Students in Melbourne during Phase 2 of the Master TDM

Students in Melbourne during phase two of the Master in Tourism Destination Management

Just imagine arriving on the other side of the planet with a bunch of people you have hardly known before, being asked to present the stakeholder group you have to advise, on how to proceed in the next decade in transforming Melbourne into a global destination”!?

Eighteen TDM-students faced this challenge and having but four weeks to deliver the goods, there is not much time to think about whether or not this task can be accomplished, it is all about how to get the job done and make use of each and every resource available.

Very different from phase one where the class room was the main theatre of operation, out here in the professional field it is a whole different arena, with different people, different perceptions, and different counterparts. Here you first have to face yourself, your group members, your other fellow students, the stakeholders, the environment in which they operate, the local culture and all that influences that. It is a “jungle” out there and if you do not come up with a “survival” plan, you will get lost for sure. If you fail to plan, plan to fail: that is the name of the game. And a serious game it is, as stakeholders, although fully aware of the situation, are expecting a lot.

Four weeks in one destination is not a lot and although the “kick-off days” are set-up to provide the student with a broad insight (very literally) of the destination, it is the group that has to act and there is no place for individualism if the anticipated outcome is to reach a satisfactory level. Here, out in the field different qualities surface in each students and research strategies need to be adapted to suit individual strengths and getting the most out of each research group. How very different from the class room study mate your group member appears to be!
Analysing data and drawing conclusions in international research, demands a reflective approach, re-interpreting over and over again your own analysis and turning that all-important self-critical eye onto your own authority as a researcher, author, and advisor.

A month proves to be rather short, as dealing with so many different individual experiences and group processes, and delivering a well balanced high quality research report and concluding advice, is far from easy. And all the while you are encouraged to take up as much as possible of what is going on around you and constantly ask the question “why”, so as to comprehend the totally different cultural setting from what you have been used to.

A serious “personal challenge” is too simple a word to describe the process that has taken shape. It is much, much more than that, as after these four weeks, which finished on March 4th, there was a new start, a new destination with new challenges and a totally different setting, … Siem Reap, Cambodia! And there is no time for lengthy reflections, March the 5th was the start of the second destination already!

Herman Jan Meijers is Visiting Lecturer for the Master programme in Tourism Destination Management at NHTV, Breda University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands. He is currently in Siem Reap, Cambodia with the students to supervise their work during the second phase of their master course.