the author of the report The State of Tourism Innovation in Spain 2018 [Estado de la Innovación Turística en España 2018], published by ESADE in collaboration with EY

For the eighth year in a row, the International Innovation Workshop (AIIT) at ESADECREAPOLIS has analysed the state of innovation in hotel, catering, transport, distribution, culture and leisure companies. The sample covers 943 Spanish firms. The Report highlights technology as the main field of innovation (17%), especially in the catering and transport fields, however it notes that future concerns mainly centre on improving products and services (12.2 and 11.9%). 

According to Xavier Trias, Partner in charge of the IT Advisory branch of EY, “The tourism sector has been one of the pioneers in technological innovation and digital transformation, especially in the fields of commercialisation and client experience. Nevertheless, companies face the challenge of continuing to innovate in and bet on technologies that will have a big impact in the future (Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, The Internet of Things, and so on). All these cutting-edge technologies involve greater technical complexity and their applications are less obvious”. 

A slow-down in the digitalisation of tourism companies

With regard to the outlook for the changes required in The Digital Age, the Report notes that over two thirds of the companies surveyed (68.9%) stated that they had no long-term plans for changing their business models. In addition, 65.5% of respondents said that they had an idea of the business and a vision for the digital future. Yet these firms had not drawn up either a strategy or ‘route map’ for dealing with change. According to Prof. Valls “One cannot help but be struck by the optimism of most (50.3%) of these companies, which blithely believe that they already have the organisational assets and procedures for making any changes that may be needed”.
The Report also stressed that most companies paid little attention to new digital trends, such as Robotics or Virtual Reality, yet recognised the potential of Digital Marketing, Geo-localisation, and ‘Big Data’, among other things.

Investment in and monetisation of entrepreneurial ventures in the sector

Regarding the nature of tourism start-ups, Prof. Valls said that “many entrepreneurial ventures in the sector are characterised by low investment with a quick pay-back”. The Report data shows that the cycle for the design, pilot study, and launch of new products and services is under a year in most companies (81.7%). No less than 72% of firms stated that they had recouped the investment on new products and services within a year. 

The Report also highlights the fact that most tourism companies are happy with their customer orientation, with 53% considering that they meet clients’ expectations and that they offer good value for money. 

Isabel Maria Oliver Sagreras, Secretary of State for TourismDavid Font, director general, Agència Catalana de TurismeOriol Alcoba, director general, ESADECREAPOLIS; Elena Foguet, Business Director, Value Retail Spain; Patrick Torrent, Executive Director, Agència Catalana de Turisme; José Francisco Adell, CEO, Grupo Juliá; Diego Vicente Hernández, director,  Caixabank Hotels&Tourism; Bruno Hallé, partner director, Magma Hospitality Consulting and Ricard Santomà, dean of HTSI, also particpated in the event.

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