Design-thinking for the European tourism sector

Accounting for over 10% of the GDP (18% in Greece) and providing approximately 12% of all jobs, the income generated by tourism and its ancillary activities remains vital for the EU. Although sometimes big investments are offered by governments as a solution, tourism does not rely only on expensive transport or accommodation infrastructures. More and more, tourism is a service-intensive industry, focusing on customers’ experience not only during their stay, but also prior and subsequent to it. Moreover, tourism faces important challenges: digitalization, environmental problems, a sector made mainly of SMEs with a limited innovation capacity.

As previous experiences have demonstrated —e.g. the cases developed by Marc Stickdorn and Anita Zehrerhave— design-thinking and service design tools reveal themselves as an effective way to go. More than in any other sectors, in order to remain competitive, tourism SMEs heavily depend on customer satisfaction across a multiple array of touch-points. Therefore, it is obvious that applying a user-centred approach will lead to an effective improvement, redesign or innovation of the offer. However, to this end, it is also obvious that SMEs need to learn what design-thinking is, how it can help them, and develop design-thinking capabilities.

In this context, in 2016 KEPA (Business and Cultural Development Center) —together with PDR (Design Wales) and Norwegian Center for Design and Architecture as partners— will develop a new EU project with the acronym Tourism-ID. The objective of the project is to produce a set of guidelines for the development and implementation of “design-driven innovation support schemes for enterprises the tourism sector”. These guidelines will serve as a handbook for innovation agencies for creating and putting in place design support programmes for SMEs in the tourism sector. Over the course of a year, the project will use advanced-twinning as well as co-creation (through workshops with both SMEs and innovation agencies across Europe) as methodologies to produce the document.

For more information about the project contact: Ms Christina Skoubridou,

EU Project: