5 Top Benefits of Tourism Business Networks in 2020Dec 09, 2020
The very first weekly article that I wrote when I launched The Tourism Space in October 2017 was on the topic of the ‘Benefits of Tourism Networks’. My thoughts were based largely on the extensive work I had done with the Burren Ecotourism Network over a 7 year period to that point. Since then, I’ve facilitated the development of a large number of other networks. I’ve conducted primary research studies on the dynamics, strength and effectiveness of Networks, and studied any secondary research that I could lay my hands on.
As we come towards the end of 2020, I find myself wondering if all that we learned is still relevant after what the industry has experienced this year?
What has 2020 taught us about tourism business networks?
Re-reading that first article this week, my view is that networks and representative organisations became more important than ever this year. When the chips were down, those groups that were well-established and had a managerial structure emerged as vital lifelines of support for tourism businesses. In a year when marketing and sales were limited in their scope, here are the Top 5 benefits I’ve noticed from network membership.
Belonging to a Network brings people together with a common mission, usually one that’s bigger than themselves. In 2020, this mission has been to understand, process and survive the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Given its scale and reach, this is not something that any business or individual could do alone and having a network to lean into created a sense of solidarity.
Along with ownership comes a sense of belonging, one of the most fundamental of human needs. A network creates a tangible point of belonging which can substantially alleviate that sense of isolation that all of us who manage small businesses understand. Relationship, friendships and camaraderie are a natural by-product of a tourism network and these were vital supports for 2020.
With little in our external environment to inspire confidence, we had to turn inwards to ourselves and our professional and personal circles to nurture confidence and staying power. Through a network, you get a sense of how others see the situation, what opportunities they perceive and what benefits they take from different situations. You also develop pride in other’s successes and occasionally bask in the shared glow of the achievements of fellow members. This can dramatically boost individual and collective business confidence.
Ambition is a relative term and what we are ambitious for is a factor of the environment in which we find ourselves. Our ambitions may not have been the same as at the start of 2020, but they were still high and stretching – just to survive financially and mentally became a stretching ambition. An idea or aspiration articulated to a group can inspire greater ideas in others that then grow into plans and ambitions that nobody could have formulated on their own. Belief and confidence grow and become infectious.
5. Shared Learning & Knowledge
Once a culture of collaboration and partnership exists in a network, a culture of sharing knowledge and learnings can also take root. One of the most effective learning that happens within a Network framework is that which comes from sharing experiences, challenges and the solutions that can overcome those challenges.
2020 Lessons on Networks
What 2020 has taught is that networks – whether organized by sector or by geography – are vital supports and enablers of tourism businesses and destinations. We also learned that tourism networks don’t just happen and they require significant time and financial resources to be effective. They must be nurtured and supported if they are to grow and remain strong.
An important lesson to take from 2020 for a business is to build and nurture strong networks, ones that value your contribution and also deliver tangible benefits. An important lesson for industry leaders and DMOs is to take responsibility for nurturing and supporting networks that can be strong and effective, in good times and in the more challenging ones.
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