Micro-firms, those with less than 10 employees, represent the vast majority of tourism providers in Ireland and are considered particularly pivotal in the development of rural economies. These rural firms have long since worked together in an attempt to overcome resource constraints and seasonal demand distortions for the tourism product and to minimise the impact of peripheral locations. The ultimate goal is to collectively grow their business relationships with suppliers and markets in order to offer a tourism destination ‘package’ in their location. However little was known about the factors that influence community activity in the longer term.
A longitudinal research study conducted by Drs Leana Reinl and Felicity Kelliher of the RIKON group at the School of Business WIT studied social dynamics of learning and participation in a tourism learning community situated in the south of Ireland. The research findings were recently published in leading international journal Tourism Management. Dr Reinl explained, “By observing the social interactions of this micro-firm learning community over a four year period, we can better understand how a wide range of interactions influenced sustainability. Local community champions play a pivotal role in orchestrating longer term interactions, while these individuals are well equipped and well placed to enhance learning competence and tourism product development. They also appreciated varying lifestyle motivations and community politics and how these contribute to what is already a challenging undertaking.” The study highlights that diverse forms and levels of participation contribute to the communities’ success. Of note is that while less active participation damaged relationships over time, many less active members and supporting stakeholders significantly contributed to the development of ideas, new tourism projects and to brokering valuable external relationships. As Dr Kelliher highlighted “a delicate balance is needed in order to sustain shared practice on the one hand and promote a ‘learning dynamic’ on the other in order to maintain an outside-in, inside-out strategic perspective within the community”.
Rural tourism development is one of the core research focuses within the RIKON group in the School of Business at WIT. This study augments our on-going contribution to rural regional growth and social renewal. Looking further afield, our student is currently undertaking a comparative study in rural tourism communities in Wales and Canada under the IOTI Scholarship initiative.
The study is published in Tourism Management which is one of only two journals in tourism ranked at level 4 star in the UK – this is the highest ranking given to a journal.
More details on the study can be found by contacting Drs Leana Reinl or Felicity Kelliher at [email protected] or [email protected].
The study is citable at: Reinl, Leana, and Kelliher, Felicity (2014), “The Social Dynamics of Micro-Firm Learning in an Evolving Learning Community”, Tourism Management, Vol. 40, February, pp. 117-125.