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HomeColumnsInnovation in Hospitality & TravelThe Dynamics of Innovation in the Travel Industry: Discussing case examples that guide the market

The Dynamics of Innovation in the Travel Industry: Discussing case examples that guide the market

Innovation moves industries ahead. Is there Innovation in Hospitality and Travel? Plenty!!! TravelDailyNews and Professor Stavros Sindakis are looking for success stories of Innovation examples and projects in any sector of Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality.

People recognise innovation as key to the growth and economic performance of firms. Many scholars and practitioners have concluded that being innovative has become one of the most important factors for organisations in sustaining their competitiveness, by generating long-term stability, growth, shareholder returns, sustainable performance, as well as by maximising employee contentment.

But, what does innovation mean for the travel industry? Amadeus, a major provider of a transaction processor for the global travel and tourism industry, argues in its South African blog that innovation is much more than technology. It is about adaptation, affordability and a set of activities aiming at satisfying needs. In other words, innovation includes all those aspects of conceptualisation, and development of creative ideas that will either improve or even create a new service outcome leading to higher tourist satisfaction, effective management strategies, and higher profits for firms. This comes either from new offerings or from cost savings that result from innovative processes (Pirnar, Bulut, and Deniz Eris, 2012). It therefore means that innovation and novelty in the travel industry refers to straightforward problem solving solutions, value adding operations and methods, as well as implementation of efficient ways and means by which producing and delivering the tourism product to customers makes it affordable for the company, while keeping customers happy.

Peter Long, General Manager of Amadeus Southern Africa, believes that “innovation means freedom of thinking mixed in with serious target market investment, equalling the power to change the shape of how Amadeus does things today for a better tomorrow.” Similarly, Steve Barnhart, CEO and President of Orbitz Worldwide, said upon receiving the 2008 Extra Mile Award, that “innovation has always been at the core of our business as we continue to work to improve the travel experience for our customers”. The key phrase here is ‘travel experience for our customers’. Orbitz is considered a pioneer in online travel because it used social media and mobile technology in an innovative way to bring travellers vital up-to-minute travel information.

Another bright example comes from Melissa Maher, SVP of Expedia Lodging Partner Services, who began her presentation at the Expedia Partner Conference (Las Vegas, 2013), outlining the drivers of travel industry’s future: Innovation, Technology, and Partnership, with the latter being the cornerstone as technology and innovation are meaningless without partnerships. Many people from academia and industry raise this issue, arguing that technology and innovation actually emerges from partnerships. This is supported by the fact that the academic community along with industrial clusters build and work on open innovation initiatives, cooperation and competition activities so as to combine forces and develop competitive outcomes that would satisfy the needs of customers. For instance, Southwest Airlines had developed an online platform for employees to submit their ideas, called ‘Idea Runway’. The goal of this website was to help the airline identify and implement ideas to generate revenue, reduce operating costs, and enhance the customer experience.

Taking about customer satisfaction and experience, we see that innovation is not only about creative ideas that are turned into new services. The Ritz-Carlton model of innovation around the customer service experience is a worth mentioning example. The Ritz-Carlton invests on educating its staff and keeping them motivated by holding 15-minute daily staff meetings. Every day in every department at every Ritz-Carlton hotel around the world the staff meet for 15 minutes to share stories of real employees who offer exceptional customer service. In addition, the manager of each department gives information to the staff about groups or individuals who are staying at the hotel or holding a meeting in one of the rooms. This aims to personalise the experience of customers, leading to highly satisfied guests. This is also the goal of Benchmark Hospitality International®, a leading U.S.-based hospitality management company, who announced the introduction of an innovative, and preferred new development for the meetings market. The Benchmark Conference Centers® are prestigious properties that have been built to provide personally tailored service, locally sourced and highly customized cuisine, together with Four Diamond lodging, aiming to offer the most productive, rewarding and authentic meeting experience in the industry. Burt Cabañas, Founder and Chairman of Benchmark Hospitality International, characteristically reports that Living, Learning, and Leisure are the key elements of the company’s philosophy to enhance meeting productivity.

In this context, this column aims to present, discuss, and illustrate cases of companies from the travel and tourism industries, which have invested on and pursued innovation to either develop new service offerings, or adopt novel processes for service development. The goal is to describe examples that lead the industry by identifying methods and means by which they will satisfy customers, reduce cost, protect the environment, and become sustainable. It follows the principles of TDN and adds to its efforts to define innovation as a critical element for tourism organisations and companies. This new column will help readers to appreciate the concept of innovation in the travel market as well as to identify ways to develop and achieve innovation by presenting and examining cases and their common denominators as ideas and models for successful and profitable long-term strategy and operation.

Do you think:

  • travel industry is ready to apply innovative thinking?
  • innovative services affect the decision of modern travellers?
  • developing innovative travel services and products is the sole way of increasing profit margins?

These are only few of the issues that this column aims to address, examining real case examples. We anticipate your active participation with comments, observations, and suggestions.

Pirnar, I., Bulut, C., and Eris, E. D. (2012). Improving the performance and competitiveness of tourism establishments by means of innovation: trends and applications, Enlightening Tourism


Assistant Professor of Management - Researcher - American University in Dubai | + Posts

Dr. Stavros Sindakis is Assistant Professor of Innovation Management at Bangkok University, and member of The Institute for Knowledge and Innovation – South East Asia. His principal research interests lie in innovation and development of new technology-driven and customer-oriented products and services as well as in the exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities in the knowledge intensive industries.

Dr. Sindakis participates as speaker in many international conferences, and is leading several research projects, funded by Governments and University institutions. He is also the co-author of 4 books on such topics as entrepreneurship, analytics, innovation and excellence-driven sustainability, social-ecological innovation, and customer-driven innovation. His main academic contributions relate to Innovation and Enterprise Excellence, Organizational Sustainability and Growth, Coopetition and Entrepreneurship.