We don’t only face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it also creates unexpected opportunities. Merle-Marie Muller tells of the events that took place when looking for an internship in these times. She also shares how the organization she now works for took the circumstances as an opportunity: they created a “Good Travel Virus-Aware Seal”. Her supervisor, Karolina Doughty, shares her vision on the internship and the relevance of what Merle is working on. Caitlin Heide, her mentor within the organization, shares more about the project itself.
Perspective 1: Merle-Marie Muller, 2nd year student MTO
Adjusting to corona reality
In the beginning of the year, I could not imagine what an impact the Corona pandemic would have. I was looking forward to finishing my thesis, starting my internship, and finally graduating this summer. Then the pandemic hit and brought everyone’s life and especially the whole travel industry to a standstill. As my originally planned internship was postponed until further notice, I was starting to get anxious about having to extend my studies, my financial situation as well as job prospects. However, some organisations were very flexible in regard to offering students to work from home as well as developing new business opportunities, allowing me to find another internship during the crisis.
The corona pandemic hit the global tourism industry very hard, especially putting economies dependent on tourism at great risk. However, it also brought new opportunities such as the project I am working on during my internship at RVO Nederland.
Launched as a pilot project in the Dutch Caribbean, we believe that the Virus-Aware Seal will support the tourism sector in their efforts to attract tourists back to the islands. In a small team, I am jointly responsible for the creation and implementation of this pilot project. We researched international developments and relevant articles and initiatives (WHO, country initiatives) on Covid-19 measures for businesses in the tourism sector worldwide and listed effective virus protection measures. Furthermore, we prepared and conducted a survey to collect knowledge on already implemented and feasible (financial/technical) virus protection measures in the tourism sector in the Dutch Caribbean. All this information was used to create the criteria of the "Virus-Aware Seal” which we are finalising at the moment. Afterwards, tourism businesses will report and be audited on the criteria in order to receive the Virus-Aware Seal.
Working from home
After half a year of predominantly writing my thesis from home I was looking forward to working and interaction with colleagues. Therefore, working from home “alone” without colleagues being present is very challenging for me. However, it also offers new experiences and opportunities. It is difficult not to get distracted and stay motivated and concentrated. Therefore, I enjoy working in different places such as in a café or together with a friend who is also working in home office. I can manage my own time and use my breaks for a little sport or cooking session. Moreover, I am improving my communication skills as I only interact with colleagues via Skype or email.
Perspective 2: Dr. Karolina Doughty, Assistant Professor Cultural Geography
There is no question that now, a few months into the COVID-19 crisis, the world that we took for granted only a few months ago looks quite different, and it is leading us to ask new questions about the role of tourism and travel in our contemporary world and in visions of the future. In our roles as lecturers and researchers contributing to the MTO programme we have followed the evolving discourses around tourism recovery around the world with great interest, and we have noted that sustainability has emerged as an important path towards a ‘new normal’ for the industry. That several of our students, such as Merle, are currently undertaking internships where they are helping organisations explore the potential of sustainable recovery strategies, shows that their knowledge and training is greatly appreciated and relevant to the industry in meeting this novel challenge.