The Canary Islands have a lot to offer as a tourist destination and with a constant flow of tourists, the region claims to be an ideal test bed for services and service innovations. However, for a long time the region has relied on the ‘sun, sea and sand’ approach and has not paid enough attention to the increasingly individualistic needs of the visitors. Therefore, the region is now trying to diversify its regional economy by strengthening the strategic sector of tourism and by improving the conditions and incentives for supportive sectors such as logistics, energy and ICT.
The areas to be promoted through service innovation
The main areas to be developed through service innovation are tourism-related. The 12.5 million visitors each year and the tourism industry itself constitute a large market for other sectors of the regional economy and these include:
Strengths and weaknesses in the Canary Islands’ innovation system
Lessons being learned that might be reflected in future policies
There are a number of activities taking place in the Canary Islands that have the potential to produce policy recommendations or guidelines for the future.
As in other regions, the policy mix is currently biased towards technology and traditional R&D and so the ESIC team recommends that it is important to increase the service inclusiveness of the measures in the mix.
The region also possesses great potential for service business development which is not being fully harnessed. Therefore, the Canary Islands has initiated a process for establishing an innovation platform to identify the challenges and, more importantly, to develop solutions and new innovative approaches.
In addition, stakeholders in the Canary Islands need to clarify aspects of the Large-scale Demonstrator strategy prior to its implementation. The current version of the strategy represents a good start but, at the same time, it lacks an overall focus, clear ownership and key performance indicators.
Another important suggestion made by the ESIC team was that the region should take full advantage of its natural conditions for renewable energy including solar, thermal and wind energy. The region was amongst the first to use wind power and to introduce desalination of water but this ‘lead-user’ position has not yet been translated into a competitive advantage.
Practices that have the potential for transfer
As a leading tourist destination in Europe, the transformation strategy demonstrates important lessons for other regions that want to turn potential in tourism into more diversified regional economic and sustainability benefits. Many tourism regions face similar challenges in better targeting potential customers and in extending and managing the range of tailor-made experiences that can be offered.
The smaller Canary Islands have, in particular, been able to bring together public administration, private sector actors, tour operators and local people in several inclusive initiatives to boost the local economy. As a result, new attractions and experiences have been established around volcanoes, dining and sports in Lanzarote, as well as star gazing in La Palma. The former is also promoting its unique landscape as a film location.