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Center for Advanced Studies - News & Events - Entrepreneurial ecosystems as key to the future of tourism

09 December 21

Entrepreneurial ecosystems as key to the future of tourism

Online conference "Tourism needs innovation needs networks" of HGJ and the Center for Advanced Studies of Eurac Research - Study of the innovative power of South Tyrol's tourism and keynote by Oliver Puhe

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Online conference "Tourism needs innovation needs networks"

Recent developments like the global pandemic, climate breakdown or digitalization have shown us the importance of innovation for a future-proof tourism. The Hoteliers- und Gastwirtejugend (HGJ) and the Center for Advanced Studies of Eurac Research therefore jointly organized the online conference "Tourism needs innovation needs networks" to explore how to support and actively promote innovation in tourism in South Tyrol.

“Innovation starts first in our minds, with a willingness to question products and services and throw long-standing patterns overboard” said Hoteliers- und Gastwirteverband (HGV) Director Thomas Gruber, introducing the event. HGJ chairman Daniel Schölzhorn emphasized the role of the youth in bringing innovation to the businesses. "Let's use the opportunity to break new ground, that's the only way to establish our businesses on the market in the long term," Schölzhorn appealed. Harald Pechlaner, head of the Center for Advanced Studies, explained the necessity to question the existing and look beyond tourism. A promising position for the future can only be achieved by networking – both at the operational and the destination level.

Using existing resources for the common good

What future moves us? This question was addressed by tourism innovation coach Oliver Puhe. In many places, tourism is perceived as a problem in connection with the pandemic or the climate crisis. Yet the industry has all the prerequisites to act as a problem solver. Worldwide networking makes it possible to also implement measures on a global level, which could benefit society as a whole. Looking to the future, he stressed that it was not a matter of creating something completely new, but of rather seeking solutions with existing resources in the spirit of so-called frugal innovation. This requires collaborative processes that are oriented toward the common good.
A similar argument was made by young innkeeper Teresa Pichler of “Haller Suites & Restaurant” in Bressanone/Brixen, who pointed out that there was no need to invent yourself completely new, but rather work with what was already there. Joschi Walch of “Rote Wand”, a Gourmet Hotel in Lech at Arlberg, further noted that innovation was a constant development, advancement and questioning of own actions. Whereas Stefan Peintner, head of the Bolzano branch of the innovation agency WhatAVenture, emphasized that networking is inevitable, including outside the industry.

Survey on the innovation behavior of South Tyrolean hoteliers and innkeepers

The HGJ and the Center for Advanced Studies of Eurac Research furthermore used the symposium as an opportunity to conduct a non-representative online survey among HGV and HGJ members in advance. The aim was to investigate the innovation behavior of South Tyrolean innkeepers and hoteliers as well as to gain insights into the ideas, wishes and difficulties surrounding the topic of innovation in tourism. The results, presented by Felix Windegger, researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies, show that most of the surveyed companies can be described as rather friendly toward innovation. 83 percent indicated that they introduced new products, services, processes, or novelties to the organizational structure in the last five years. In addition, over 90 percent are aiming for further innovations in the next five years, especially regarding sustainability. Almost 70 percent perceive cooperation with Start-ups as an opportunity for their own business and almost 90 percent are convinced that tourism in South Tyrol would benefit from a greater exchange of knowledge between established and young businesses.

South Tyrol: the most livable region in Europe

The symposium concluded with a panel discussion on entrepreneurial ecosystems as innovation drivers and future strategies for tourism in South Tyrol. The discussants, moderated by Harald Pechlaner, were Erich Falkensteiner, Hotelier and entrepreneur, Harald Oberrauch, Co-Founder of the Tyrolean Business Angel Network, Patrick Ohnewein, head of the Unit Digital Technologies at the NOI Techpark, and Désirée Giacomuzzi of the family business Enrico Giacomuzzi and Start-up SANKTANNAS. They highlighted the necessity of tourism for an ecosystem enabling creative, entrepreneurial action and innovative cooperation. Especially important is the exchange between established businesses and young companies or Start-ups. Not only the involved businesses, but the entire South Tyrolean tourism industry can profit from such collaborations. Other key players in such an ecosystem are research institutions, associations, technology parks, location agencies and, last but not least, the Autonomous Province of Bolzano - South Tyrol. Furthermore, the discussants acknowledged the need of a transformation towards a culture of failure in order to promote daring, entrepreneurial thinking and acting in South Tyrol.

The participants all concurred that it was essential to gain an understanding of other industries, learn from them and form networks. Because in the end everyone is chasing the same goal: make South Tyrol the most livable region in Europe.


Eurac Research
Center for Advanced Studies
Drususallee 1 / Viale Druso 1
39100 Bozen / Bolzano
T +39 0471 055 801

Hoteliers- und Gastwirtejugend (HGJ)
Giovani Albergatori dell'Alto Adige (HGJ)
Schlachthofstraße 59 / Via Macello 59
39100 Bozen / Bolzano
T +39 0471 31 79 99

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