A qualitative analysis of the networks of tourism SMEs in Germany: managing business networks for knowledge transfer

Braun, Christine (2015) A qualitative analysis of the networks of tourism SMEs in Germany: managing business networks for knowledge transfer. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Theoretically, it is said that social capital encourages individuals and entrepreneurs to engage in business networks. Social capital is the sum of the resource benefits an organisation derives from its network of relationships. These external knowledge sources are particularly relevant for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because of their lack of internal knowledge stock. Yet, social capital theories have primarily been investigated from a structural perspective to measure benefits through centrality and position in structural holes. To understand the resource benefits, however, it is first necessary to understand what knowledge is available, second the content of the relationship, and third the context and conditions that influence these inter-organisational knowledge transfer relationships. Thus, in this thesis, a relational approach is adopted to generate knowledge on inter-firm relationships at the SME level in order to explore how tourism business networks are operated and managed in such a way that enables the knowledge transfer. This study looks into the business networks in which the SMEs of the tourism industry engage, explains the meaning they ascribe to the knowledge transfer potential among these networks, how they exploit the networks, what knowledge is made available, and the managerial as well as contextual factors that influence the network operation and management.

A multi-method qualitative strategy was used to investigate naturally emerging business networks in North-East Germany’s tourism industry. A snowball network sampling procedure was applied, from which two network zones emerged, a closed coordinated small network and the members’ individually built business relationships beyond this network. The research was informed by three rounds of qualitative data generation and collection. In total, 12 first-round interviews were used to enter the field, a second-round workshop and discussion group with 31 participants was used to generate preliminary findings and facilitate access, and in the third round 38 semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted to generate data for the main empirical study. This qualitative data analysis was complemented and supported with data from informal conversations and observations, collected documents and field notes, as well as a secondary data review.

The study contributes to the body of knowledge on tourism SME networks and the availability and transfer of knowledge. Its original contribution is in providing a greater knowledge and understanding of the cognitive and relational component of social capital, particularly in the formation of a network. It further adds to both literature and theory on network coordinators by unpacking and circumscribing their boundaries. The study also theorises the cult of personality in a network context. In addition, it contributes to the understanding of the role of regional tourism organisations (RTO) in that it explored how different strategies lead to a collaborative environment, effective communication and member exchange. Thus, this research contributes to the conversation of SMEs, tourism business networks, coordination, and knowledge transfer.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Hughes, M.
Humphreys, M.
Keywords: Small business, Tourism, Germany, business networks, knowledge management
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 28592
Depositing User: Braun, Christine
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2015 13:06
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2017 04:44
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/28592

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