Innovative Tourism Cluster
Tourism is one of the most important and one of the most revenue generating industry at present. Besides, tourism is a multidisciplinary industry as well in many aspects, where separate industries play determinant roles – either as suppliers to the tourism industry, and therefore key success factors, or as industries gaining new market opportunities as a result of the development trends of tourism. For the first group, IT industry, marketing, creative and design industry while for the latter pharma and construction industry are good examples.
It means that – based on current trends – we can speak about development of tourism and tourism related products, not only traditional traveling and accommodation. These products can also be exported and act like products of other export oriented industries in several aspects. It is also about the export of innovative products and services just like in telecommunications, IT or healthcare. There are billionaire firms having grown up in spa industry for instance, and we might think, that based on the traditions and the special thermal waters of Hungary we are among the world market leaders. In fact we are somewhere in the middle ranks, and do not take part at all in the new trends or exports.
The opinion of the founders of the cluster is that it could be changed via the following:
Understanding world trends, benchmarking, development of strategies and action plans
Identifying traditions and capabilities in line with current trends and based on the results, modern product development through organized innovation
Coordination of innovative, interested, interdisciplinary market players
Collective development and marketing
According to the preliminary opinion of the cluster members based on experience and research, the most important world trends are naturality, appreciation of traditional agricultural products, health tourism, modern health, complexity and crossing the boundaries of traditional industries. In connection with these factors, the country and the region as well has considerable capabilities: intact sites (like Felső-Tisza, plain areas), high quality fruits and agricultural products (pl. plum, apple and cherry of Penyige) excellent mineral waters, highly developed healthcare and pharmaceutical background, significant IT potential. If these capabilities are handled in an innovative, complex way, than besides success in tourism, it would be possible to launch exportable products as well.
Within the frameworks of the tourism industry, health tourism can be regarded as the most important market segment. Health tourism, also known as spa industry has a significant prospective, as it has impact on health, lifestyle, and related products.
The Global Spa Forum – following the example of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos – was held in New York a few months ago. It calls together leaders, decision makers, experts and researches of the spa world to think together on the future and economic impacts of the spa industry. The forum provided opportunity for discussion on global health tourism trends and regional characteristics. It is to be highlighted, that none of the three determinant spa regions – Europe, America and Asia – defines spa the same way. While in Europe the existence of water is indispensable, in Asia treatments are in the focus, while in America spa is about lifestyle, internal design and decoration, healthy product lines. Apart from spa related tourism and hotels, property industry, and other complementary industries like beauty and wellness pharma industry, and healthy food industry is emerging. The aim of the cluster is to support exportable product development in the above-mentioned sectors. It obviously includes spa product line development and spa service line development based on Hungarian bio fruits.
The cluster is organized around the College of Szolnok, acting as a core, a cluster management organization. This college is among the most traditional tourism education institutions of the country, accepting student from all over the Great Plain. It is an explicit intention of the current management to establish a tourism research center backed up with the current education capacity, which could assist Hungary in regaining its positions in this industry. It is apparent that we are lagging behind the spa world in some aspects, but our traditions and capabilities offer good opportunities for development. It would require more underpinned and more focused development concept. To meet this requirement, the College of Szolnok established the Regional Tourism Knowledge Center which attracted experts, consultants and modern lecturers from all over the country. The college provides assistance in marketing, commerce and international trade as part of its economic profile.
The reason for the preferable role of the college and the knowledge center is that the role of innovation can no longer be ignored in connection with tourism: at present in Hungary science do not deal with tourism industry, yet it is one of the most significant industries of the country. Without innovation, there is no chance to acquire competitiveness and no chance to regain position as one of the market leaders of the world. Especially the Hungarian balneology and healthcare traditions are to be pursued and developed through taking advantage of the actual trends of medical spa. Besides, industry marketing and IT support should be renewed with respect to the recent innovations of information society. The role of the college is reinforced by the fact that education played a major role on international forums as well: health tourism product as products of trust are largely dependent on staff skills, which have proved to be a bottleneck as a result of the recent developments in the industry.
Purpose and core activities of the cluster
The purpose of the cluster is assisting the development of the cluster members and the College of Szolnok and its unique Tourism Knowledge Center acting as cluster management organization. The cluster can be further developed later even without external funding. Based on the already implemented projects, the organization can be sustainable and successful on its own in the long run. This way it can contribute to the development of the North Great Plain Region and Hungary.
Cluster members operate together the cluster management center which is part of the College of Szolnok in order to achieve cluster objectives:
Reinforcing the cooperation among cluster members, mapping new areas of cooperation, creating new business opportunities, joint applications, assisting and organizing R&D projects
Accelerating two-way knowledge transfer
Focused HR development, trainings and education linked to joint development projects, management of joint education, research, development and service along the value chain
Coordination of activities for the promotion of common interest
Expansion of R&D network for business purposes
Support of spin-off and start-up enterprises and their integration into the cluster
Trend analysis, opportunity mapping, establishment of international connections
Benchmarking activity, establishment and operation of a benchmarking club
Joint orders, support of the organization of services
Design and development of a webportal to enable external and internal communication
Joint communication of innovative research results
Creation of PR and advertisement materials
Establishment of partnerships, organization of partner meetings internationally and in Hungary
Support for funds coordination and development of applications in line with cluster objectives
Support for administration and project accounting
Maintaining international relationships, contribution to the innovative development of spa industry.