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Facilitating Small Firm Learning Networks in the Irish Tourism Sector

This paper examines the operationalization of a small fi rm learning network model within the Fáilte Ireland (Irish tourism development agency) Tourism Learning Network (TLN) program. Emerging from multiple calls for small fi rm training interventions to be based on helping entrepreneurs to learn, this model is based on an action learning ethos, involving small tourism operators and relevant support agencies and incorporating local learning sets, a web community, and a series of learning interventions. The applied action research method offers insights into the workings of the TLN, and findings suggest that this approach facilitates the development of organizational capabilities and has resulted in active and substantial TLN involvement among participating tourism enterprises.

The research study objectives are to:

  • develop insight into effective TLN development and management;
  • explore how tourism fi rms can develop management capability through participation in a managed TLN;
  • explore how collaborative activity can be strengthened through participation in a managed TLN.

This paper offers a new approach to facilitating capability development in small tourism fi rms through managed learning networks. Also, the paper identifies key criteria relating to the TLN’ s ‘success ’ , that is, the enhancement of management capability and new collaborative activity resulting from TLN participation. Results indicate that the SFLN model should be adapted to reflect research findings. Findings point to the potential value of a mentoring service to complement the existing group facilitation process.


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