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Success factors for small rural tourism units: an exploratory study in the Portuguese region of Serra da Estrela

  • Escola Superior Agrária / Instituto Politécnico de Coimbra
  • Entidade Regional de Turismo Centro de Portugal, Portugal, Aveiro

Abstract and Figures

Over the past few decades, tourism has come to be considered a way of promoting economic and social development in peripheral, rural areas where traditional agriculture has declined. This is the case of the Portuguese region of Serra da Estrela, where rural tourism has been seen as a strategy for regional development. However, it is important to understand the extent to which tourism activities are able to meet the expectations of tourists and entrepreneurs, in order to represent a realistic development strategy. The current exploratory study compared the performance of 42 small tourism businesses operating in Serra da Estrela in an attempt to understand the impact of several factors on their success. Using occupancy rate as an indicator of success, a linear model was estimated, revealing the importance of adopting information and communications technologies (ICT) in tourism service as a factor for success. The study also shows that the supply of other services, besides housing, and client satisfaction promote the increase in net occupancy rates. Contrary to expectations, two of the explanatory variables related to management (owning and living in the touristic unit) have a negative impact on success.
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Success factors for small rural tourism units: an exploratory
study in the Portuguese region of Serra da Estrela
Ana Teodoro
, Isabel Dinis 2*, Orlando Simões 3 and Gonçalo Gomes 4
Received: 03/08/2016 Accepted: 03/04/2017
Instituto Politécnico de Coimbra, Escola Superior Agrária, Bencanta, 3045-601 Coimbra, Portugal; Tel: +351-
239 802 940, Fax: +315- 239 802 979, E-mail:
2 Centro de Estudos em Recursos Naturais, Ambiente e Sociedade (CERNAS); Instituto Politécnico de
Coimbra, Escola Superior Agrária, Bencanta, 3045-601 Coimbra, Portugal; Tel: +351- 239 802 940, Fax: +315-
239 802 979, E-mail:
3 Centro de Estudos em Recursos Naturais, Ambiente e Sociedade (CERNAS); Instituto Politécnico de
Coimbra, Escola Superior Agrária, Bencanta, 3045-601 Coimbra, Portugal; Tel: +351- 239 802 940, Fax: +315-
239 802 979, E-mail:
4 Entidade Regional de Turismo Centro de Portugal, Rua João Mendonça, 8, 3800-200 Aveiro, Portugal; Tel:
+351- 234 420 760, Fax: +315- 234 428 326, E-mail:
* Corresponding author
Over the past few decades, tourism has come to be considered a way of promoting economic and
social development in peripheral, rural areas where traditional agriculture has declined. This is the
case of the Portuguese region of Serra da Estrela, where rural tourism has been seen as a strategy
for regional development. However, it is important to understand the extent to which tourism
activities are able to meet the expectations of tourists and entrepreneurs, in order to represent a
realistic development strategy. The current exploratory study compared the performance of 42 small
tourism businesses operating in Serra da Estrela in an attempt to understand the impact of several
factors on their success. Using occupancy rate as an indicator of success, a linear model was
estimated, revealing the importance of adopting information and communications technologies (ICT)
in tourism service as a factor for success. The study also shows that the supply of other services,
besides housing, and client satisfaction promote the increase in net occupancy rates. Contrary to
expectations, two of the explanatory variables related to management (owning and living in the
touristic unit) have a negative impact on success.
© 2017 Varna University of Management. All rights reserved
Keywords: Rural Tourism, Natural Park, Performance Indicators, Rural Development.
Citation: Teodoro, A., I. Dinis, O. Simões, G. Gomes (2017) Success factors for small rural tourism
units: an exploratory study in the Portuguese region of Serra da Estrela. European Journal of
Tourism Research 17, pp. 136-148
Serra da Estrela is located in the Central
Region (NUT II) of Portugal, being the highest
mountain in the country with an altitude of
almost 2000 meters at its highest point, the
Torre (tower). As pointed out by the European
Teodoro, A., I. Dinis, O. Simões, G. Gomes (2017) / European Journal of Tourism Research 17, pp. 136-148
Commission (2015), centuries of strong
interaction between man and nature have
made Serra da Estrela one of the richest areas
of the Iberian Peninsula in terms of biodiversity
and cultural heritage. An awareness of the
uniqueness of the territory is not new. In fact, in
1976, in order to protect the mountain’s
singularities, the Serra da Estrela Natural Park
(ENP) was created. ENP is one of the most
extensive protected areas in the country, with
about 88,850 ha, which covers territories of the
municipalities Celorico da Beira, Covilhã,
Gouveia, Guarda, Manteigas and Seia.
Currently several national and international
conservation statutes protect the region. In this
study, for data collection reasons, “Serra da
Estrela" is the area defined by the Regional
Entity of Tourism of Central Portugal, not
exactly matching ENP limits.
Over the past few decades, tourism has been
perceived by regional and central
policymakers, as well as academics, as a way
to promote economic and social development
of the region of Serra da Estrela, with emphasis
on rural tourism. In the development plan
outlining the regional strategy for the period
2014-2020 (CIMBSE, 2014) the relevance of
tourism remains. It is stated that, in the region,
tourism has an important and even multilevel-
role, relating to agriculture, transport and
health, as a factor of development and
complimentary asset.
At the same time, the lodging capacity in the
region has been increasing over the last years,
with particular emphasis on rural tourism (RT),
in connection with farms and natural resources.
Some abandoned farms have been restored
and reused for small-scale agro-tourism.
Several tourist animation entrepreneurs have
been established to help tourists explore the
cultural and natural landscape of the region.
Traditionally there has always been a strong
seasonality and geographical concentration for
tourism with greater demand at weekends and
winter holidays focusing on the snow season,
at the municipalities closer to Torre, where
snow is more abundant (Fernandes and Vieira,
2003). However, a new touristic demand,
drawn to culture and nature, especially during
the summer, has arisen more recently. In this
context, we can expect RT to remain a
potential driver of regional development in the
coming years. However, as stated by Wilson et
al. (2001) rural tourism development and
entrepreneurship cannot work without the direct
and indirect participation and collaboration of
businesspersons involved in tourism. In
particular, rural lodging establishments play a
key role in the process (Hernández-Maestro
and González-Benito, 2014) but their
contribution to development of rural areas
depends on their success and resilience.
The purpose of this paper is to contribute to a
better understanding of the factors that
influence the performance of small rural
tourism units, using Serra da Estrela as an
exploratory example, so that better and more
effective policy measures focusing on RT
development can be designed and
implemented. Drawing upon the estimation of
an empirical model based on a survey
conducted in the region, the authors investigate
how a set of dependent variables affect the
success or performance of RT units.
Literature review
Success can be defined as the achievement or
accomplishment of an aim or objective.
According to Kalleberg and Leicht (1991),
successful organizations are those that best
adapt to fit the opportunities provided and
constraints imposed by their environment. In
this sense, success is related to performance
and competition. For a firm this is the ability to
design, produce, and market its products better
than others, positively influencing consumers’
choice and satisfaction. Tourist satisfaction is
ensured when the all operation is customer
oriented. That is, when all the organizational
culture puts the tourist in the center, acting in
order to meet their needs (Deshpandé et al.,
1993; Jaworski et al., 2000; Steinman et al.,
2000; Polo-Peña et al., 2013). Customer
orientation is seen as a competitive advantage
in the market, particularly in RT (Slater and
Narver, 1994, Otto and Brent-Ritchie, 1996;
Haber and Lerner, 1999; Reichel and Haber,
2005; De Nisco et al., 2015). As pointed out by
Ali et al. (2014) memorable touristic expe-
riences can develop lasting and positive
memories for consumers, which can ultimately
influence their loyalty behaviours. However, in
Success factors for small rural tourism units: an exploratory study in the Portuguese region of Serra da Estrela.
the RT industry, the issue of success is not
only about business. The literature shows that
RT entrepreneurship motivations are often
linked with non-economic personal goals, and
therefore, the desired outcomes may not be
primarily financial. International studies, such
as Morrison and King (2002) and Polo-Peña et
al. (2013) argue that sometimes firms continue
to operate in the RT market, despite achieving
only minimal financial return, because owners
associate their business with a certain lifestyle
and to the possibility of family assets recovery.
Several studies show that success in RT, from
the owner's point of view, is also measured by
the satisfaction of being appreciated and
valued by others, not only customers or tourists
but also by the local people who value the
preservation and the promotion of local
heritage (Cavaco, 2000). Equally important, the
pleasure to receive, entertain and interact with
people from different cultures is also
recognized as a reason for RT entrepreneur’s
fulfilment (Morrison and King, 2002; Simpson,
From this perspective, Polo-Peña et al. (2012)
suggest three types of results (financial results,
"personal" results for the entrepreneur, and
results to the "destination", i.e. to the local
development of rural areas), combining an
analysis of tangible and intangible factors. The
use of subjective performance measures
together with objective indicators had already
been advocated in a study about the travel
industry by Fick and Brent-Ritchie (1991), since
many factors that contribute to the tourist
experience cannot be objectively measured.
In fact, a wide range of internal and external
factors can influence success in rural lodging
establishments, involving a combination of
inherited or created assets (e.g., natural
resources and infrastructure) and processes.
Regarding external assets, as pointed out by
Tsai et al. (2009), the tourism industry benefits
from a destination's economic growth and
stability and community developments that help
to create demand for hotel rooms. In the same
line Haber and Reichel (2007) argue that
location is one of the main factors that
contribute to the success of touristic
businesses because it is related to several
physical and social features that significantly
influence the tourist experience. The environ-
mental factor, as Lerner and Haber (2000) call
it, has a direct impact on the chances of
success and survival in case of tourist
ventures. For example, the specific materials
and practices used in regional architecture, as
well as landscape, local culture and traditions
may become important issues. The same
happens with the provision of regional
infrastructures and services, such as basic
infrastructure (water, electricity, roads) or
shopping, entertainment and cultural facilities
(Fridgen, 1984; Leaper, 1990; Andersen 1996;
Lerner and Haber, 2000).
Internal assets also play a crucial role in
success. As stated before, to have success, RT
units must focus on customer satisfaction. To
ensure customer satisfaction, it is necessary to
provide a quality service at all levels (reception,
facilities, breakfast, touristic-animation).
Several authors such as Schneider and Bowen
(1995) and Lerner and Haber (2000) found that
the provision of a bundle of services, rather
than a basic lodging service, improves success
because rural tourists tend to look for
recreational activities while staying in rural
areas. Also important in a tourist-oriented
process are the options given to tourists to
make their reservation or purchase the service.
Since the average size of RT units often limits
resource availability, information and
communication technologies (ICT) offer a major
advantage in building competitiveness because
technology is affordable and suitable for small
businesses (McCartan-Quinn and Carson,
2003; Buhalis and Law, 2008).
Several authors have studied the impact of ICT
on RT business performance at different
phases of the tourist experience: pre-visit, visit
and post-visit. As Polo-Peña et al. (2013) sum
up, pre-visit is when tourists form a prior
perceived image about the destination and
make their reservation. At this stage, tourists
may use organization’s web sites and social
media networking to get information about
places to visit or stay and booking. With regard
to pre-visit, recent research has showed that
online visibility enhances RT business
performance (Nieto et al., 2011; Melo et al.,
2017). Visit is the stay period during which ICT
is relevant for check-in and departure
Teodoro, A., I. Dinis, O. Simões, G. Gomes (2017) / European Journal of Tourism Research 17, pp. 136-148
management and internet and social media
access and use. Finally, post-visit activities
refer to the firm’s follow-up in relation to the
clients they have served. ICT is then useful to
manage clients’ forums and promote special
events. Particularly, the comments left by
clients in the social networks or reservation
centers reveal their degree of satisfaction and
suggest required improvements. In this regard,
several studies (Ye et al., 2009, Ye et al., 2011;
Sparks and Browning, 2011; Yacouel and
Fleischer, 2012; Nieto et al., 2014; Phillips et
al., 2015) indicate that the number and quality
of reviews provided online by consumers
determine RT business performance. This
means the existence of a feedback effect that
leads to increasing or decreasing demand
according to previous reviews.
Polo-Peña et al. (2013), using Structural
Equation Modeling, investigated the impact of
the use of ICT in RT performance perception at
the three different phases, finding that
combined ICT use and customer orientation
adoption contribute to better outcomes for RT
activity. They also remark that ICT use per se
does not universally guarantee that business
performance will benefit. To do so, they must
be used in a consumer-oriented context.
Regarding processes, RT units have some
particularities that are worthy emphasizing. RT
ventures are often described as small house-
hold units, allowing a closer interaction
between supplier and customer (Getzs and
Carlsen, 2000; Reichel and Haber, 2005). That
leads to a greater involvement of tourists in the
"rural experience", helping to increase
customer satisfaction (Kastenholz and Sparrer
2009; Cunha et al., 2011). Processes depend
mostly on the psychological traits, skills,
motivations and choices made by the business
leaders, particularly in RT units where the
entrepreneur often performs all the tasks
needed for the functioning of the housing,
becoming himself one of the most important
success factors. Campón-Cerro (2015)
highlights the importance of relationships in RT
destinations as a key element for getting
customer’s loyalty and enhancing profitability in
the long run. Certain behavioral skills such as
hospitality and good communication abilities
are identified as drivers of good performance in
small tourist resorts (Olsen et al., 1992; Haber
and Reichel, 2007). Age, gender, education
and good skills in financial management,
accounting and marketing are characteristics
that may determine managerial behaviour and
leadership style which indirectly have an effect
on business performance (Cooper et al., 1994;
Robinson and Sexton, 1994; Lerner and Haber,
2000; Minett et al., 2009).
As previously discussed, the concepts of
success and performance are not well
established, comprising a certain level of
subjectivity. From the owner’s point of view it
may be related to financial results but also to
the achievement of other expectations
regarding for example the preservation of
family assets. Furthermore, there is a
multiplicity of issues that can interfere with the
functioning and performance of RT units.
Accordingly, the present study used a
multidimensional approach in order to
understand RT success and identify these
critical factors.
Data collection
The analysis was mainly based on a survey of
RT managers held between October 2014 and
March 2015 using a fully structured question-
naire. With few exceptions, the survey was
administered online after a personal or phone
contact, in order to inform potential participants
about the research and the objectives of the
survey. From the 150 RT lodgment units
recorded in the Serra da Estrela region, only 42
managers accepted to participate in this study.
The questionnaire focused on eight groups of
questions, starting with the description of the
lodgment, including identification, history and
operational structure. The purpose of the
second set of questions was to identify the
methods of booking made available to
customers. The goal of the third group of
questions was to understand the methods
deployed by managers to communicate their
services. The fourth group of questions focused
on complementary services, such as re-
creational and leisure activities, contact with
local agriculture and accessibility to traditional
products. The fifth group of questions was
about attributes managers thought were more
Success factors for small rural tourism units: an exploratory study in the Portuguese region of Serra da Estrela.
Table 1. Variables description
Dependent variable
Net Occupancy Rate
Explanatory Variables
1) RT units characteristics/Internal and External Assets
Start-up year
Number of hired workers
Supply of other services than lodging; equals 1 if yes and 0 otherwise.
Accessibility to regional products; equals 1 if yes and 0 otherwise.
Booking on the website; equals 1 if available and 0 otherwise.
Location in the natural park; equals 1 if yes and 0 otherwise.
2) Manager characteristics/Processes
Equals 1 if male and 0 if female.
Age of the manager, measured in years
Training/experience in tourism or management, equals 1 if any and 0 otherwise.
Equals 1 if the manager lives in the RT unit and 0 otherwise.
Equals 1 if the manager is the property owner and 0 otherwise.
3) Rating categorical variable with 3 levels
Equals 1 if the RT unit is not rated in internet reservation sites and 0 otherwise
Equals 1 if the RT unit has a rate smaller than the threshold and 0 otherwise
Equals 1 if the RT unit has a rate not smaller than threshold and 0 otherwise
appreciated and valued by their customers.
The sixth set of questions gathered information
about the manager, namely gender, age,
educational background, training and expe-
rience in tourism. In the seventh group,
managers were questioned on the amount of
money spent to adapt their house to RT, as
well as about funding sources. Finally, the last
set of questions was divided between the
motivations and expectations of managers
seeking to understand the reasons why they
invested, their satisfaction with the results and
how they perceive the future of their business.
In addition to the questionnaire, managers also
filled in a form on a monthly basis with
information on the number of guests, overnight
stays and number of available and unavailable
beds. In the meantime, other information was
directly collected from the internet, regarding
online facilities. For this purpose, the web
pages of the RT units were visited, in order to
check the use of ICT in advertising (housing
and others) and booking. When available, the
rankings given by guests and released on
internet reservation sites were also registered.
Variables and model
To begin with, it was necessary to find a
dependent variable that could behave as a
proxy for performance or success of RT units.
In the literature of hotel performance, results
are usually measured by using both financial
and operating measures (Gray et al., 2000;
Reichel and Haber, 2005; Sainaghi, 2010;
Pnevmatikoudi and Stavrinoudis, 2016).
However, reliable financial indicators are not
easily obtained in surveys. Moreover, as
mentioned by Sainaghi and Baggio (2014),
financial indicators are often influenced by
managerial and accounting adjustments. On
the other hand, operating indices are usually
built around occupancy (Damonte et al., 1997;
Reichel and Haber, 2005; Akbaba, 2012;
Sainaghi and Baggio, 2014), price (Danziger et
al., 2006), or combined in the revenue per
available room (REVpar) (Fleischer and
Tchetchik, 2005; Namasivayam et al., 2007;
Kim et al., 2015). According to Cohen and
Olsen (2013), market performance is the
degree to which a hospitality firm outperforms
its competitors in attracting new customers,
increasing occupancy rates.
Teodoro, A., I. Dinis, O. Simões, G. Gomes (2017) / European Journal of Tourism Research 17, pp. 136-148
In this study, it was decided to look at success
from this latest perspective using net
occupancy rate as the dependent variable.
Since price variations between RT units located
in the Serra da Estrela region are small, the
use of REVpar showed no advantages. Net
occupancy rate was obtained by dividing the
total number of overnight stays by the total
number of available bed places, during the
reference period (i.e. the sum of bed places
available per day, excluding extra beds and net
of seasonal closures and other temporary
closures for decoration, by police order, etc.).
Three groups of explanatory variables (Table 1)
were included in the model, chosen according
to the main determinants of RT units
performance described in section 2.
The first group contains six variables related to
the RT unit's features: lodgement age,
measured by the start-up year; size, measured
by the number of employees; supply of
services other than lodging; accessibility to
regional products and website booking.
As mentioned in section 2, external assets may
determine the success of tourism units. In this
case, RT units are located in a relatively small
area, with no major differences regarding
regional infrastructures and services. However,
since nature-based tourism has become
increasingly important in the area, it seemed
relevant to include a variable related to the
distance to natural attractions. The variable
naturalpark distinguishes lodgements located
inside the natural park from the others.
The second group includes five manager
characteristics: gender; age; training or
professional experience in tourism or
management; ownership (whether the manager
is or is not the house owner); and manager
residence (whether he lives or does not live in
the RT unit). Finally, customer’s ratings posted
on internet reservation sites were also included
as an explanatory variable. The rating level
allows one to measure the degree of tourist
satisfaction and to test to what extent that
degree affects the demand of others.
Rating is a categorical variable that
distinguishes RT units not rated on internet
reservation sites (rating0 =1) from those that,
being rated, achieve ratings under or above 8.4
(rating1=1 and rating2=1, respectively). This
threshold is the average of the rating interval of
all Serra da Estrela TR units classified in the
Before choosing other e-rating
tools had been considered, but it was
concluded that Booking would be the most
efficient and objective because it is the one
most commonly used by Serra da Estrela RT
units. Even those that use other lodging
reservations website engines also use As one of the peer reviewers
kindly noted, is a travel agent and
therefore members actually benefit not only
from ICT, but from third party/tourist
intermediaries. However, the type of
information shared and the features provided
are the same for all members (identification
and location of houses, facilities available to
tourists, images). Using only data from allowed to isolate the
"intermediary effect" and to ignore the impact
that this intermediary has by itself, on the
occupation rates.
Thereby, the performance of a RT unit,
measured by the net occupancy rate (NOR)
between October 2014 and March 2015, was
specified as follows:
The variables included in Unit, Manager and
Rating refer, respectively, to the first, second
and third groups of variables earlier described.
The main descriptive statistics regarding all the
variables used in the model are displayed in
Table 2. These statistics show that occupancy
rates are low in RT units in the Serra da Estrela
Region, varying between 0 and 43%, with a
mean of 12.7%. The units are small, with no
more than 12 hired workers with an average of
2.5. Most units offer services other than lodging
and provide contact with regional products.
Less than a third have an institutional website
with marketing and booking purposes. About
half are located inside the natural park.
Success factors for small rural tourism units: an exploratory study in the Portuguese region of Serra da Estrela.
Table 2. Descriptive statistics
Std Dev*
(*) For binary variables the mean corresponds to relative frequency; standard deviations
are omitted.
Table 3. Estimation Results
Std. Err.
Number of obs = 37 F (13, 23) = 8.53 Prob > F = 0.0000 R-squared = 0.5999 Root
MSE = 8.8741
*** Statistically significant at p-value < 0.01; ** Statistically significant at p-value < 0.05;*
Statistically significant at p-value < 0.1.
Regarding managers, there is a predominance
of male individuals. The average age of
managers is 54 and most of them have no
training or experience in tourism or
management. Managers are mainly the owners
of the houses but do not live in the RT unit. A
little more than a third of the housings are rated
in internet reservation sites, with high rankings.
Estimation and Results
The model presented in the previous section
was estimated using Ordinary Least Squares
(OLS). Due to missing values in the dependent
variable, the number of observations was
limited to 37. In Table 3, we present the
estimation results. The estimated coefficients
represent the marginal effects of the
independent variables (dy/dx) on the
dependent variable. For dummy variables,
dy/dx represents the change in the dependent
variable as a result of the discrete change from
0 to 1 in the explanatory variable. The
statistical and econometric analysis was
performed using STATA12 ®.
Teodoro, A., I. Dinis, O. Simões, G. Gomes (2017) / European Journal of Tourism Research 17, pp. 136-148
From the estimation results, we can observe
that the dependent variables with significant
effect on occupancy rates were year, nworkers,
sitebook, age, residence, owner and rating1.
According to the results, age positively and
significantly influences occupation rates,
meaning that, holding other things constant,
consumers prefer older TR units. For each
additional year in the RT market, the net
occupation rate increased 0.8 percentage
points. These findings are in line with previous
research (Van de Ven et al., 1984) that regards
survival of small firms as a main success
indicator and can be related to the fact that it is
not easy for new entrants to get the competitive
advantages that older RT units may have
created and defended. Probably, previous
entrants are better established in the market
and already have some loyal clients that often
The number of workers showed a negative
effect on occupancy rates. Since the number of
workers was chosen as a size variable, this
result surprisingly suggests that larger units
had more difficulty to ensure high occupancy
rates. In fact, size is identified in many studies
as a determinant of success for hotels (Barros,
2004; Chen and Tseng, 2005) and RT units
(Fleischer and Tchetchik, 2005), given the
positive relationship between dimension and
economies of scale. In the Region of Murcia,
Albaladejo-Pina and Díaz-Delfa (2009) also
found that size (measured by the number of
rooms) enhance a rural house’s attractiveness
for the rural tourist. Exceptions can be found in
Anastassopoulos et al. (2009) and Sainaghi
(2011). The explanation for this apparent
contradiction may lie in the fact that rural
tourists seek a greater involvement in the "rural
experience"(Kastenholz and Sparrer, 2009)
that smaller units can more easily provide.
It is well recognized that a manager’s age
influences leadership styles, behaviours and
competencies. The study by Tavitiyaman et al.
(2014) shows that younger managers
emphasize some issues that are critical in RT
such as the top leadership competency
priorities, namely concern for the community
and communication skills. Moreover, it has also
been argued that younger business owners are
more active and energetic and have more
passion and motivation for their businesses as
they have larger career aspirations
(Kangasharju, 2000). In line with expectations,
the present study shows that units managed by
younger managers have higher occupancy
rates. Other things held constant, an additional
year in manager age leads to a 0.3 percentage
point decrease in net occupation rate. Contrary
to age, manager gender showed no statistical
significance in explaining RT unit performance.
Ownership and residence also stand as
significant issues, although with an opposite
effect to what was initially expected. In fact,
ownership and manager attendance should
contribute to a more tourist-oriented
management, improving customer satisfaction
and therefore success. However, the present
study indicates that when the manager is
simultaneously the RT owner, the net
occupancy rate decreases about 9 percentage
points. Regarding residence, the results show
that net occupancy rates tend to be 10
percentage points higher when the manager
does not live in the RT unit. To explain these
unexpected results Polo-Peña et al. (2012)
insight can be helpful. These authors believe
that the managers of small RT projects may be
more focused on efficiently managing their
resources rather than developing strategic
market plans. In the Serra da Estrela region
this appears to be the case since family
heritage preservation was one of the main
reasons cited by the participants in the study to
justify their financial investment in RT.
The significance of the variables sitebook and
rating endorses the relevant role of ICT in pre-
visit and post-visit stages. In fact, the results
clearly show that online booking positively
contributes to RT units’ performance.
Everything else remaining constant, the net
occupancy rate in RT units having internet sites
with a booking option increases 12 percentage
points when compared to others. This is an
expected outcome since the use of ICT is seen
as a strategic success factor of small business
by several authors (Sigala, 2004; Chathoth &
Law, 2011; Nieto et al., 2011; Polo-Peña et al.,
2013; Melo et al., 2017). Particularly, when
used at the pre-visit stage, ICT increases
visibility and simplifies booking procedures,
enhancing RT performance.
Success factors for small rural tourism units: an exploratory study in the Portuguese region of Serra da Estrela.
Regarding post-visit, the significant impact of
online ratings is in line with the findings by
Nieto et al. (2014) and Phillips et al. (2015),
although in the present study what really stood
out was the negative effect of low ratings when
compared with the absence of ratings. In the
model, the coefficients of the variables rating1
and rating2 show, respectively, the impact of
good and not so good reviews in net
occupancy rate, when compared to the
absence of internet rating.
The model suggests that, when compared with
an RT with no internet rating, an RT with an
average rating below 8.4 may expect 9
percentage points decrease in its occupancy
rate. It also shows that higher rates can have a
positive impact on occupancy but this result is
not statistically significant, probably due to
small sample size.
Regarding education and professional
experience, several authors such as
Tavitiyaman et al. (2014) and Haber and
Reichel (2007) point out that those features can
help managers to better analyse the business
situations and apply leadership skills to
numerous situations and that lack of education
limits decision-making and compromises small
tourism business performance.
Contrary to expectations, education and prior
entrepreneurial experience showed negative,
though not significant, association with
occupancy rates in Serra da Estrela RT units.
This might suggest, as pointed out in other
studies with similar results (Lerner and Haber,
2000; Haber and Reichel, 2007), that in the
tourism industry previous knowledge or
specialized education per se do not assure
success. Besides, as the authors claim, entry
barriers in tourism are not as high as in other
industries, where previous managerial
experience and a higher level of education are
required, reducing the relevance of these
It is also noteworthy that, contrary to
expectations, location within the natural park
area has a negative influence, though not
significant, in the occupancy rate. This result is
probably related to worse accessibility to RT
units located inside the park and to the greater
amount of time needed by tourists to reach
some basic services such as food and health
This article investigated the relationship
between both RT units and manager profiles
and firm performance. The findings of this
study can be useful to RT entrepreneurs as a
tool for developing marketing and advertising
strategies since it increases awareness of the
management and housing attributes that
impact successful occupancy rates.
The first important conclusion that can be
drawn is that ICT may significantly influence RT
unit performance. In fact, having a formal
website appears to be the most powerful
determinant of RT unit performance, positively
and significantly influencing occupancy. When
considering the post-visit point of view,
adoption of ICT can also influence the
outcomes of RT activity. In particular, bad
online ratings have a strong negative and
statistically significant effect on occupancy
rates. Therefore, rural lodging establishment
owners must be encouraged to develop formal
websites and to monitor the presence of low
ratings and negative comments in online
reviews. Thus, managers will be able to
respond to negative opinions and clarify
possible misunderstandings. At the same time,
they may take advantage of those reviews by
solving the identified problems and
communicating progress or resolution.
This study also shows that Serra da Estrela
rural tourists prefer small lodging units longer
established in the market. Another conclusion
may be that the main goal of RT entrepreneurs
is heritage preservation rather than
competitiveness, since ownership and on-site
residence negatively influences market
performance. These findings may help to
explain the low contribution of RT to the
region’s real development, particularly with
regard to job creation, and may have important
regional development policy implications.
However, these results require confirmation
from future studies, more comprehensive in
both time and study area.
The focus of this research was very local,
having a low number of participants and a
Teodoro, A., I. Dinis, O. Simões, G. Gomes (2017) / European Journal of Tourism Research 17, pp. 136-148
narrow registration period of occupancy rates.
Therefore, it was not possible to generalize our
findings or to verify their efficacy in other
locations. Broader studies of this type in other
rural areas would help to confirm, modify and
refine the findings in this paper through
comparison. Moreover, future research should
also incorporate other market performance
indicators (e.g. financial performance; customer
loyalty and satisfaction; owners, managers, and
employees satisfaction; rural population
approval) to fully capture the factors of
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... There are many species that can fit within this group, adapted to all types of ecosystems, climates and environments [4][5][6]. In Portugal, there is a species that stands out for its dispersion and abundance, which in recent times assumed prominence due to the exuberant growth it presents and the way it covered extensive areas, mainly in mountainous regions, as is the case of Serra da Estrela [7][8][9]. ...
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Shrub species play a critical ecological role in ecosystems, covering significant areas. However, with the current development of vegetation cover, conditioned by climate change, certain species have acquired a dominant role, which suffocates the other ecosystem species in a natural monoculture model. Thus, some species, such as Cytisus striatus (Hill) Rothm., have acquired preponderance, mainly due to the dense forests they establish. This situation has contributed to the increased risk of rural fires, forcing permanent actions to control the settlements. These actions entail costs that make the continuity and permanence of control unsustainable. The energetic valorization of residual biomass resulting from operations to reduce fuel load is an option that seems viable, mainly if used in the production of biomass pellets in a mixture with other biomasses, such as Pinus pinaster or Eucalyptus globulus. The laboratory characterization tests demonstrated that the residual biomass of C. striatus presents parameters that fall within limits defined by the standard ENPlus®. The processing of this residual biomass on an industrial scale line is also feasible. However, given the configuration of the material to be processed, production lines may be necessary, especially concerning the detachment of the material. The logistical issue may also impose restrictions since the material has a low density, even when baled.
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Entrepreneurship has garnered more attention in tourism research, indicating the critical role of entrepreneurs and new business start-ups in driving innovation and value creation in the tourism industry. The literature on rural tourism entrepreneurship is somewhat fragmented, despite its growth. It encompasses a variety of issues, perspectives, and approaches, and little congruent knowledge has been developed thus far. The present study aims to review the relevant literature using a bibliometric approach. The field structure is identified using bibliometric indicators such as citations, and the main trends in this region are mapped using the VOS viewer software. One hundred and four seminal articles from the Scopus database were systematically selected, and bibliometrically analysed.
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In this work, an exhaustive revision is given of the literature associated with advanced information and communication technologies in agriculture within a window of 25 years using bibliometric tools enabled to detect of the main actors, structure, and dynamics in the scientific papers. The main findings are a trend of growth in the dynamics of publications associated with advanced information and communication technologies in agriculture productivity. Another assertion is that countries, like the USA, China, and Brazil, stand out in many publications due to allocating more resources to research, development, and agricultural productivity. In addition, the collaboration networks between countries are frequently in regions with closer cultural and idiomatic ties; additionally, terms’ occurrence are obtained with Louvain algorithm predominating four clusters: precision agriculture, smart agriculture, remote sensing, and climate smart agriculture. Finally, the thematic-map characterization with Callon’s density and centrality is applied in three periods. The first period of thematic analysis shows a transition in detecting the variability of a nutrient, such as nitrogen, through the help of immature georeferenced techniques, towards greater remote sensing involvement. In the transition from the second to the third stage, the maturation of technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, wireless sensor networks, and the machine learning area, is observed.
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The present manuscript studies and classifies the different performance variables and measures of hotels, recorded in international scientific journals. Through the Content Analysis of 79 scientific papers, this manuscript reaches a main conclusion regarding hotel performance indicators measurement. Although researchers have acknowledged that the concept of hotel performance is complex and manifold (and as such it is depicted and assessed with various and diverse indicators and groups of indicators in international scientific literature), still the majority of them measure hotel performance in a way that does not express its multidimensional nature in their studies as they focus on a relatively small number of the above indicators. This paper mainly contributes to further classifying hotel performance indicators and introduces a novel codification that allows researchers to better understand indicators and hotel executives to use them more effectively.
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In the tourism industry, most customer feedback and searches for relevant information take place online. Therefore, it is important to improve understanding of the business consequences of both customers’ online comments and businesses’ online visibility. For this study, the authors collected comments and visibility data (advertising expenditures) from a leading rural tourism infomediary website, related to 408 French rural lodging establishments. A complementary survey provided information about the lodging establishments’ performance (reputation and profitability). The results reveal that tourists’ positive perceptions of global service quality, as reflected in their comments, depend on their dual perceptions of the lodging and the surroundings. In turn, positive global service quality perceptions and visibility on an infomediary website positively affect business performance. These findings have implications for tourism scholars, as well as for establishment owners trying to track the factors that affect tourists’ evaluations of their service provision.
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In this paper we use the Importance-Performance Analysis (IPA) scheme in order to analyze tourist satisfaction in a holiday destination. Arising from service and tourism marketing literatures, the study selects a set of components of the tourism experience that are willing to affect satisfaction. The IPA scheme is applied though a survey conducted on a sample of 1.936 national and international tourists intercepted at the end of their journey in the region of Campania (Italy). Although the IPA scheme has been used in past research in the tourism field, only a few studies have applied this tool from a destination perspective. Based on the results, the paper concludes with discussion of implications for both practitioners and academics.
AKI KANGASHARJU IS AN ECONOMIST AT Pellervo Economic Research Institute, Helsinki, Finland. The present paper investigates the determinants of small firm growth in Finland during the strong economic fluctuations of the years 1988- 1995. The paper uses longitudinal data on 26,057 owner-managers and their associated small firms. Results support the life-cycle effect of a firm, i.e. new firms have a higher growth probability than older ones, providing that the firms considered survive. In a similar vein, firms run by younger owner-managers have higher growth probability than those run by older counterparts. Results also indicate that economic fluctuations strongly affect the growth probability of small firms. On the other hand, results indicate that once corrected for the level effects, the probability of growth was affected by the firm and owner-manager characteristics virtually the same way over the entire business cycle.
The success of many destination marketing initiatives is dependent upon the effective engagement of a significant proportion of small tourism businesses. This represents a significant challenge for public sector agencies charged with the development and implementation of such initiatives, many of which have deliberately integrated e-commerce components in response to the re-engineering of tourism market places and supply chains. Drawing on associated literature and empirical research presented in the form of a case study, this paper makes a contribution towards understanding and knowledge pertaining to small tourism businesses, their engagement in e-commerce practices and consequential interaction with destination marketing organizations.
This article sets out to highlight the importance of adopting customer orientation and information and communications technology (ICT) in tourism service delivery if the rural tourism sector is to succeed. A model is proposed and validated which encompasses the effects of customer orientation adoption and the use of ICT on the rural tourism sector, taking into account the enterprises' financial results, improvements to the rural destination, and the more personal, intangible impact on the owner-manager. The major contributions of this work are in finding that customer orientation adoption that contributes to ICT use, and that both ICT use and customer orientation adoption contribute to better outcomes from rural tourism activity.
This paper investigates how managing online reviews affects hotel performance. An international hotel chain provided the hotel performance data and the online review data. A leading social media firm for the hospitality industry collected the online review data, which the hotel company purchased. The results indicate that overall ratings are the most salient predictor of hotel performance, followed by response to negative comments. The better the overall ratings and the higher the response rate to negative comments, the higher the hotel performance. Therefore, online reviews in social media, specifically overall rating and response to negative comments, should be managed as a critical part of hotel marketing.