Another significant event took place in our Republic not long ago. A prospective professional association of organizations connected with tourism in this or that way was organized – “The Baikal Travel Alliance”, supported by the Republican tourism agency. But first – what is a cluster? It is explained by Gennady Shirokov, head of strategic planning and marketing department, the Republican tourism agency.
There are several definitions of the “cluster” notion and quite an experience of “cluster” economics development in different countries. According to the definition given by the cluster theory author, American professor M. Porter, cluster is a group of geographically neighbouring interrelated companies (suppliers, producers, etc.) and the organizations connected with them (educational institutions, administrative bodies, infrastructural companies and others) which act in a certain sphere and supplement each other.
The tourism cluster is centred on the so-called “root” business – the business of travel agencies producing travel product. But at the same time they buy the services of other businesses: accommodation and restaurants, transport, trade, entertainment and others. All these businesses make up the tourism cluster.
It is known that association always wins in competition for clients and the place at the market. It gives more offers, higher level of quality and lower prices.
The main principle creating cluster’s advantage is to cooperate at the local level in order to compete at the global one.
Both the government and business can initiate the cluster. The governments’ efforts are not usually directed to supporting separate enterprises or branches, whatever significant their contribution in economics can be, but to creating conditions for developing the cluster and relations inside it.
Tourism has got its specific features. A tourist who may be either a local resident or a visitor has an opportunity to choose any country and any region. He or she wants to know as much as possible about the region and recreation conditions before he or she comes there. During his or her visit he or she evaluates not only the work of the receiving company, but he or she evaluates the region first of all. He or she wants to buy any service quickly and without any problems, and the choice of the services should be great, the prices should be appropriate, and the service system should work faultlessly. He or she needs security and comfort, respect and attention, and the main thing is to get the “unforgettable” impressions he or she comes for. It is impossible without raising the general level of services quality and creating the market mechanism oriented to the consumer. Solving many problems depends not on travel companies, but on state power bodies and municipal administrations.
Travel agencies always have to work in competition conditions both at the local and at the foreign market. It stimulates organizing a cluster. It is well known that the whole travel world has been using associations as a form of cooperation which is, generally speaking, a prototype of a cluster.
This work has been started by the Republican tourism agency which initiated organizing an association of a cluster type named “The Baikal Travel Alliance” together with the leading travel companies of Buryatia.
The alliance was organized in April 2007, but it has already started active partnership work with all the organizations which are connected with tourism in this or that way.
Its members have selected several most prospective guidelines. The guidebook “Buryatia” was published, the 4th Republican exhibition fair “Tourism and Recreation in Buryatia” is held where the Alliance has a vouchers contest. In autumn an introduction tour is planned around the “Oriental Ring” for the representatives of state administration and travel business of Mongolia, Japan and a number of Russian regions.
Very important work has been started to make up a modern system of travel marketing which will help organizations offering tours, hotel and restaurant services, sport and health services, transport services, guides and interpreters’ services, educational, advertising and publishing services, as well as goods for sport and tourism, do that through the offices of their Alliance partners, the Internet and by taking part in fairs and exhibitions. It is planned to organize the republican visiting-information centre in Ulan Ude and develop this system in the districts. In summer information about all tourist centres and hotels of Buryatia will be collected and a catalogue will be published.
One of the main guidelines is organizing the system of pre-service and in-service teaching for travel, hotel and restaurant businesses together with the Republic of Buryatia Ministry of education and science, higher and secondary specialized educational institutions. The Alliance should become a testing site for cooperation of educational institutions and businesses.
Especially interesting work is the one for attracting the interested organizations to shared participation in building the objects of service on the territory of the “Baikal” special economic tourism and recreation zone, as well as on other territories.
One could make a conclusion with some extent of certainty that the process of organizing the tourism cluster has started. The best conditions for developing tourism and the centre of business activity are in the capital of the republic, where the movement of travel business subjects towards cooperation is becoming more and more visible. Many administrators understand that it is difficult to solve all the problems of their private businesses on their own. The common site is necessary where they can develop their business links, get up-to-date information, study and borrow innovations, and what’s more – create competitive product all together.
More than 20 organizations and private businessmen have already become members of the Alliance for a short time. This year the Alliance is planning to open its affiliated branches in the Kabansk and Severobaikalsk districts, and then in other districts prospective for the development of tourism. Cooperation with the Buryat regional organization of the Russian Travel Union, the “Great Baikal Trail” Association and others promises to be productive.