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The impact of a nationwide mega-event on tie strength, collaborative capacity and knowledge transfer dynamics within regional destination marketing networks
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The coordinated contributions of tourism, sports and events organisations are critical to the success of a large-scale sport event. The events network is a complex system of organisations, comprising both new and existing relationships. The events literature emphasises the potential of events to build new relationships between sponsors, international visitors and organising committees. There is, however, considerably less research investigating the impact of mega-events on existing, inter-organisational relationships within a tourism destination network and how these organisations collaborate and transfer valuable knowledge. This research explores the impact of a mega-event on tie strength, collaborative capacity and knowledge transfer dynamics in a regional destination marketing environment. The research uses the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC 2011) in New Zealand to analyse the inter-organisational relationships between Tourism Auckland (as the focal organisation) and its partner organisations. The research utilises an exploratory, comparative, qualitative case study approach. A comprehensive sample selection process revealed that Tourism Auckland is part of two networks. The intra-regional network (AKL network) comprises organisations within the Auckland region (e.g. Auckland Council, Auckland Transport). The inter-regional network (RTO network) is comprised of regional tourism organisations (RTOs) throughout New Zealand. Sixty-nine semi-structured interviews with chief executive officers and senior managers from both networks were conducted both pre-event and post-event. A formal survey and a documentation review also underpinned the findings. The thesis consists of three interdependent studies. First, the research analyses the impact of RWC 2011 on tie strength between Tourism Auckland and members of both networks. Second, the research explores whether RWC 2011 could enhance the collaborative capacity within both networks and their member organisations. Third, the research utilises the interdependence between collaboration and knowledge transfer; it identifies the forms of knowledge gained by organisations in a mega-events context and the specific channels used to effectively transfer this knowledge. The research places particular emphasis on the comparison of the intra- and inter-regional levels. The results highlight the ability of mega-events to strengthen existing relationships, but also the need to strategically integrate all relevant stakeholders. RWC 2011 impacted on intra-regional relationships but not on inter-regional relationships. The event enhanced the collaborative capacity of member organisations within the AKL network and, hence, impacted positively on the collaborative capacity of the AKL network. The collaborative capacity of the RTO network and its member organisations was not affected. The research identifies the following as the main conditions for increasing the collaborative capacity of destination networks and their organisations in the mega-events context: clear and common goals, and shared vision; a collaborative approach; regular, clear communication; honesty and openness; trust; effective stakeholder integration; empathy; and leadership. Through RWC 2011, a variety of organisations acquired new knowledge and skills that will enhance their “business as usual”, and also help to attract and organise future events. Knowledge transfer levels were much higher within the AKL network compared with the RTO network. The most commonly used channels of knowledge transfer operated at the firm level, and included imitation/demonstration/observation, inter-firm collaboration and document exchange. A model demonstrating the different channels used for knowledge transfer in the mega-events context is proposed. The thesis concludes that mega-events can strengthen existing relationships, increase collaborative capacity, and enhance knowledge transfer processes among organisations at the destination. The research findings will help practitioners to further leverage mega-events and create competitive advantage. However, careful strategic pre-event planning, the integration of all relevant stakeholders and a unifying collaborative approach are essential.