Exploring Clustering as a Destination Development Strategy

Christa Laing
Acolla Cameron
Since Porter’s (1990) popularisation, cluster theory has become a leading strategy of economic development through the exploitation of local resources, knowledge and relationships. However, despite the fact that tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing industries, the mainstream literature on cluster theory has failed to adequately apply this concept to the tourism industry. This paper argues that cluster theory provides an innovative means of conceptualising destination development since integration, cohesion and cooperation are inherent features of a tourism destination. It synthesises the literature from academic and practitioner perspectives to develop a framework for tourism cluster development. A case study approach is adopted whereby the feasibility of utilising clustering as a destination development strategy in La Brea, Trinidad and Tobago is examined. Under a Critical Social Science philosophical orientation, this study focuses on the triangulation of qualitative data from site visits, document analysis and interviews to explore the case study area’s clustering potential. The paper concludes that the presence of attractions of touristic value is insufficient in attempting to develop a cohesive destination as several critical success factors for cluster development are absent within the study area. The paper then presents recommendations for overcoming the barriers to clustering in the study area. The findings and recommendations presented in this paper can inform a destination development plan for La Brea. The work presented here has implications for future studies on tourism destination development since the general methodology can be adapted to similar contexts.

Porter, Michael E. 1990. The Competitive Advantage of Nations. New York: Free Press.