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Business and Management., 5.7 SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
Place-making is a topic of increasing interest in the tourism literature as national and local governments and DMOs continue to focus on the competitiveness and attractiveness of their destination. While the focus in the entrepreneurship and innovation literature is on individual entrepreneurs, policies and networks, place is a vital element in the tourism nexus and this concept is explored in this paper. As Solfield et al. (2017, p.2) note ‘place making in tourism.. creates an identity, an image, a difference from other places’. This paper examines how place making can encourage innovation by investigating the case of the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.
The concept of place-making actually originated in the urban development literature where the focus is on ‘planning, design and management of public spaces in urban environments to improve the urban environment and quality of life of communities’ (Solfield et al., 2017, p.3). However as Lew (2017) states, in tourism destination planning and marketing are fundamentally place-making actions intended to shape the image of a place. An objective of place-making in tourism is to increase the attachment of tourists to places, thus increasing the likelihood of return visit and positive recommendations and there has been much research on this particular issue. While the literature has focused on tourists, and marketing and branding efforts, this paper posits that there are also significant impacts in terms of entrepreneurs and innovation.
The Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) 2,500 km touring route in Ireland was established in 2014 in a bid to attract tourists to the West of Ireland to experience the scenery and heritage of this coastline. This road along the coast already existed, the WAW project primarily engaged in signposting the route, developing a brand architecture and undertaking an international marketing campaign. The objective is to use this ‘tourism initiative of scale and singularity’ (Failte Ireland, 2015) to attract international tourists to this area. It is a response to the challenge of encouraging international tourists to leave traditional tourist hubs in the country and also to encourage them to stay longer in Ireland. In effect this strategy has created a new ‘place’ in the Irish and tourist lexicon. So the question posed by this research is what is the impact of this place-making initiative on innovation in the area? The research uses the frameworks of entrepreneurial ecosystems and innovation ecosystems, and interviews with entrepreneurs and key stakeholders, to explore how place-making has impacted the different elements of these models along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Different types of innovation have been identified in the research. Some entrepreneurs adapted their business and service identity to encompass the Wild Atlantic Way brand, new entrepreneurs have emerged, particularly in the adventure tourism sector, and in some cases businesses have expanded the length of the season that they are open for. For others the big change created by the WAW is that entrepreneurs and ‘places think more about the [tourist] experience’ and they have adapted or expanded their service to incorporate this.
The emergence of the WAW has impacted the pillars of the entrepreneurial eco system as markets have become more accessible with the national marketing campaign, new local entrepreneurs have enriched the human capital in the areas, there are increasing supports and training courses offered and the culture is enhanced by visible success and international reputation. Innovation ecosystems focus on the inter relationships between institutions such as government, education, businesses and external bodies and the WAW place-making initiative has brought together such stakeholders.
The key findings of this research are that place-making does indeed have an impact on the entrepreneurship and innovation eco systems in tourism destinations, and consequently entrepreneurship and innovation are enhanced. This is an example of how a national policy focused on attracting international tourists can have significant impact at the local level. This local entrepreneurial and innovative activity is also essential to ensure that the place-making concept is delivered to the tourist at the local destination. Thus it is clear that while place making has an effect on tourists and residents as the literature has identified, it also creates a fertile environment for entrepreneurship and innovation, and this is worthy of greater exploration.
Solfield, T, Guia, J and Specht, T (2017) Organic ‘folkloric’ community driven place-making and tourism. Tourism Management Vol. 61, pp.1-22.
Lew, A (2017) Tourism planning and place making: place-making or placemaking? Tourism Geographies Vol.19, pp.448-466
Failte Ireland (2015) Wild Atlantic Way Operational Programme 2015-2019
Mottiar, Z. & Ruan, T. (2019) An Examination of the Role of Placemaking in Tourism on the Entrepreneurial Eco System, AIRTH Conference Innovation in Motion. University of Innsbruck 12-14 Sep 2019.