The purpose of this paper is to share the authors’ initial insights into tourism industry capacity building via flexibly delivered online skilling and knowledge sharing. Investigation designed as an online research survey approach was employed, involving a sample of 64 micro tourism operators. The paper finds that the major benefits perceived by operators across the pilot region, were the time saving aspects demonstrated in the smart form concept. Operators were also drawn in by the best practice examples and direct links to the online resources to bring and keep them up to date with industry information and developments. The data presented in this paper represent initial findings of the pilot project. The project has since been completed. The model used for the pilot in this paper has been adopted by the Tourism Accreditation Board of Victoria and is now being considered for national rollout across Australia. The model is a practical and replicable capacity building model for micro tourism operators anywhere. The paper adopts a collaborative learning network approach to micro business capacity building and training.
This paper has provided some insights into tourism industry capacity building via flexibly delivered online skilling and knowledge sharing. It has highlighted two online learning programs for small tourism firms in Europe and Australia respectively. While both programs offered tourism information and skills development, the Australian pilot enabled operators to complete tourism industry accreditation. Aiming to raise industry standards and move away from ineffective silo approaches to industry training and capacity building, the Australian pilot reflects the importance of and contributes to the development of an effective national voluntary accreditation system. The bbbonline pilot built on pre-existing business and ICT infrastructure and tourism industry objectives, e.g. centralizing training resources, integrating a range of services, and making a significant contribution to establishing industry-wide benchmarking. In responding to the findings of other researchers in the field, the Australian pilot project addressed a gap in current training initiatives in Australia by performing a coordinating role between the diversity of tourism managers and operators. It maximized the advantages and minimizes the disadvantages of online learning through flexibly delivered, multi-modal and learning region approaches. The model used for the pilot has been adopted by the Tourism Accreditation Board of Victoria and is now being considered for national rollout across Australia. Considered a practical and replicable learning model for micro and SME businesses anywhere, this model is applicable to tourism regions outside Victoria and Australia, as well as other service sector industries. Online learning has the capacity to facilitate operator knowledge of best practice, business sustainability and thus contribute to triple bottom line outcomes for individual business and thereby their destinations.