Reaching for your stars: how to accelerate innovation for more sustainable tourism

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Reaching for the stars and becoming a progressive sustainable tourism business requires us to re-think what our values are and learn new skills. By examining my 14-year progress with Crystal Creek Meadows I discovered the pattern to progress is not a neat sharply defined map but a fuzzier personal journey. Understanding this journey, why and how we changed, how our business progressed to ever more radical innovative ideas and the challenges we faced is I think a helpful insight for others.

You can read our published research paper here.

You will learn about the various types of innovation, the importance of involving guests in service innovation, the need to confront values, to receive formal knowledge and build up your skills. With increasing political pressures, rising consumer expectations and UN calls for urgent action to reduce carbon emissions, we need now more than ever to understand how innovation in a service firm can occur and how to accelerate its sustainability progress.

Many seem to be hoping a single decision to buy new technology, that is more efficient and less polluting, will significantly help a firm to meet its Paris Agreement Goals. The truth is we need far more behavioural change solutions. These require us to re-think of our values and acquire the know-how to enable us to design more sustainable visitor experiences. How we produce and consume tourism is highly complex. What is required is a substantial redesign on existing services and that requires a change in mindset that confronts currently held values and formal education that stimulates the necessary knowledge and practical skills to grasp the current status quo. This can drive a vision towards net zero emission.

Just as we require ‘whole of government’ policy solutions, we also require a ‘whole of mind and body’ applications to change our existing way of doing business to transition to a low carbon economy. This 14-year longitudinal study of my own business shows how valuable it is to energise managers by tapping into their values and linking this to a growing understanding of sustainable tourism complexities.

The path will not be straight and clear because managers have to be motivated by their values and their knowledge which is individual to them and will have strengths and weaknesses. Where supportive frameworks come into play is that they should identify gaps and guide managers through areas that are not fully comprehended, rather than offering a standardised framework which will be inherently less meaningful to different people at different stages. It has to motivate managers to strive to reach their stars and through that journey illuminate whole new unexplored areas.