"TURISMO, INNOVAZIONE, QUALITÀ" Paestum 12 Novembre, 1998
STRATEGIC QUALITY AND HUMAN RESOURCES
FOR TOURISM COMPETITION
(Mara Manente, direttore CISET-Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia)
Quality has become a major interest of public and private operators, according to the tourism market evolution, in terms of both supply of new services and the increasing complexity of tourists' needs.
The fact that tourism product implies not only hotels, restaurants, shops, but also the environment, heritage, agriculture, transport and other facilities, produces a very complex economic system involving heterogeneous resources, services, actors and rules. Such issues clarify why tourism activities, more than any others in the whole economic system, must not only pay attention to the demand dynamics and to the need of matching its expectations but also take into account the interests and the goals of all the parties involved in the system (tourists, private enterprises, public organisations, resident population, etc.).
Furthermore, the tourism industry and the whole economic system are facing new challenges which demand quality in order to remain competitive in the process of globalisation of origin/destination markets and the extension of tourist practices which involve larger parts of the world population.
Such a composite phenomenon calls for a comprehensive approach from the point of view of analysis and understanding of its structure and mechanisms, and of management policies and instruments. In particular, policies improving the quality of service production and delivery should be matched with both the features of the destination and the explicit/implicit customers' expectations. It is only through this synergy that competition, rising from the value of global supply and its perception and evaluation by clients, can be met and challenged. Finally, the tourism system needs the actors involved in all these many-sided facets of the phenomenon to be more definitely integrated.
For all that quality in tourism is a matter of the whole economic system and has to become "strategic quality", i.e. creation of innovation and generation of value for local resources and attractions, for those operating in production activities, as well as for visitors and future generations.
This is why the process through quality must be based on a clear definition of roles, competence, responsibilities and advantages, on explicit and assessable definition of objectives, as well as on an estimate of local and non-local resources, constraints of the system and evolution of demand. All elements which can be appreciated at different levels: from that of the single tourist attraction to that of the destination, the region, and the country.
Human resources and partnerships are two of the key factors for the successful development of such a process.
Partnerships can be the most effective formula for the development of tourist places and for the exploitation of local resources taking care of the environment, the tourist products, the markets characterising each area with a clear tourism vocation, aiming at the global quality of the system.
In the construction of the tourism product which implies satisfaction of demand, efficiency and effectiveness of processes and quality of specific products , responsibilities have to be shared, since both public and private activities are involved. One fundamental difference lies in the fact that the public sector must take account of the satisfaction of host population and aim for their consensus. Another distinction is to be found in the contractual relationship between supplier and consumer: "in the private organisation, this is a market contract while in the public sector the contract is o social nature. The former contract has a legal format and obligations with a clear strategy if the contract is not fulfilled. In the public sector, the public organisation is accountable to the public but the format and degree of contractual responsibility is ill-defined" (WTO, 1997).
In order for demand to be endowed with value and quality, the tourism product must be coherent in itself, and prove to be a result of the system. This is why a partnership (for instance between public/private but also between private/private) can guarantee the tourist a standard level of quality of the tourism product, and can communicate efficiently (through labels, local brands, etc.) characteristics aimed at reducing uncertainty for the tourist.
Human resources and education
Strategic quality necessarily passes through human resources --their values, their ability to interpret and to act in a systemic way, to create consensus, to stimulate the growth of relationships, their professionalism-- and the development of their potentialities.
This is why education/training is the force behind the process through quality, since it should create a mindset that enables all those operating in tourism to think in a systemic view, by giving them tools to understand the role that each actor plays in the system and to interpret the changing factors, and then to manage the local territory and its tourism supply in a conscious and efficient/effective way. Each actor should be aware of the fact that his activity is part of a more complex framework exceeding the boundaries of his direct action. She should know what are the external conditions and learn to what extent and how they can be controlled and managed by him/herself. Everyone's success is not enough to assure the success of the destination and of its tourism products in the long run without a real and effective "system connection".
In this context, the growth of a new entrepreneurial class and the spreading of entrepreneurial skills through an innovative training/education action is one of the leading factors in order to create the conditions for the management of the system and its development towards quality. Innovation could lie in mapping out individual training paths starting from the business ideas of applicant new entrepreneurs, so that to transform training theoretical contents into operative tools enabling the development of managerial skills. "SLOT-Salerno" is a pilot project implementing such strategies in order to give participant entrepreneurs concepts, methodologies and tools which can enable them to start new activities and/or to improve the existing ones working autonomously and paying attention to the success both of their business and of the whole system. Furthermore, the project, which will finish in June 1999, has already stressed some important and operative results in terms of:
- creating a method to stimulate local tourism development process in a systemic view and able to originate the conditions for partnerships and to generate quality and value for all the actors
experimenting new forms of partnerships on the same project among public and private enterprises operating in different fields of the tourism activity,
generating and clearly explaining the "engineering" of the process.
These issues and the interest they have generated in the local actors as well as in other tourism destinations across the country do confirm the validity of the methodological approach used. Moreover, these results have also allowed to highlight all those elements permitting the replication of the process according to other local situations and scales.