11 TERRITORIAL INNOVATION IN TOURISM – Contributions by Filipa Brandão

I have started my academic career in 2004, when I decided to pursue my graduate degree in Tourism Management and Planning. At this time, I was very interested in analysing the role of management information in supporting decision-making in tourism and subsequently, the overall competitiveness of tourism destinations. While doing my Master thesis on this topic, I got in touch with many regional-level tourism organisations and, out of the many findings and conclusions of this study, one thing that stood out (as an intermediate output) was the role and relevance of the tourism territories and how all tourism stakeholders interrelated with each other concerning information creation and exchange.

These dynamics related to knowledge and information started to interest me very much and, when it came to define the topic for my PhD research, I started to read about it. These readings lead me to the work of Lundvall (1992, p.1), who stated that “the most fundamental resource in the modern economy is knowledge and, accordingly, the most important process is learning”. This idea set the ground for the initial development of national innovation systems, and then regional innovation systems, a concept that was first introduced by Philip Cooke in 1992 and is nowadays widely used by several academics when studying innovation processes in regional economies (Asheim & Coenen, 2004; Cooke, Gomez Uranga, & Etxebarria, 1997; Cooke, Heidenreich, & Braczyk, 2004, among others; Doloreux, 2004; Landabaso, Oughton, & Morgan, 1999). At this point, I realised that there was little research about innovation in tourism, especially when considering territorial dynamics. The seminal works of Hjalager (1997, 2000, 2002) and Hall and Williams (2008), alongside the critical review of territorial innovation models developed by Moulaert and Sekia (2003), led to the decision in which my academic career is grounded for the last 14 years: I wanted to understand the territorial dynamics underlying innovation in tourism.

In terms of specific topics, I can highlight my contributions in (i) the design and creation of a Regional Tourism Innovation System Model; and (ii) researching tourism innovation networks through sociometric analysis. Later, I became also involved in supervising PhD thesis in extremely interesting, related topics, as well as assumed academic duties that, more indirectly, have also contributed to the research field.

Regional Tourism Innovation Systems

I started researching about territorial innovation in tourism under the supervision of Prof. Carlos Costa and Prof. Dimitrios Buhalis, while pursuing my PhD. The main objective was to understand how regional innovation systems worked in tourism and how they could be developed in destinations to foster the creation of an environment supportive and conducive to successful innovations and sustainable development. At the time, the existing studies on innovation focused mainly on manufacturing firms, and theoretical and empirical studies about tourism innovation were still moderate and mostly conceptual. The acknowledgement of the importance that the territory has in destination development, conducted to a path focusing on the relationship between tourism innovation, firms and destinations, as an integrated whole. In fact, the evolution of innovation models demonstrate that the practice of innovation in firms started from linear, sequential and atomistic processes developed entirely within the scope of the firm (Rothwell, 1994), towards the most recent models in which firms, in order to be successful, develop their innovation in a networked environment, with strong patterns of cooperation not only with other businesses, but also suppliers, customers, universities, research centres, etc. and highly supported by interactive knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and collective learning (Chaminade & Edquist, 2005). Thus, the territory in which innovation develops has a critical role, as it provides the necessary conditions for it to develop. A significant contribution of this work was the development of a conceptual and operational model that depicts the elements, functions, and processes within a regional tourism innovation system (Brandão, 2014; Brandão & Costa, 2012) and its validation in two distinct regions, through a comparative analysis. Additional, more specific contributions can be highlighted, such as the implementation of tourism innovation through public participation (Costa & Brandão, 2011) the role of different types of knowledge in tourism innovation (Brandão et al, 2020a) or the hotel’s managers’ innovation practices according to their gender (Brandão et al., 2020b).

Innovation networks in Tourism

The analysis of territorial innovation dynamics led, inevitably, to the topic of networks. This was especially relevant, due to the long-established tradition of the Tourism Research Group of the University of Aveiro, where I was and am based, in studying the dynamics of tourism networks from many different perspectives. When developing my Regional Tourism Innovation System conceptual model, I concluded that tourism networks play a paramount role in operationalising them. Thus, besides applying a survey to tourism firms to analyse the territorial innovation dynamics, I also conducted a set of interviews with several organisations involved in tourism destination management and innovation development in order to analyse the relationships established within regional tourism innovation systems that are on the basis of destination level innovation, characterising the structure and topography of these networks through sociometry. The analysis was made according to four key dimensions, namely: (i) the overall patterns of cooperation among organisations regarding tourism innovation processes, within which important properties such as centrality, connectivity, structural holes, brokerage and the collaboration according to geographical scope of institutions and type of organisations were assessed; (ii) the comparison between the whole networks and the regionally-based networks, aiming at unveiling the embeddedness of institutional relations as well as the comparing the efficiency of both networks; (iii) the small-world characteristics; and (iv) networks of specific innovation activities. The results informed that the destinations’ characteristics, the stage of tourism development, the type of the most central actors, among other factors, strongly influence the type of network that supports innovative processes (Brandão, 2014; Brandão et al., 2018b). It could also be concluded that this dynamic is different in coastal and inland destinations (Brandão et al., 2017), that the structural holes and actors filling these positions play a fundamental role in tourism innovation (Brandão et al., 2018a), and that innovation and internationalisation can be important development strategies for coastal tourism destinations (Brandão et al., 2019)

Other contributions to the research on tourism innovation

Recently, I have had the pleasure of supervising PhD students in topics related to innovation in tourism, out of which I can highlight the work of Paola Lohmann, titled The Quadruple Helix as a Tool for Innovation in Tourism: A Study in the City of Rio de Janeiro in the Post-Olympic Period (Lohmann et al., 2021), and the thesis authored by Jussara Aires, which concluded on the dynamics and orientations towards the measurement of business innovation in tourism (Aires et al., 2022).

Despite not being directly related to my research endeavours, I was involved in the organisation of the five editions of the International Conference INVTUR, which occurs in the University of Aveiro every three years. This scientific event, despite accepting a wide variety of topics, is much focused on tourism innovation and has always a specific session dedicated to this field.

I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Tourism & Development, and often responsible for the manuscripts related to innovation in tourism, which allows me to follow the research on the topic and to contribute to its evolution.


Written by Filipa Brandão, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Read Filipa’s letter to future generations of tourism researchers


Aires, J., Costa, C., & Brandão, F. (2022). Exploring indicators and determinants to evaluate innovation dynamics in tourism enterprises – a systematic literature review. Tourism: An International Interdisciplinary Journal (in the pipeline).

Asheim, B. T., & Coenen, L. (2004, June 14-16). The role of Regional Innovation Systems in a globalising economy: comparing knowledge bases and institutional frameworks of Nordic clusters [Paper presentation] DRUID Summer Conference 2004 on Industrial Dynamics, Innovation and Development, Elsinore, Denmark.

Brandão, F. (2014). Innovation in tourism: the role of regional innovation systems. (PhD Thesis in Tourism), University of Aveiro.

Brandão, F., Breda, Z. & Costa, C. (2020b). Is innovation in the hospitality industry gender-biased? A look at hotel managers’ innovation practices. In A. De Nisco (Eds.), Proceedings of the 15th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Roma, Italy (online), 17-18th September, pp. 146-154. DOI:10.34190/EIE.20.220.

Brandão, F., Breda, Z., & Costa, C. (2019). Innovation and internationalization as development strategies for coastal tourism destinations: The role of organizational networks. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 41, 219-230. doi:10.1016/j.jhtm.2019.10.004

Brandão, F., & Costa, C. (2012). Regional Innovation Systems and Tourism: a Conceptual Approach. Journal of Tourism & Development, 17/18(2), 647-660.

Brandão F., Costa C., Breda Z., Costa R. (2020a). Knowledge Creation and Transfer in Tourism Innovation Networks. In: Á. Rocha, A. Abreu, J. de Carvalho, D. Liberato, E. González & P. Liberato (Eds.) Advances in Tourism, Technology and Smart Systems. Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies, vol 171. Springer, Singapore, pp. 275-287. doi: 10.1007/978-981-15-2024-2_25.

Brandão, F., Costa, C., & Buhalis, D. (2017, September 4-6). Network-based innovation: comparing the dynamics of inland and coastal tourism destinations [Paper presentation]. International Conference “The Visitor Economy: Strategies and Innovations”, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK.

Brandão, F., Costa, C., & Buhalis, D. (2018a). Structural Holes and Positions in Tourism Innovation Networks: Divide to Conquer? . In C. Costa, M. Au-Yong-Oliveira & M. Amorim (Eds.), Proceedings of the ECIE 2018 – 13th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. University of Aveiro, Portugal: pp. 121-131, ISBN: 978-1-911218-98-2.

Brandão, F., Costa, C., & Buhalis, D. (2018b). Tourism innovation networks: a regional approach. European Journal of Tourism Research, 18(1), 33-56.

Chaminade, C., & Edquist, C. (2005). From theory to practice: the use of systems of innovation approach in innovation policy. CIRCLE Electronic Working Paper Series. Retrieved from http://www.obs.ee/~siim/seminars/chaminade+edquist2005.pdf

Cooke, P., Gomez Uranga, M., & Etxebarria, G. (1997). Regional innovation systems: Institutional and organisational dimensions. Research Policy, 26(4-5), 475-491.

Cooke, P., Heidenreich, M., & Braczyk, H. (Eds.). (2004). Regional Innovation Systems: The role of governance in a globalized world. New York: Routledge.

Costa, C., & Brandão, F. (2011, September 21-24). Tourism Innovation through effective public participation: a sustainable approach. [Paper presentation] Proceedings of the International Tourism Sustainability Conference 2011 ‘Embracing Social and Environmental Change: The Influence and Role of Tourism’, University of Technology of Mauritius, Mauritius.

Doloreux, D. (2004). Regional Innovation Systems in Canada: A Comparative Study. Regional Studies, 38(5), 479 – 492.

Hall, C. M., & Williams, A. M. (2008). Tourism and innovation. New York: Routledge.

Hjalager, A.-M. (1997). Innovation patterns in sustainable tourism: An analytical typology. Tourism Management, 18(1), 35-41. doi:10.1016/S0261-5177(96)00096-9

Hjalager, A.-M. (2000). Dynamic innovation in the tourism industry. In C. Cooper & A. Lockwood (Eds.), Progress in tourism and hospitality management (pp. 197–224). Brisbane: Wiley.

Hjalager, A.-M. (2002). Repairing Innovation Defectiveness in Tourism. Tourism Management, 23(5), 465-474. doi:10.1016/S0261-5177(02)00013-4

Landabaso, M., Oughton, C., & Morgan, K. (1999). Learning regions in Europe: theory, policy and practice through the RIS experience. Paper presented at the Paper presented at the 3rd International Conference on Technology and Innovation Policy: Global Knowledge Partnerships. Creating Value for the 21st Century, Austin, USA.

Lohmann, P., Brandão, F., Rodrigues, C., & Zouain, D. (2021). The Quadruple Helix as a Tool for Innovation in Tourism: A Study in the City of Rio de Janeiro in the Post-Olympic Period. Tourism Planning & Development, 1-24. doi:10.1080/21568316.2021.1984287

Lundvall, B.-Å. (1992). National Systems of Innovation: Towards a Theory of Innovation and Interactive Learning. London: Pinter.

Moulaert, F., & Sekia, F. (2003). Territorial Innovation Models: A Critical Survey. Regional Studies, 37(3), 289 – 302. doi:10.1080/0034340032000065442

Rothwell, R. (1994). Towards the Fifth-generation Innovation Process. International Marketing Review, 11(1), 7-31. doi:10.1108/02651339410057491




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