TourNord will be allowed to continue its network meetings with funding secured from Nordplus
Success! After securing funding at Nordplus Higher Education, TourNord will be able to conduct two network meetings in 2024. These meetings are critical for the network to continue fostering cooperation between our institutions, whether by guest lectures, staff exchange, or joint projects. The meetings also help coordinate our efforts better, as the network has grown significantly in the past years – we are now 11 institutions represented in 9 Nordic and Baltic countries!
Who will host?
Dania Academy will host in spring 2024 in Randers, Denmark. One of the central themes will be regenerative and responsible tourism.
The second network meeting will take in the fall of 2024 in Kalmar, Sweden, with Linnaeus University as hosts. Here we will discuss themes such as nature-based tourism.
We look forward to see all of our partners at the network meetings!
At the backdrop of TourNord’s 1st network meeting in Esbjerg in late 2021, we were presented with a fascinating insight by Alice Bank Danielsen from Danish Coastal and Nature Tourism – namely the significant schism there exists between educational institutions’ understanding of digital competences in the tourism sector, versus the actual reality. It seems, at least in Denmark, that educational institutions have a perception that the necessary skills exist with practitioners to navigate the increasingly complex world of digital tools needed to cater to digital savvy guests, whereas the reality is quite the opposite. Following a report from Kvistgaard & Hird (2019), there is a significant gap in the absorption ability of adapting to tech changes in the tourism field between public organizations, research institutions and private supplier of digital solutions compared to that of tourism companies (figure 1). This is particularly the case for SME companies (small and medium-sized enterprises).
The same report also highlights that these tourism companies wish to work on becoming digitally adept, yet only find the time to experiment and ‘test the waters’ in the off-season (namely the winter months), signifying that the output generated is not seen as a strategy or competence, but rather about here-and-now solutions and process coincidences, thus resulting in a fragmented and unsystematic smattering of actions.
With the industry increasingly depending on digital technologies for providing services and products for digital citizens, this is a worrying predicament for tourism – particularly Nordic Tourism as we are already considered as expensive destinations. Does rising requirements in digital competences mean a further price hike, or equally problematic – a drop in quality and variety of service and products offered? In this post, I don’t attempt to offer a panacea to such a wildly complex solution, and where a plethora of stakeholders exist. Instead, I see this post as a platform for discussion – particularly for educational institutions, how we define this issue, and what our role should be in addressing this gap.
Are we speaking the same language? Defining digitalization and the skills that come with it
Digitalization, much like innovation and sustainability, have become mainstream words in almost all business and educational circles – while mainstream, these are complex subject matters, which therefore make it much harder to pinpoint what we mean when we say digitalization – especially in a tourism context.
An EU initiative, SmartTourismCapital, has defined digitalization as offering “innovative tourism and hospitality information, products, services, spaces and experiences adapted to the needs of the consumers through ICT-based solutions and digital tools” (European Union, 2019, p.7). In short, offering a superior tourism experience through ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and digital tools, tailored to the needs of our guests. While simple in spirit, approaching this in practice (and knowing when you are succeeding) is much murkier. A potential cause for this is trying to define what we mean by digital skills, tools, and experiences:
Are there certain experiences which are more digital-prone, or are digitally ‘critical’ for securing positive guest experiences?
What constitutes a digitally-skilled employee in tourism? Is it knowing how to engage guests on social media, building an integrated website, or working strategically with data? Does it depend on where in the tourism value chain the employee works?
Is digitalization about making employees life easier, so that they can focus on the critical aspect of personal service? Or is it about making the guest’s life easier? Maybe both?
Alice Bank Danielsen’s presentation further highlighted that many of the tourism companies identified digital activities as marketing initiatives, and it was in these areas that particularly SME’s struggled to make time work with these initiatives systematically and strategically. While incredibly important, this only sheds light on part of the digital skills divide. Research by Carlisle et al. (2021) has identified the need for a host of digital skills across tourism sectors in Europe, as seen below.
Tour operators/travel agents
Skills related to digital marketing and social media, including the role of influencers. Analytical skills and making sense of big data was seen as important, yet more as a requirement for managerial and leadership level (as opposed to operations).
Destination Management Organizations (DMO’s)
Rather than providing information, DMOs see a need in the future to provide inspiration and experiences for visitors. They need to act as consultants to tourism companies in their destination, and to aid them to attract (new) target groups. This means supporting digital developments particularly within community management and marketing. Moreover, this requires digital analytical skills to provide data-driven analytics and marketing, and to conduct studies of tourism and trend analysis. To summarize, the digital skills needed here can be encapsulated as business intelligence, both on an operational and strategic level.
A blend of both marketing and operational digital skills was identified as critical. OTA’s and online booking portals will continue to dominate the market, and an online presence is a must to secure financial growth. While accommodation providers acknowledged the value of younger employees’ knowledge of social media, they found business communication skills to be lacking – in other words, writing skills to produce valuable content.
Rapid advancements in operational software, ranging from PMS (Property Management Systems) to CRM and hotel systems (e.g., Opera) are also seen as necessary. A leap forward in app-based programs, for example for housekeepers, is also seen as required digital skills. Hands-on skills on how to work technical equipment for accommodation providers who also host events (projectors, video equipment, sound systems, etc.) was seen as necessary.
It is quite clear for accommodation providers that there is wide range of digital skills needed, from both a hard- and software position. For SMEs, particularly family-driven entrepreneurial providers, this is quite a wide-range palette of skills necessary, and is justifiably, a digital jungle to overcome!
Was seen as lagging behind with other tourism companies, particularly with the use of big data, online marketing, and social media management. The most critical reflection was that at the moment, technical staff such as housekeepers or gardeners do not need digital skills, yet it that it was only a matter of time before every employee needs to have digital skills (or at least, a working knowledge of digital tools), as they will be tantamount to not only operational excellence, but to improve the visitor experience as well.
Employees foresee a significant shift in the food and beverage sector, as the restaurant industry has already begun a much-needed digital transformation to keep up with the modern guest. Changing eating habits, a drive for better gastronomic experiences, and an increased focus on local produce and quality, has created significant ripples down the restaurant supply chain, resulting in restaurants having to adjust their core offerings to match the digital guest.
What can we as educational institutions do?
Based on Alice Bank Danielsen’s comments and the Kvistgaard & Hird report, it is quite clear that the first necessary course of action is to instigate a dialogue with practitioners. We are, at the moment, sitting in our ivory tower, slightly out of touch with the lay of the land. This dialogue needs to be systematic and strategic (much like working with digitalization!), as technologies and demands are continuously evolving. This would also allow us to tailor courses not only to our students, but also to courses for continuing education (i.e., practitioners in the field, looking to upgrade their skillset). I believe that, tailoring, will be the critical factor for success in navigating the digital jungle for both current and prospect employees in the tourism sector. As Carlisle et al.’s research highlighted, different skills are needed for different sectors, and we simply cannot lump all these skills into broad categories of operational digital skills and marketing digital skill for all sectors. Create courses specifically for accommodation providers, DMO workers, visitor attractions, etc. to make sure you can pinpoint the right skills. For both students and continuing education participants, show them how to structure this strategically and systematically within their type of organization, so that it doesn’t result in process coincidences – an unsystematic smattering of actions.
Increased dialogue (strategic and systematic) between educational institutions and pracitioners.
Fine-tune digital skills classes/courses based on specific sectors (maybe even jobs?) within the tourism industry.
Continuously tailor courses to match digital demands of guests.
Teach students and practitioners how to create and systematically use a digital strategy.
Carlisle, S., Ivanov, S., & Dijkmans, C. (2021). The digital skills divide: evidence from the European tourism industry. Journal of Tourism Futures. https://doi.org/10.1108/JTF-07-2020-0114
European Union. (2019). European Capital of Tourism – Guide for Applicants.
Kvistgaard, P., & Hird, J. (2019). Vi arbejder mest med digitalisering om vinteren: En kvalitativ analyse af nordjyske turismevirksomheders digitale modenhed som kilde til øget vækst i nordjysk turisme. Retrieved from https://www.e-pages.dk/aalborguniversitet/756/html5/
Serving as a forum for exchanging best practices and experiences for education and knowledge development within Nordic Tourism, the central themes of the network meeting were:
Preparing students and educators in tourism with digital skills & competences
Developing Sustainable Tourism Destinations
Day 1: A day of digital skills & competences
After a warm welcome, TourNord got straight down to business with a presentation from Alice Bank Danielsen from Danish Coastal and Nature Tourism, who gave us a fascinating insight on the schism that exists between educational institutions’ understanding of digital competences in the tourism sector versus the actual reality. She also rounded off by presenting the digital toolbox they have created, to serve as an inspiration and guidance tool for tourism actors in Denmark. This was followed afterwards by a great debate on how we (as educational institutions) can better gear our staff and students to be more prepared for the digital world that is tantamount to succes in modern tourism.
After a quick break, we then went into a brainstorming session on how we could generate a concrete course which would help contribute to the digital competences skill gap in the Nordic tourism sector. Splitting into two groups, we came up with two very different (but equally inspiring) ideas!
One group laid a framework for a completely digital course (geared at both higher education students and the life-long learning adult education sector), which could be completed through a series of achievements and tasks (microcredentials). The course would stand on ‘three digital legs’, focusing on strategy, marketing and operations. The course would be case-based, in order to be context specific for the local partner institutions’ needs and demands.
The second group loved the idea of a digital course, but also saw the need and desire after long COVID-19 lockdowns for students to travel and meet – creating a short and intensive physical course where partner institutions’ students where required to travel to 2-3 partner schools. Students would receive both lecturing and be able to work on local cases with regards to using digital tools to optimize business performances of local tourism actors. Each partner institution has different skills (close ties to practitioners, workshop and creative thinking facilitation, digital skill application, etc.) and would be fine-tuned accordingly.
We plan to further work on these two ideas at our next network meeting!
Day 2: Excursion and Sustainable Tourism Development
Esbjerg is known for being windy (and the odd spot of rain as well!), yet we could not have asked for better weather in late November for our excursion to the Wadden Sea National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The morning started off with a visit to the Wadden Sea Center, where we were introduced to the the park, the relationship between nature and tourism, and how the Wadden Sea was unique in its biodiversity.
We then went on an oyster safari in the Wadden Sea, traversing ca. 2.5km into the ocean during low-tide (our guide informed us that the difference in water level between low and high tide was 1m70!).
Once we reached an oyster reef, our guide showed us how to chuck and eat oysters, all the while informing us about the types of tourists these tours normally get, interesting information about the wildlife (including snails that surf the waves, and white-tailed eagles) and the importance of knowing how to navigate the landscape.
Safely back at the Wadden Sea Center, the TourNord group then held a brainstorming session on future development projects – inspired by the Wadden Sea excursion, sustainable tourism development was the focal point. After a great discussion (where many ideas where generated), we decided that coastal tourism in the Nordics is indeed incredibly unique in the world of tourism (and how to develop it sustainably). We will therefore continue working on developing a project revolving around Nordic Coastal Tourism at our next network meeting in Finland!
Our day ended by passing by Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town, and a well-known tourist destination.
Day 3: Sustainable Tourism Development: Academic discussions and practical realities
The final day of the network meeting had a very special guest – Professor of Tourism Janne Liburd from the University of Southern Denmark, and Chairman of the Board for the Wadden Sea National Park. Janne invited us to a scintillating group discussion on understanding collaborative and sustainable tourism development. We were inspired by Janne Liburd’s transformative approach to sustainable tourism development, and we collectively tried to see how we could introduce this paradigm shift of moving tourism as growth-based industry selling a ‘product’, to instead how tourism can be a generator of wellbeing (moving across domains of cultural, economic, and ecological wellbeing). Specifically, how tourism can move from an industry that depletes an area of its resources, to instead to become a holistic part of its habitat – something the UN development goals would definitely adhere to!
Timo Halttunen (University of Turku), Anders Karkov (Business Academy SouthWest), Christian Dragin-Jensen (Business Academy SouthWest) and Céline Kylänpää (University of Turku) presented their research last week at the NordYrk 2021 online conference at Linköping University, Sweden. With 193 registered participants, the conference brought many (Nordic) researchers and participants interested in the conference’s theme: “Transitions to, between, and within school and working life in vocational education and training”.
The Tournord members’ research, titled “Collaborative Problem Solving in Real-World Situations”, involved 4 case studies of culinary (VET) and tourism management (higher education) students in Finland and Denmark. Travelling to hotels in the cities of Sønderborg (DK) and Pori (FI), students were tasked on tackling a very (globally) relevant issue of food waste in the hospitality sector.
Lead author Timo Halttunen presented the case studies and findings, bringing to attention the impact of different conditions present at the workspace to collaborative problem solving. As Timo Halttunen states:
“In classrooms, problems have a clear starting point and a goal. At the workplace, problems are often ill-defined, meaning that the starting point and end result are not that clear. At the workplace students may or may not receive support for their problem solving, and they are left to their own devices. In our study, we found that access to expert skill and knowledge is crucial for success in collaborative problem solving. However, the students underused the learning affordances present at the workspace. Furthermore, it was important that students had an opportunity to access the authentic venue to explore the problem space. In this case, the restaurant for breakfast buffet at the hotel was a richer environment for student collaborative problem solving than a conference room or a pub at the same hotel. To conclude, it was important that teachers were present to intervene when needed, and to provide students with support in perspective taking and generating solutions. When students got back on track again, teachers stepped aside and let the students to develop their sense of agency and take charge of their own learning process”.
The research contributes to the growing body of academic literature highlighting the need for teachers, educators and professionals to bridge the gap between classroom and workplace. Moreover, Collaborative problem solving provides a fascinating insight into solving ill-defined problems, a critical 21st century skill.
We are pleased to announce that an international team from TourNord, working under the direction of Dr. Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, Assistant Professor at the Koszalin University of Technology and Associate Professor at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, will be investigating how to build resilient events and festivals during uncertain times! A very relevant topic considering the severe effects the global pandemic COVID-19 has wrought.
COVID-19 has led to a lockdown of local, regional and even national economies for months at end. Society has faced new (and severe) social and economic challenges, huge losses in experience economies such as the event, tourism and hospitality industries. The International Labour Organization (ILO) predicts that unemployment will rise by 24.7 million people due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ILO further estimates that by the end of 2020, the economic loss due to COVID-19 will tap up to 3.4 trillion dollars.
This situation constitutes to be a great societal challenge which calls for urgent intervention, to save what is left and (re)build a resilient Event & Festival (E&F) sector through action research. The rational for this project, running from February – August 2021, lies in the need for up-to-date knowledge and knowledge-based tailored solutions to build resilient E&F ecosystems in our “new reality”.
Project lead, Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, is looking forward to the international cooperation and the results the project will bring:
The possibility of implementing this grant is the result of the beneficial international cooperation implemented so far by our department. We will be able to conduct important research on issues that affect us all.
Financial support for the project was obtained from the “Intervention Grants” Program of the National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA) in Poland. The purpose of the program implemented is to support international cooperation of research teams in response to sudden, important, unforeseen social, civilization and natural phenomena with global or regionally significant consequences.
We look forward to hear what findings the project will bring, and how we can help bring forward these findings to practitioners, students and researchers alike!
Here at TourNord, we are very much looking forward to learn about CHEE’s most recent projects, which focus on volunteerism in tourism, and how to strategically work with big data, turning information into tangible actions!
We are certain this collaboration will help facilitate better knowledge for our partner institutions, our students within the experience economy, and will lead to future projects together!
Last week, the University of Turku (UTU) and Business Academy SouthWest (BASW) conducted several Work-Based Learning sessions in Pori, Finland and Sønderborg, Denmark. The topic of the Work-based learning (WBL) sessions was Food waste in the food service sector. The goal of these sesssions were to study teacher and learner strategies in Creative Problem Solving, as a means to obtain meaningful learning. Specifically, the project aims at exploring how teachers and learners determine the right problem to solve, and how to solve it. Inspired by a design thinking process, the focus is on emphasizing with customer needs, defining a problem and ideating to solve the problem. The notion of meaningful learning is studied from the perspective of how teachers and learners co-create a learning process that aims at supporting better understanding of the needs of the customer and strategies for solving their problems.
The project project draws upon existing state-of-the-art research in education, such as Hesse et al.’s framework for teachable collaborative problem solving skills ( 2015), Tynjälä et al.’s model of integrative pedagogy (2016) and work-based learning (e.g. Kis, 2016; Lemanski & Overton, 2016; Siebert, Mills, & Tuff, 2009).
The project aims to answer the following research questions:
How do teachers script engaging learning processes that support development of learner autonomy and agency?
What constitutes an industry-relevant learning process?
Can student work readiness be improved by supporting learner autonomy and agency?
A more in-depth description of the project can be found here.
What did the sessions look like?
Working together with staff from the Sokos Hotel Vakuuna Pori and students and teachers from the Satakunta University of Applied Sciences in Finland, UTU observed teacher and learner strategies. Firstly, the hotel manager Riina Ojanen presented the problem of food waste at the hotel. Students then, in groups, worked on redefining the problem and were then allowed to ask the hotel manager additional questions in order to reformulate and fine-tune the problem. They then worked in groups to provide solutions. Each group came onstage to present their findings. The other groups listened carefully, and asked more questions when necessary. The hotel manager gave feedback on the solutions provided. Finally, students evaluated their learning experience using an online tool, mentimeter. Teachers evaluated the groups learning process and their own teaching experience.
In Denmark, BASW worked together with Hotel Sønderborg Strand, where a similar structure was held. First, the students received a tour of the hotel (with masks due to CoVID-19 restrictions in Denmark!). The topic of food waste was then presented by Executive Chef Allan Larsen, Hotel Manager Dorit Møller and marketing coordinator Trine Nielsen. The groups (and teacher), just as in Finland, followed the same process to reach solutions, as well as their evaluation of the session.
Picture (left): A student presenting his group’s solution to Food Waste to other students.
We are happy to announce that Dania Academy have joined as a partner at TourNord. Dania Academy, with 8 campuses across Denmark, has a proud history of educating students within service, hospitality and tourism management.
Henrik Pahus, Senior Project Manager R&D, expressed his excitement about joining the network:
“At Dania, we are strongly committed to working internationally within all fields connected to Research and Development. In that capacity, TourNord is the perfect network for us to participate in in regards to hospitality research. We expect, that the TourNord network will help us expand future cooperation between the parties involved, while at the same time help us to foster closer bonds with researchers within the field of hospitality in the partner countries.
Our primary motivation for participating is to gain new partners within R&D in the Nordic countries, and we look forward to the many new projects that TourNord will hopefully yield”
Welcome aboard Dania Academy!
Are you an institution in the Nordic (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Faroe Islands, Iceland) or Baltic (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) countries working within education and tourism and want to join the TourNord network? Use our contact form to get in touch with us!