Tourism is an important economic factor worldwide and is a growth industry. An ever-increasing number of people have wealth free time, are mobile and able to actively shape their leisure activities. However, fundamental changes, strongly driven by the process of digitisation, are having an effect on tourism and are taking place at a technical, economic (elimination of intermediaries, creative industry, sharing economy, etc.) and social (population growth, urbanisation, global disparities, etc.) level.
Tourism is also of great economic significance in Switzerland and in certain regions represents the most important economic sector. Nevertheless, it has only been partially successful in building on the momentum seen at an international level, and certain segments – especially those involved in traditional, rural holiday tourism – are stagnating or experiencing a decline. The key reason for this development is the inability of these segments to compete in terms of price, something that is unlikely to change in the short and medium term.
In order for them to replicate past successes, changes need to be made in terms of both their offerings and business models. Here, Switzerland can still draw on its traditional strengths, including natural and man-made attractions, political stability, its infrastructures and supply density.
The Institute for Tourism and Leisure (ITF) wants to actively support the revitalisation process for Swiss and Graubünden tourism and is actively working to this end on the three key areas, namely service innovation, infrastructure management and network management. With its international team, it provides innovative impetus, acts as a link between the tourism industry and society and, in doing so, attaches great importance to the international dimension. Against the background of the specific issues facing Graubünden as a tourism region, special attention is given to the matter of second homes, future-oriented segments, such as health and cultural tourism, as well as new markets.
Research into service innovation in the tourism sector
In order to be competitive at an international level, a constant stream of optimisations, realignments and innovations is required. The ITF works on the process of product innovation and also supports tourism companies and organisations in developing new customer-focussed services. Here, great significance is assigned to modern service design methods (design thinking), which are implemented using the Service Innovation Lab (SIL). In terms of content, a deep understanding of customer needs in existing and new markets is required. These are identified using a wide range of methods, which incorporate the latest methodological and technological developments.
Research on Tourism 4.0
Similar developments to those seen in connection with Industry 4.0 are also to be expected in the service sector. The key elements here are also digitisation and networks. With the help of intelligent, digitally connected systems, people/customers, organisations and objects should be able to communicate and cooperate directly. Among other things, this will allow companies to produce tailored offerings that meet individual customer wishes in a simpler manner than before. The vision for the future is to optimise the entire customer journey as regards quality, pricing and flexibility, and thus to improve business earnings.
At the same time, however, this will also require future-oriented organisational forms. The way in which the overall value chain is controlled within the tourism network is changing and needs to be restructured. The ITF is addressing these issues at a system and management level and aims to become a platform that will play a role in shaping innovative approaches to the tourism industry’s digital transformation.
Research into the management of tourism real estate and infrastructures
Modern and contemporary tourism real estate and infrastructures are key success factors. Construction, operation and maintenance processes are cost-intensive and are becoming ever more expensive in light of increased demands. At the same time, securing financing with public and private funds is becoming more difficult. This applies especially to commercial accommodation in Alpine regions. A prime example here is the hotel industry, which is coming under increasing pressure due to the second home initiative, the associated crackdown on cross-subsidisation for hotel buildings, and the emergence of new competitors (e.g. AirBnB). Tourism transport companies are also being particularly hit. Research conducted into the management of tourism real estate and infrastructures looks at issues relating to the conception of contemporary real estate and infrastructures, for example hotels and holiday villages, as well as leisure facilities, together with their financing – be this with conservative or modern financing instruments (e.g. crowdfunding) – and their operation. Specifically, the consequences of the second home initiative are being investigated, key figures are being collected and innovative solutions for the use of second homes are being developed. The ITF is also looking at the division and segregation of tasks between the private and public sectors as well as cooperation models (PPP).