Innovation in the Hospitality Industry
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Innovation in the Hospitality Industry

Martin Senior is the Program Leader for Glion’s innovative 100% online MBA in International Hospitality Management. He also lectures to campus based students at Glion, and has an extensive background in both hospitality and education.

The importance of innovation has been recognized since the days of Joseph Schumpeter some 100 years ago, and this recognition is continuing with vigour today in businesses around the world (Economist, 2007; Tidd & Bessant, 2009).  Innovation is seen as a key way to effectively compete in crowded marketplaces, or even to create new market-spaces which disrupt existing industries and markets by making them less relevant.  Cirque du Soleil comes to mind here (Kim & Mauborgne, 2004).

 The hospitality industry is no stranger to innovation, though much of it may not be at the top level of Booz Allen Hamilton’s framework of being ‘new-to-the-world’ (Ottenbacher & Harrington, 2010), or even ‘disruptive’ (Christensen et al, 2000).  The industry though does occasionally provide some radical ideas which change the game somewhat.  Early examples from North America would include Holiday Inns, fast-food chains, roadside budget hotel chains, and the ‘Starbuck’s’ experience amongst many others.  More recent innovative ideas have emerged from other countries, such as Asian-style restaurants (YO!, Sushi Shop, Wasabi Sushi, Wagamama) and more-affordable modular-type hotels (CitizenM, Yotel).  At the top end of the hotel sector we are seeing state-of-the-art ideas, such as the Burj Al Arab and Rose hotels in Dubai, the Skypark in Singapore, or even Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.  These small examples demonstrate that the hospitality industry is full of innovation vitality and will no doubt continue to be so in the future.

 What is perhaps less clear, especially from the literature, is how much the hospitality industry develops a culture of creativity and innovation within its organizations, such as that found at Google or 3M (Kuratko et al, 2008; Tidd & Bessant, 2009).  This is surprising since so many of the employees in the industry are part of the product, have high contact with customers, and deep understanding of their experiences.  These employees are therefore a ripe source of creative solutions and ideas and can easily contribute to NSD new service developments in the more enlightened organizations (Limpibunterng & Johri, 2009; Tajeddini, 2009).  Perhaps though the industry focuses more on tradition and established practices which provide the customer with a predictable and more certain experiences?  Perhaps management in the industry do not have the space in cultivating creativity within a highly transient workforce?  Or perhaps industry leaders have not been schooled in the science and art of creativity and innovation, and have more immediate tangible targets to meet, such as filling seats and filling beds day-in, day-out?

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Christensen, C.M., Bohmer, R. & Kenagy, J. (2000). Will disruptive innovations coure heathcare?,  Harvard Business Review, September-October.

Economist (2007, April 26). Joseph Schumperter: In praise of entrepreneurs; The Economist, Retrieved February 9, 2012 from

Kim, W.C & Mauborgne, R. (2004). Blue Ocean Strategy, Harvard Business Review, October, 69-80.

Kuratko, D.F., Morris, M.H., Covin, J.G. (2008). Corporate Innovation & Entrepreneurship, 3rd ed., South-Western.

Limpibunterng, T. & Johri, L.M. (2009). Complementary role of organizational learning capability in new service development (NSD) process, The Learning Organization, 16(4), 326-348.

Ottenbacher, M.C. & Harrington, R.J. (2010). Strategies for achieving success for innovative versus incremental new services, Journal of Services Marketing, 24(1), 3-15.

Tajeddini, K. (2009). The impact of learning orientation on NSD and hotel performance, Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, 2(4), 262-275.

Tidd, J., & Bessant, J. (2009) Managing Innovation: Integrating Technological, Market and Organizational Change (4th ed.). Chichester, England: Wiley.