After challenging five months in Breda, full of theory, workshops, guest lectures and desk research, it is safe to say that we were all keen to finish off phase 1 and finally go on to phase 2: the field research in Asia Pacific! After all, this is most likely the reason why we all chose the TDM masters program at NHTV. To not only sit in uni and be taught what other people from the tourism industry have researched before, but actually get into the game ourselves. Collect first hand data, experience destinations and do proper primary research. For our three-month field trip, we are going to three fascinating and highly different destinations: The city destination Melbourne, Australia, the emerging destination South Coast, Sri Lanka, and the established destination South Bali, Indonesia.
The Fieldwork Research aims to put knowledge and skills, acquired in Phase 1, into practice by carrying out a research assignment in each destination. The Asia Pacific region has been selected by the TDM team for various reasons: For the familiarity and the many contacts with businesses, governmental institutions and academies in the area which have been established over the years since the program has been running; for the different phases of developments of both markets and economies; for the Asia Pacific region offers a great diversity and variation in culture and demonstrates the ever changing and influencing combinations of western and eastern culture; and last, but not least, for the importance of the economic developments in this region for the world at large. The Asian Pacific market growth has been tremendous and investors and businesses around the world have seriously begun to look east. Being in the destinations to conduct research will not only give us valuable insights into the happening at the other end of the world, but will also prepare us for the future, wherever we will end up working.
For those reasons, the fieldtrip is a core element of the TDM master program. We get to interact with stakeholders and the assignments will require us to interact with the locals and our surroundings. In a way, this will give us the opportunity to connect theory and practice. Secondly, the fieldtrip and the research assignments will undoubtedly challenge us in many ways, speaking of the heat, the deadlines, the transportation, the group work, the challenge to find people who are willing to provide us with first-hand information, to name a few. So I am hoping that the trip will not only help to improve my own research skills but also my skills to solve problems and manage difficult situations.
For the research assignments, we were split into groups of three or four students. I am in a group together with Claire, a Dutch girl with a Hotel and Hospitality background, and Pema, a Nepali who has been living and studying tourism in the Netherlands for the past years already. Given our different backgrounds, each member can bring something unique to the group which will eventually give us all different perspectives.
The assignment of each destination is meant to follow a similar process of three main steps:
Step 1: Exploration and determination of tourism destinations and the research assignment
Step 2: Implementation of Field Research: methodology & approach, execution of research and presenting results, conclusions and recommendations
Step 3: Evaluation and feedback
3 kinds of stakeholders
In each destination, we will work with a different kind of stakeholders. In Melbourne, my group will focus on micro & small size enterprises, directly or indirectly related to tourism. This category consists of all small players that provide services or products to tourists at the destination. Other groups are focusing either on medium & large enterprises or on public organisations. In the next destination, Sri Lanka, we will rotate the stakeholders, so we will all get the full picture in the end.
In general, the assignment itself is to assess the current strategic position and reveal the future development potential in order to advice about effective interventions to achieve the preferred future and to strengthen the strategic position. This is all focused on the match between the destination area related features and the markets.
More specifically, the assignment builds up from destination to destination. This means that in Melbourne, we are supposed to collect and assess the most probable future, in Sri Lanka to analyse and evaluate the most possible future, and in Bali to advice and consult the most preferable future.
For each assignment, we are asked to compose a 20 page report and give a presentation in the end including a session of Q&A in order to show that we have understood the research and to present our results.