During the second phase of the master programme in Tourism Destination Management, the students carry out assignments at three different locations in the Asia Pacific. They are currently in the first of three destinations: the city of Melbourne in Australia. This is an account of the first impressions of group one: Florian, Sabrina, Naomi, Paul, Marika and Rahul.

After a gruesome 20+ hour flight from Amsterdam we eventually shuffled out of the airport terminal. It was Tuesday evening and we stuck our battered and swollen faces in the pleasant evening breeze of Melbourne. The air was filled with an odd blend of relief, anticipation and joy – and possibly also a trace of anxiousness. After we made sure that every one of us had made it passed the snappy customs officers we grouped at the curb and hailed down a cab…our study adventure had begun.

The first week turned out to be very intense and included several presentations and introduction activities for our assignment. Three presentation sessions per day left little room for recuperation but the knowledgeable contacts and the welcoming atmosphere made it a worthwhile experience. Stakeholders included representatives of the city council of Melbourne, faculty of the Victoria University, the CEO of Destination Melbourne Ltd. and managers of a number of attractions. The sessions had an informal character and there was ample opportunity to ask questions and in many cases interesting discussions unfolded at the end of the presentations. Overall, a very good introduction for our assignments and an additional perk was the opportunity to make personal contact with the representatives and to swap business cards. Although most of us suffered to some extent from jet-lag, we managed to get through the programme in a respectable manner.

So, what was our first impression as future tourism professionals? It seems that the City of Melbourne is well on track concerning development and management of the city as a tourist destination. Good practices in destination management including information exchange between and collaboration of stakeholders are practiced with gusto, while the public sector has taken on the leading and proactive role in all management efforts regarding tourism. The management is complemented by a long-term marketing campaign that has transformed Melbourne’s image as a tourist destination tremendously, and presently the city has even overtaken Sydney in regard to visitor numbers. Despite these initial positive impressions, we are determined to unearth the flaws in the system in order to present them to the professional in the field during our presentation at the end of the month.

Noteworthy was also the excellent visitor centre that sports very friendly and helpful staff. Moreover, an abundance of brochures and maps are available for free and that offer activities for almost every type of visitor. A voluntary greeter service is another element of the visitor services of the city. The greeter service is a concept that revolves around Melbournians who, on a voluntary basis, show tourists around their city, including their favourite spots. Such tour was also organised for us and we were impressed by the personal character of the tour that made it possible to discover hidden cafes and open air cinemas on rooftops that offered mind blowing views on the skyline of Melbourne.

Besides the intense working sessions there was also sufficient time to delve into the vibrant city life during the first couple of days – and nights. Melbourne is a very liveable place that boasts a thriving cultural scene and first-class dining. Street artist performances, public and commercial galleries, museums and street art make the city an ideal place for exploration. Graffiti covered walls are used as backdrop for bride fashion photo shoots and narrow laneways feature small cafes and restaurants that sell delicious quiches and pies. In particular cafes sport mind blowing displays with overtly decorated cakes and muffins and cookies in big glass jars on the counter. Yummy!

On a final note, it should be mentioned that whole Victoria is presently in a state of mourning due to the blazing bushfires all over the region. We feel overwhelmed by the unprecedented high death toll and large number of homeless people. Although we have no television set around we are confronted with photos in newspapers and broadcasts on television. Some of us have donated blood after the city launched a state-wide appeal for blood, clothing and financial support for the victims but there is still a feeling of helplessness among us.

Herewith we would like to express our condolences to all who have suffered a loss and have become victim in any other way to the horrific fires.

If you want to know more about the master programme in Tourism Destination Management, visit our website at www.nhtv.nl/tdm