More focused research for better tourism innovation

Is the knowledge gap too wide to stimulate sustainable tourism innovation?

There is currently insufficient research to assist the transition for tourist accommodation to become a low carbon sector that also uses water sustainably, says Christopher Warren, director of the ICRT – Australia. Christopher and co-author Professor Susanne Becken have just  published an extensive review of 110 scientific papers that study resource saving at tourist accommodation and found significant research gaps that make it unclear how accommodation can make deep game changing savings required in the future.

What the Gaps cover

These gaps include:

  • renewable energy
  • renewable water
  • non-hotel accommodation types
  • building design
  • climate and cultural influence
  • smart technology
  • guest engagement

Lack of Data

They could only find a small number of studies which detail consumption amounts, so there is insufficient data to establish benchmarks and track savings. This limitation is made worse by the lack of studies which measure the influence of seasonality and climate over time (an important when considering Climate Change and adaptation).

They also found many studies lacked detail that allows us to unambiguously interpret findings. Overall the studies used different measures and terms making it hard to compare results and build a body of knowledge. Only a few studies indicated a return on investment, which is worrying as new technologies tend to be sold on the idea of a financial benefit.

Without clarity, deep savings become more difficult because there are in fact a multitude of factors which influence consumption.  This demonstrates that technical efficiencies alone cannot be relied upon as the sole method to save. Building a solid body of knowledge and developing the skills to run accommodation more sustainably is therefore essential; since it is human behaviour that controls resource use by how a firm is run, how savings methods might be organised and how guests can consume less.  To stimulate service innovation Christopher says we require a more consistent research approach and to link expertise that tests and refines solutions.

What we should do

Tourism should now establish collaboration networks between scientists, practitioners and entrepreneurs which bridge the knowledge gaps and accelerate sustainability-oriented innovation.

How we can do it

The ICRT-Australia is running a collaborative research study to test a service innovation, expressions of interest to participate are welcomed.

The ICRT can develop customise training programmes to help destination managers and tourism firms build the capacity for sustainable tourism and implement responsible projects to achieve a positive change.

Read Christopher’s summary report and proposed research framework here