Drivers of Innovation in Rural Tourism: the Role of Good Governance and Engaged Entrepreneurs


  • Marion Joppe University of Guelph
  • Ed Brooker Sheridan College
  • Kimberly Thomas University of Guelph


Good governance and engaged entrepreneurship are integral pillars for innovation in rural tourism and ultimately its success. This paper investigates the barriers to innovative rural tourism development in the province of Ontario, Canada, through a stakeholders' workshop where success factors for innovation in rural development were categorized as: governance, human resources, investments, research, marketing, communication and co-ordination. A detailed survey followed up on stakeholders' perceptions of innovation in rural settings based on the themes identified. This research suggests that while engaged entrepreneurship may not necessarily be conducive for radical innovation, it has been instrumental in providing the impetus for incremental and liminal innovation, allowing rural businesses to sustainably thrive and also to survive turbulent economic environments. Similarly, governance, which includes broader strategic approaches for the management of rural tourism, bottom-up planning, longer-term strategies and better coordination at the federal level, also creates the environment for innovation in rural tourism. Engaged entrepreneurs are further perceived to play a critical role in providing leadership at the local level to effect product development, packaging, advocacy, training and development for the overall success of rural tourism in Ontario, Canada. Keywords: rural tourism, governance, engaged entrepreneur, innovation, leadership

Author Biographies

Marion Joppe, University of Guelph

Marion Joppe is a Professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Guelph, Canada. She obtained her doctorate from the University of Aix-Marseille, France in Law and Economics of Tourism in 1983, and specializes in destination planning, development and marketing, and the experiences upon which destinations build. She has extensive private and public sector experience, having worked for financial institutions, tour operators, consulting groups and government, and has published in both North America and Europe.

Ed Brooker, Sheridan College

Ed Brooker is a Professor of Marketing at Sheridan College, Canada, and researcher interested in innovation, knowledge networks, commercial outdoor recreation, and destination marketing. He obtained his doctorate from Griffith University, Australia focusing on the levels of innovation within Australian caravan parks. He leads efforts to network early adopters within the international camping sector, while consulting on various international projects.

Kimberly Thomas, University of Guelph

Kimberly Thomas is a PhD candidate at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph, Canada. She has obtained both her Masters and Bachelors Degrees at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados in Tourism and Hospitality Management and Management Studies respectively. Her research interest is in agro-tourism and linkages between both the Tourism and Agriculture Industries. She has worked in both the Tourism and the Agriculture Sectors in Grenada.