Marco Polo, an innovative system for the promotion of small enterprises through tourism – part 2
By Prof. Salvatore Messina and Prof. Francesco Redi
published on Business School of Prague’s Journal of Tourism and Services, #4-2012 – [ISSN 1804-5650]
Considering the “European Charter for small enterprises”, the paper starts investigating on the impact of tourism on related industries on regard of employment, receipts, innovation and synergies. At the same time, the role of small enterprises in the tourism industry will be analysed in order to understand how they increase the attractiveness of the territory or of the tourist destinations. The works will focus on the Marco Polo system, an innovative tourist promotional system based on ICT hat is aimed to enhance the tourist attractiveness of the territory at a whole by exploiting its excellence. The system will be described carefully and benefits, expected results and outputs will be investigated in order to demonstrate how tourism can contribute to multiply local income.
3. The Marco Polo System: an innovative system for the promotion of small enterprises through tourism
3.1 The importance of cooperation
The tourism industry is dominated by a large number of small enterprises that create the basis for the local development as they can positively impact on the induced sectors.
The DG Enterprises  stimulate networking and collaboration among the value chain in tourism activities as networking can strenghten each other’s products and make the tourist offer more effective, for example raising the quality of service provision.
In other innovative or knowledge-based economies, networking and cluster are set and tourism should follow those examples. “… networking does not necessarily means the creation of formal network structures; it can also be enhanced by providing the technical tools to interact through internet or other forms of (virtual) communication”.
OECD  proposes a light intervention of the public to enhance the cooperation of SME for the exploiting of tourism industry and induced sectors or an innovative policy for networks and clusters as they are considered a key element of success for SMEs in tourism.
3.2 The revolution of ICT on tourism
The internet and the new information and communication technologies surely created new opportunities for SME in the tourism sector and in the induced industries but it is necessary to point out that some changes (especially in the distribution channels) were made and operators must be aware of it.
The internet introduced new behaviours and process for the tourist holiday planning and, sometimes, shortened the distribution chain.
By the other side, ICT allows the producers of tourism-related products  and services to bypass the intermediary/tourist enterprise and reach directly the customer/tourist.
Mostly, as urged by several, the importance of innovation is the basis of the development of product and services and, consequently, the success of enterprises.
3.3 The Marco Polo System
The Marco Polo is a system aimed to enhance the promotional efforts of a tourist destination and to improve tourist enterprises and local product sales.
The system is composed by the following tools:
- – a multimedia portal;
- – a paper magazine;
- – 3G mobile applications.
Individual tourist demands to be provided with updated genuine and detailed information about a destination, its natural and cultural resources, the leisure offer, events, amusements alongside with guaranteed information for accomodation, services and local productions.
At the same time tourists cannot totally enjoy the destination and its attractions because of the “information asymmetry” that is the lack of information compared with a resident. Based on a detailed market research and a consequent web profiling, the user of the web portal will be provided with customised and detailed information that will allow him to build his own trip.
Surfing the web portal, the user will be provided with genuine information about events and other amusements coherent with his expectations in order to set up a programme during the permanence in the territory.
A quarterly paper magazine qill be provided to the tourist during her trip and will be delivered for free by hospitality enterprises, agencies, local tourist offices or can be purchased in newsstands.
The mobile portal will provide the users with updated on-demand information and additional tips via MMS in order to allow a the tourist to enjoy completely his vacation.
The system also include a call center that will support constantly the tourist for information and details.
The main challenge is to provide the tourist with genuine and detailed information in order to guarantee him for the quality of goods and services supplied.
This will be achieved by the means of the protocols of production.
Every enterprises promoted by the system must adopt defined protocols of production that describes how the service must be provided or the goods must be produced and supplied in order to reach the top of the quality. Only the enterprises that meets all the requirements will be included and promoted and will be provided with a label that will allow tourist to recognize them.
A set of controls along with feedbacks from the users will be implemented in order to assure and guarantee the tourist.
The fulcrum of Marco Polo is the editorial staff that will be characterised by an internal staff that will manage all the information system and elaborate the news and contents.
An external and diffused editorial staff will operate in-field, manage the relationship with the local enterprises, service providers and local tourist offices and upload additional information and multimedia contents.
This should allow to provide the portals and the internal staff with more information that can be processed to complete the contents of the web portals.
From the enterprises side, all of them will be provided with a CRS (Centre Reservation System) that contains a complete data base of solutions, fares and availability to make every reservation easy and friendly for the users.
A section of the portal is dedicated to the e-commerce of local productions in order to allow the tourist to re-experience from home buying local gastronomic products or craftmade goods.
The Marco Polo System was designed to comply with the development of sustainable tourism of a destination along with the call for partnership among private and public bodies, using all the most innovative ICT tools to satisfy the expectation of the target tourists.
4. Conclusions: benefits and expected results
The Marco Polo System is planned to allow a positive impact on a various cluster of target groups.
This cluster is the main target group of the system that will benefit from the direct impacts.
The first result will be to make them adopt the protocols of production. This protocols are international standards that, when adopted, guarantee the tourist/customer of the quality of an output. In fact, especially when travelling abroad on a developing country, tourist concern is not be cheated. If this may happen, probably the bad experience will lead him to talk to others triggering a bad word of mouth.
While adopting the protocols of production, tourist enterprises will be forced to operate in a professional way according to international standards and oriented to the satisfaction of the target tourists.
In order to achieve this, the personnel have to behave in a consequential way and improve their skills; this will not be exhaustive to achieve a good training for the human resources as it will be necessary a dedicated training activity but it is surely the start.
Only the tourist businesses that will adopt the protocols of production will be involved in the Marco Polo System and the ones that will not keep the standards can be excluded at any time.
The adoption of the protocols of production will allow all the organisations to display a label of guarantee.
As described in paragraph 2, the tourist offer is divided and the Marco Polo system will allow the networking of the operators of the sector and extend this to the induced sectors.
This will allow the creation of a structured tourist offer that can be promoted meeting the expectation in terms of information and quality of the target tourist.
Another aspect is the segment of tourist demand that will be attracted that will be focused on individual tourists: this cluster, thanks to the ICT tools that are now available all over the world, after collecting all the information on the web, book online the trips and all the service needed during the holiday. They have higher expenditure capacities and are more respectful of the natural and cultural resources along with being more interesting in understanding the local communities.
Natural and cultural resources management
The natural and cultural resources are usually the main tourist attraction of a destination. In several Country, they are not protected in the right way and, consequently, they are not properly valorised.
Two opposite behaviours are present:
The first is to protect them as in a caveau of a bank, isolating from the civil world and making it impossible to be enjoyed both by the local community and the tourist.
The second is to making them limitlessly available to all, with the risk to ruining them.
Those behaviour are not considered correct as, in any case, do not carry any benefits and often lead to their waste.
The valorisation of natural and cultural resources means conservation and valorisations. It means that this assets are available to all with rules and respect. Means that these attractions generate tourist flows and, consequently, revenues that can be reinvested in conservation and valorisation.
The management bodies of these assets has to comply and adopt the protocols of productions in order to provide the tourist with the service expected.
Companies involved in production of non tourist products and services
Those companies are at the moment struck by the financial and economic global crisis and their development trend is limited due to a poor and small domestic market and/or to the International competition.
Food and beverage, manufacturing and artistic handcraft are considered in this cluster.
Those companies must adopt the protocols of productions as all the goods and services promoted by Marco Polo must be guaranteed.
These companies will have the opportunity to display the label of Marco Polo that will assure the tourist/customer of the guarantee of the goods.
The tourist/customer will be informed on the web portal, while booking the holiday or collecting more information, about the presence of goods and products. After that the tourist will have more information on the paper magazine and/or find them in shops or, in case of food and beverage, taste them in a restaurant.
So, if pleased the tourist/customer, can buy these products as souvenirs or buy them online on the Marco Polo web site.
Tourism can be a means to promote and spread local production abroad as it has already happened in countries like Italy or Spain or France.
The resident communities of the eligible area will have more job opportunities and, in general, they will benefit of the effect of the local development carried out by the tourism.
The action focuses its activities on sustainable tourism and follows the recommendations of the “Action for a more sustainable European tourism”, a report of Tourism Sustainable Group release on 2007 by the DG Enterprises where the challenge 4 is “Maintaining and enhancing community prosperity and quality of life, in the face of change”.
For example, this action will give priority to “types of accommodation and facilities that reflect the special character of the destination” and will maximize the linkeages (i.e. the positive effects to induced sectors) and minimize the leakages (i.e. the portion of income not retained locally) by promoting the use of local productions, shops and other services by visitors.
The value to be considered are the matching of local communities interest in terms of social, economic and environmental
By this action, a large segment of foreign people will be informed and will have the opportunity to visit the amenities and attractions of the eligible area, making a new interesting tourist experience as they will be guaranteed by the system that will be implemented.
It is forecasted that in three years the international tourist arrivals will be doubled
 Enterprises by size class – overview of SMEs in the EU, Eurostat, Statistics in focus n. 31/08, Manfred Schmiemann
 European Charter for Small Enterprises, approved by the Feira European Council on 19 and 20 June 2000
 Enhancing the Role of SMEs in Global Value Chains, OECD Global Conference in Tokyo, 31 May – 1 June 2007
 Study on competitiveness of EU tourism industry, DG Enterprises, September 2009
 Conclusions and Recommendations of the High Level Group on Tourism and Employment, October 1998, European Commission
 Travel and Tourism, Rowe Smith and Borein, University of Cambridge, 2002
 “Renewed EU Tourism Policy: Towards a stronger partnership for European Tourism”, COM(2006) 134 on March the 17th 2003
 “Action for a more Sustainable European Tourism”, report of the Tourism Sustainable Group on February 2007
 “Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism”, COM(2007) 621 on October the 19th 2007
 “Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe”, COM(2010) 352
6. Brief description of Author/Authors:
Rector, European University for Tourism, Bulevardi Zogu I – 1000 Tirane (Albania), www.euft.eu, firstname.lastname@example.org
He is the Rector of the European University for Tourism from July 3, 2008, where he is also Professor of International Economic Policy. He has been Professor of International Economic Policy at the University of Elbasan, Associate Professor of Marketing and Tourism Marketing at the University of Quebec in Montreal and at the University of Paris XIII, Visiting Professor in many universities in Europe and North America.
He’s member of the Scientific Committee of the Knowledge Network of the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations, member of the Scientific Committee of NECSTouR-Network of European Regions for a Sustainable and Competitive Tourism, Director of “Tungjatjeta” – International Journal of Tourism Policy and Member of the Board of Editors of scientific journals in the field of tourism both in Europe and extra EU.
Prof. Francesco Redi
International Relations and EU Project Laboratory, European University for Tourism, Bulevardi Zogu I – 1000 Tirane (Albania), www.euft.eu, email@example.com
He is an Italian professor in the field of Tourism with a focus on Politics of Tourism and EU Funds for Tourism, mainly at the European University for Tourism based in Albania and Italy where he is he is member of the Board of Director, Director for International Relation and of the EU project laboratory. He’s lecturer of International Economic Policies at Link Campus University in Rome (Italy) and of Policies for Territorial Development at the Second University of Naples (Italy). He’s member of the Academic Committee of NECSTouR (Network of European Regions for Sustainable and Sustaianble Tourism) and represent the European University for Tourism in the Knowledge of Network of UNWTO. In order to implement the models developed in his academic activities, he is Director of the Local Action Group Cilento Regeneratio (Italy).