Dr. Jeroen Klijs is a researcher at the NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences and – since this year – one of the lecturers within the Master Tourism Destination Management. In his doctoral research he has explored ways to improve the calculation of regional economic impacts of tourism. Here, he wants to give you some insights into the ‘making of’, both in terms of process and content. Enjoy the read!
The past few years I have been very busy working on my doctoral research. The possibility to do this research actually came upon my path quite unexpectedly, as my background is not in tourism and I have not studied at the NHTV. In 1999 I was working for the Erasmus University Rotterdam – and involved in courses and research about urban management and development. Because I did have the ambition to do a doctoral research I ran across a job opening at the NHTV; together with the Wageningen University they were offering a position as a PhD candidate. Fortunately, they allowed me to take part in the procedure, even though I was officially a number of hours too late to register. After two round of interviews I was hired for the job and so began my journey in the ‘wonderful world’ of tourism economics. Gradually, I learned what it meant to do a doctoral research. Doing this research namely involved a lot of activities, all of which involved a learning curve:
- Writing my research proposal (which, looking back, is remarkably close to the work I have actually done. This is certainly not the case for all doctoral researches!).
- Getting lost in the literature and finding my way out again.
- Writing articles and having to cope with the fact that a text is never perfect. Supervisors, reviewers, colleagues and especially me will always find things that can be improved – and this is also as it should be!
- Dealing with the lengthy review procedures of scientific Journals and tasting the sweet reward of getting papers published!
- Giving presentations about my research to very diverse audiences – ranging from hard core scientists, to consultants, to politicians and policy makers, to tourism entrepreneurs, and to students. Each group has its own dynamic and can be equally challenging and inspiring.
- Exchanging ideas, frustrations, laughs, food, and drinks with many fine colleagues at the NHTV and Wageningen University. Even though a doctoral research must involve working in solitude for some lengths of time – this exchange is an absolutely essential part of this process!
- Preparing the PhD thesis. In my case this thesis consists of 5 articles, that I wrote and were published in Journals, combined with an overall introduction and conclusion. You might expect that this means that putting the thesis together is easy. After all, the articles are already there. Well the process can be easy, but not if you are perfectionist like me and want to aim for a totally consistent, error-free, and nice-looking PhD thesis. Although I only came close to achieving the first two things I think that I was successful in the last ambition – with the help of some skilled people at the publisher.
Now, what was my research about? It was about economic impacts models (so lots of formulas, tables, numbers, and scenarios) and things that can be done to improve the measurement of the regional economic impacts of tourism. The improvement was pursued by comparing existing economic calculation models and by further developing the Input-Output (IO) model. This IO model, which is often regarded as the best choice for regional-economic impact measurements, starts with tourism expenditure in a region. This money enters the economy in different places, for instance in a restaurant, hotel or on the train. However, the money does not stay there – it is redirected to various sectors. For instance, a restaurant buys products in agriculture, wholesale trade, or from manufacturers. The IO model displays all these relationships; where does the money enter and where does it go to. In other words, the model does not only identify impacts in the tourism sector, but also in all other sectors of the economy.
The advantages of the IO model are that the data requirements are relatively modest and the outcomes are comparable and of a highly detailed level. Moreover, the model is (relatively) simple. However, the model also has a number of disadvantages, such as the strong assumptions on which it is based. One of these assumptions is that if a hotel receives twice as many guests, it will spend twice as much on staff, procurement and all other matters. In reality, however, this is not the case. An increase in sales often allows for a more efficient use of personnel. A certain degree of productivity gain is contained in that.
My PhD thesis addresses, among other things, the development of a non-linear IO model. This new model offers a considerably higher degree of realism. The above-mentioned productivity gain is included and the model also takes into account scarcity, price changes, and the consequences of this all for the procurement decisions of businesses. That is why, potentially, this new model is more representative of reality. What’s more, it offers more flexibility. The ‘traditional’ IO model only had higher or lower expenditure as input. The new model offers far more possibilities to ‘turn the buttons’. Consequently, my research has created more possibilities for calculating the regional economic impacts of tourism.
Now that I have finished this research I am very happy with the facts that I have more free time, have the freedom to explore other topics besides economic impacts of tourism, but I am especially content with the fact that my research has really attracted the attention of practitioners – leading to enthusiastic responses and new research projects. I look back upon the PhD trajectory with great satisfaction, the feeling that I have actually created something useful, and – I must admit – some relief as well. For anyone that is not afraid to work hard, wants to become the world’s expert in a very specific topic, and has a strong urge toward perfection (but can also accept the fact that you can only ever come close) – a doctoral research might just be the way to go!
Jeroen Klijs (firstname.lastname@example.org) works as a researcher / lecturer at NHTV Breda, Academy for Tourism, where he teaches in the professional as well as the academic degree programmes. He carried out this doctoral research as an external PhD candidate of Wageningen University. More information about Jeroen Klijs (in Dutch) can be found on http://blogs.nhtv.nl/jeroen-klijs/.