Richards, FE 2010, 'The role of local government in the production and distribution of knowledge within Australian regional tourism systems', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.
Copyright FE Richards 2010
This thesis examines the role of local governments in Innovation within Regional Tourism Systems using the pivotal Systems of Innovation characteristics of the production and distribution of knowledge as a framework. Innovation, the process of developing new products or processes, the accessing of new markets or new suppliers, or the implementation of new methods of industrial organisation, has been identified as a strategy to ensure that firms and industries remain competitive (Schumpeter, 1975; Edquist, 1997; Cooke and Morgan, 1998). The study of innovation in evolutionary economics takes its inspiration from the work of Schumpeter (1975) in the early and mid twentieth century, who argued that firms which remain competitive and sustain growth, enter into dynamic patterns of innovation. The methodological approach to this thesis is based on a social constructivism epistemology and utilises a mixed-method qualitative methodology of focus groups and case studies to address the aims and associated research questions. Focus groups and a workshop were conducted in New South Wales, The Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania. Participants included regional tourism officers, state tourism officers, local government tourism officers, industry association representatives and private and private sector operators. The case studies examined the regional tourism systems of Broken Hill, the Gold Coast, and Coffs Harbour and were chosen as examples of systems which had attempted one of three types of innovation – project innovation, radical innovation and incremental innovation. In each case local government was involved in the knowledge production and distribution processes undertaken to facilitate innovation within the regional tourism system. In studying the effectiveness of local government in fulfilling its role in facilitating innovation, this research reveals weaknesses in the structure of regional tourism and its management, as well as deficiencies in Systems of Innovation theories within the context of tourism. The principal weakness within the current structure of Australian regional tourism relates to the formation by local government of Single Business Units to manage their tourism responsibilities. Because of organisational and physical structural isolation, these Single Business Units fail to utilise the full capacity of the local government organisation. In Systems of Innovation theory the concept of the ―region‖ is central. Most examples of Systems of Innovation lie within the manufacturing and ICT industries where the region itself is not crucial to the product. In tourism the idea of region is central because it is what defines the product and therefore the marketplace. Current systems of innovation approaches do not properly explain the difference this makes to the operation of the system. This research has provided significant insights into the process of innovation in regional tourism systems, with a particular focus on the role of local government in the production and distribution of knowledge. The increased understanding of system dynamics not only progresses theory, but provides insights for better management of regional tourism in Australia and elsewhere.