Naomi Höfkes earned a master in Tourism, Society and Environment at Wageningen University & Reserach in June after graduating from Hogeschool Saxion in Tourism Management. She now works as policy advisor tourism and recreation at the municipality of Berkelland.
Searching for my place - Finding the right master
Naomi: It’s been quite a search, ending up where I am now. I knew I wanted to do something within the leisure sector, but I wasn’t quite sure yet what. While joining the “Tourism Management” study programme I realised it was definitely an environment I saw myself work in. Still, I found the programme very centred around the economic aspects, marketing and on how to write catchy stories. Each aspect is relevant in this sector, but I still felt something was missing. With the third year course “Responsible Tourism” I thought: “that’s more the direction I want to move in”. In my opinion, a critical view wasn’t apparent enough. Through one of my Saxion teachers/WUR Master Tourism alumna, I learned of WUR’s master programme and applied for an Open Day. Here I felt that the critical way of thinking was more apparent, resulting in me starting the programme in 2017, a choice I’m still happy with!
Searching throughout the master
Naomi: Through my internships, my studies allowed me to learn what I didn’t see myself doing and forced me to reflect on what I did want for my future. By simply acquiring more experience it gradually became clear to me which direction I wanted to head. For example, through these internships, I discovered my interest in the policy side. I then applied this knowledge to my study choices, choosing courses on policy and doing an internship at a local governmental body. That confirmed for me I was going in the right direction. I guess this process of trial and error has proven one of the most important lessons; simply try stuff out. Don’t like something? Cross that off your list of options, eventually leaving you with what does fit. The positive experience of my internship at the municipality of Winterswijk led me to my current job as policy advisor at the municipality of Berkelland. By putting your best foot forward and veering toward what you enjoy doing, opportunities are bound to arise. Then it’s up to you whether grab them or not.
My current job; the right place?
Policy advisor tourism and recreation
Naomi: I’ve been working as a policy advisor tourism and recreation for the municipality of Berkelland this past year. You could definitely say it is the right place for me at the moment, as I enjoy working here very much. I’m currently focussed on the recalibration of the existing policy for tourism and recreation. That document from 2008 is dated and in need of revision to comply with today’s circumstances and a vision for the future. I also advise board members on how to handle tourism and recreational matters. In collaboration with other municipalities of the ‘Achterhoek’ and the province I contributed to the newly set recreation calendar. This represents the regional vision, including the implementation program on tourism and recreation in the ‘Achterhoek’.
Why the right place?
Naomi: I interact a lot with colleagues of various disciplines, like Cultural Heritage, Culture, Sports, Landscape, to name a few. This makes work fun and dynamic, allowing me to transcend my own professional island, so to speak. Also, some days the work is strategic in nature, other days more practical, like when it comes to rounding up people for a brainstorm session. It really comes down to continuously overseeing the interplay between strategic and operational work, which makes for a varied and fun mix. I also enjoy the possibility to contribute regionally and place a critical note concerning the complex issues regarding recreation and tourism.
How to get there
Naomi: The critical way of looking at the leisure sector I had missed during my bachelor was prominently present during my master. I know now that this critical look, combined with strategic thinking is much appreciated in the field. Fresh input and new knowledge of starters is definitely relevant, more so since some colleagues are inclined to think more traditionally. Additionally, in working with various stakeholders, Wageningen’s interdisciplinary approach comes in handy. The master at Wageningen covers the numerous issues the leisure sector is dealing with, such as tourism, the impact on citizens and the impact on the surroundings. On a daily basis, I take these issues into consideration. Also, the research skills I learned at the WUR are important in my job. I regularly receive reports about research, and I always check if they were properly executed and how the conclusion came about. Subsequently, it is up to me to see if and how the results can be applied to my work. I wouldn’t have seen myself hold this position with merely my bachelor.