In a world that seems to have ground to a halt due to the corona pandemic you might wonder whether studying tourism is still relevant. As it turns out, with the new reality being one of travel restrictions and social distancing, the industry is in immediate need of answers. The present day case described below sheds light on this very issue from three perspectives.
Perspective 1: Jochem Lips, 2nd yr student MTO
Adjusting to corona reality
The world seemed to grind to a halt when the coronavirus pandemic became reality and the tourism industry was hit hard. Together with many of my classmates I was anxious about what this would mean for my studies. How would we be able to find an internship? Fortunately, my initial fears were unfounded. Many organisations turned out to be very flexible, allowing students to work from home. Moreover, there was an immediate need for more insight into how these unusual circumstances would affect the industry.
In this context, I started my internship simultaneously with a classmate at the Nationale Parken Bureau (NPB), the agency in charge of guiding Dutch National Parks to meet a new National Park quality standard as set by the Dutch government. An important part of this new standard is to create a meaningful, sustainable visitor experience. However, some National Parks struggle with this objective due to the sheer number of visitors crowding around specific hotspots, affecting the experience negatively. At the same time there are plans to actively promote some Dutch national parks internationally.
To anticipate the concurring unpredictability and fluctuations in future visitor numbers, I am investigating what factors drive such visitor flows and what potential instruments are available for National Parks to deal with an increase or decrease of visitors.
Working from home
I have been working on this research for a little over two months now, and the experience has already taught me a lot. Working from home without being part of a larger team is challenging yet also rewarding. Of course, it requires discipline and I do miss seeing colleagues. On the other hand, I feel as if I am my own boss in many ways, deciding my own working hours and how I use my time. Because I do not have to commute, I can work for a few hours in the morning, and then go for a run as a break. When I start losing concentration, I can take a longer break and get back to work again when I am ready.
Apart from that, my supervisors John and Machiel are incredibly supportive, guiding me through the research process and providing me with all kinds of resources needed. These range from useful research papers that I had not yet considered, to new contacts that I can interview for my research, to even providing me with a company car so that I can do fieldwork in the Biesbosch National Park. It goes without saying that this, together with my personal interest in the research topic, helps me to stay motivated and make my internship a worthwhile experience.