If you follow this blog frequently you might know that from time to time we publish final master thesis from the students that graduated from the Master of Arts Tourism Destination Management at Breda University of Applied Sciences.

This example is produced by Chloé Ourites and deals with the power of dance: the opportunity of an online dance event
to strengthen a destinations’ potential after the Covid-19 pandemic. Below you can find the executive summary of the paper. If you would like to read the whole thesis, please send an email to master-tdm@buas.nl. Enjoy the read! 

This exploratory research aims to identify new opportunities characterized by dance holidays for a destination’s tourism potential and attractivity. It has been investigated through the spectrum of the brand-new Line Dance event called ‘Original Line Experience’ (OLE). ‘Dance holidays’ is an inventive concept that combines dance workshops and parties with tourism in a given destination. This research was set up to be conducted before, during and after the first edition of this real-life event that was going to take place in Calpe (Spain) from the 31st of May till the 7th of June 2021. However, Covid-19 prevented it from happening live. As part of the event staff, the researcher suffered a crisis management situation throughout the whole event and research process. The organizational change from a physical to an online event in 2021, renamed ‘Original (On)Line Experience’, led to a complete change in the research topic.

Initially, the study goal was to research the opportunities representing dance holidays for a Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO). The researcher aimed at demonstrating that dance holidays can strengthen a destination’s development potential and increase its attractivity. For that purpose, the OLE live event in Calpe was supposed to be taken as a case study. As the researcher would have been on the field, it was very convenient to conduct interviews and focus groups with all stakeholders involved, as well as real-life observations.

Nevertheless, only two months before the planned date of the event, the event director had to take the difficult decision to cancel the live event in Calpe. Due to the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sanitary conditions were worsening, and governments had prohibited all physical gatherings from happening to avoid more contagion. The only possibility left to maintain the event was to organize it online. The entire OLE staff was willing to complete this project which had already required a considerable amount of work. However, this shift from physical to online represented an issue for the researcher, who had already set the basis for the research.

Although the researcher was not willing to abandon this subject which was so close to her heart. The challenge was indeed to carry on and stick to the original concept as much as possible. Obviously, changes had to be made along the process because the ‘tourism destination impact’ perspective had been taken away. In addition, the event itself was as exploratory as the research as it was happening for the first time (both live and online). It was indeed not ‘just’ a simple change since nothing was planned out to be online, and there was not any OLE ‘blueprint’ to follow. Everything had to be experimental and decided quickly and efficiently.

Like the event, the research had to be redesigned promptly as the initial research goal did not match an online event. There was no link to the destination’s DMO anymore. Subsequently, the research goal has been shifted to understanding how this unexpected change to an online event during the Covid-19 pandemic could represent an opportunity for the future physical development of OLE 2022. This online event is now considered a test event that could advantage the future growth of the event in the destination of Calpe. In that way, there is a link established from virtual to physical. Although, the target group researched is still the line dance lovers themselves. The main objective was then to find out their primary motivations to travel to this specific place to dance and visit.

Therefore, the context of this exploratory and inclusive research has been set, and research questions were generated, giving a direction to the study. Moreover, four hypotheses were designed to facilitate the conduction of the exploratory research. These hypotheses were conceived in order to find out if the initial assumptions of the researcher about line dance events were accurate concerning the needs and wishes of the researched target group. As the study went in many different directions and showed unexpected outcomes, the researcher verified these hypotheses after data collection and analysis. Hypotheses were not always conclusive and would require follow-up, but it is the first step into a new research opportunity.

Research methods also had to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic situation and the shift to an online event. Secondary data collection has been realized through desk research, showcased in the literature review and supported by netnography. However, this research topic has never been done before, at least not within the context of this study. Therefore, it has been challenging to find relevant sources to comprehend.

Thereafter, the necessary primary data was obtained using three research methods: an online survey, interviews, and field notes. First, a quantitative online survey has been conducted. It gathered 249 respondents from 28 countries from the line dance world and 113 OLE participants. The analysis of the data triangulation has been done through Excel cross tables and brought some interesting insights. Besides, eight qualitative interviews were carried out: five with participants in OLE 2021 online, two with line dance business experts, and one with a couple of social dancers. These were analyzed through thematic analysis and different coding schemes that were applied to a comparative table. In the findings section, these results were illustrated through mind maps and discussed. Finally, field notes from inclusive research were incorporated to validate the previous findings and get an insider’s perspective.

A major outcome of the study is that the line dancers target group involves passionate people, to which dancing is essential to their mental and physical well-being. Covid-19 obviously disrupted their dancing lives, creating severe social, mental and financial damage. However, an incredible wave of solidarity created new opportunities, bringing these online classes and events such as OLE at the forefront, making the most of this dramatic situation. The sense of community of line dancers became powerful. Dancers are willing more than ever to come back to the dance floor and travel to execute their passion, preferably in a beautiful sun and beach destination. This represents an opportunity to switch from virtual to real in the best way possible.

The perfect way to attract this passionate target group seems to be with flexible packages with a competitive price, great choreographers, and pleasant touristic activities to discover the place. Besides, adding a competition to the social event (like it was done at OLE) represents an excellent occasion to bring social dancers and competitors together in great numbers and let them stay at the destination. At last, offering dancers the possibility to bring their family along appears to be the last step in their decision-making to book an actual dance holiday, not just a weekend. To do so, quality tourism activities should be offered. Moreover, other dance businesses are encountering remarkable success for more than ten years with an ever-growing demand. This industry is indeed profitable. This concept of benefiting from the attendance of dance competitors for them to stay at the destination and make it a holiday for a week or two could assumedly be applied to any other dance style or sport.

Finally, conclusions were drawn as an appropriate answer to the research questions and to formulate recommendations for live OLE 2022 and future research. Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, the final outcome is the best that could be accomplished given the circumstances, making the task all the more complicated and challenging. This research process has not been an easy journey, although looking back at the ever-changing challenges taught me a lot. It made me realize and practice my skills in being innovative, adaptable, resilient and satisfied with what I was able to achieve. This research represented a perceptive journey, professionally but also personally, as I got to explore this field I am passionate about. Applying multi-tasking skills, as I was managing the event and the research simultaneously, proved to be exhausting but captivating.

This research assignment became indeed much more than ‘only’ applying methods to get answers to my questions. I also learnt a lot about myself along the way, as my unusual research topic acted as a catalyst for uncovering my far unexplored skills and abilities. Contrary to my initial expectations, I am thankful for the circumstances that made this happen.