Structural holes and positions in tourism innovation networks: Divide to conquer?
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Authors: Brandão, F., Costa, C. and Buhalis, D.
Journal: Proceedings of the European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, ECIE
Innovation in tourism has been receiving increased attention in the last decades, especially in what concerns networked innovation processes. This has gained increased relevance in tourism, an industry made of SMEs that resort to networks to obtain competitive advantages when developing new products and services. Thus, it is fundamental to analyse the networks' structure and how it can improve innovation performance. While social capital theories mainly address how it can be used to improve the whole network, other theories focus on how individuals can use social capital to obtain better competitive positions, or how the absence of ties between nodes defines the network structure and the opportunity to build social capital. Structural holes theory analyses the absence of ties between nodes in a network and how they can be connected by a broker, who will gain control over resources and highly increase his social capital. This paper aims at identifying and comparing the different types of brokers in two tourism destinations' innovation networks (Douro and Aveiro, Portugal). In addition, it relates both the network structure and the individual position of tourism organisations, to the innovation performance of those destinations. This is accomplished by applying sociometric analysis to the innovation networks. Results demonstrate that different social structures and patterns of cooperation bring diverse impact on the innovative performance of tourism destinations. Conclusions advance recommendations for tourism organisations to increasingly contribute to tourism regions' innovative performance.