Review of the second year of Tourism Marketing and Management studies

Continuous development of our tourism business studies

It is summer again and the second class of our Tourism Marketing and Management (TMM) Master’s Degree Programme is about to finish their first year studies. Second-year students have been working on their minor studies and master’s thesis, and some of them are now graduating. In this post we go through student feedback and look at where and how our programme can be improved and what we are doing great.

Nothing is perfect, so there is always room for development. We take developing the programme very seriously. One of our main tools is the annual feedback from our students. We did the same thing last year, and now it is time for the 2019 edition. We publish all the feedback our students gave us here, as we want to be as transparent as possible. We believe this will help us to improve the programme even more as the students starting in the next fall can make sure that the programme has developed as we are promising.

If we look at the numbers in the figures and table below, we can see that even though the numbers are quite good, there is still a lot to be developed. The averages are really similar to last year, which means that in that way our programme has not developed that much during the year (0=Not at all satisfied, 10=Extremely satisfied). Especially the grades of 6 lower the averages. This means that for some students our programme has failed (or that is how we perceive it). This is definitely something we need to improve in the future. One of the main reasons for this is a change in staff that happened last year, and it definitely affected our programme in many ways as the feedback table below shows.

Tourism studies satisfaction
Figure 1. TMM 2018-2019 student satisfaction scores.

Table 1. Satisfaction statistics

Descriptive Statistics
N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
How likely would you recommend  TMM studies to other students? 17 6,00 10,00 8,2353 1,03256
How satisfied are you with how much you have learned during your TMM studies? 17 6,00 9,00 8,0000 ,86603
How satisfied are you with the teaching methods at  TMM programme? 17 6,00 10,00 8,0588 1,14404
How satisfied are you with your own skills and knowledge regarding working in tourism business? 17 6,00 9,00 7,8235 ,88284
Valid N (listwise) 17

On a side note, we had altogether 16 students, so someone has answered the feedback questionnaire twice. Because the questionnaire was completely anonymous, it is impossible to say which answer to delete. Our 16 students managed to do 1012 ECTS by the beginning of January 2019, with a mean of 63,25 ECTS credits. This is a really great result as we are aiming for 60 ECTS per student per year. All the students who put the effort into their studies from Autumn 2018 have done a great job so far.

Developing tourism business studies

All the student feedback is collected in table 2 below. Based on the feedback there are several things we will do to improve our programme next year:

Exams / assignments

The main idea in our programme is that the students need to have the knowledge and skills stated in our curriculum after each course. Assignments and exams are a way for us to measure if this is indeed the case and to what extent. The main measurement method in our courses is assignments. We do not have any traditional exams as we think that they encourage short time learning instead of learning things so that they are remembered also after the assignments. Many of our assignments are already practice-based and enable students to apply what they have learned into business practices. Definitely, one thing we are constantly developing is the collaboration with businesses, and this is hardly ever ready.

We will also pay more attention to what kind of assignments will be done in groups and what individually. This was not optimal this year, but it is a learning process. All our courses are every year different because the assignments we have done are often case-based.

We will also have to look into the number of group works we have. On the one hand, we are doing a lot of work in groups, and it seems to be a challenge. On the other hand, it is often the case in the modern world that experts need to work in multinational teams that hardly ever meet each other. Still, the work has to be completed in a satisfactory way. This working culture is also something we want to teach our students and even though it might be challenging, it is still something that has to happen.

Assignment instructions will be more detailed and the grading throughout the courses improved. This is important as one of our goals should be that the students know what they need to know and how to demonstrate their knowledge. The idea of having more difficult assignments with higher expected results compared to many assignments with lower expected results is a good one.

Flipped learning: materials and class meetings

We are still ourselves learning how to flip our courses properly. Especially what would be the most efficient thing to do for learning when we meet after having studied the course materials for the meeting. Still, a lot of learning happens during the meetings, but our goal in our flipped courses is to have enough material online for students to be able to learn everything even if they don’t make it to class meetings. The role of class meetings is often to focus on difficult issues, but the balance between online and contact content needs to be developed.

The course materials will be developed for next year to include more examples from other parts of Finland as well as globally.

Scheduling

Scheduling courses is also a challenge that we are constantly developing. We only learn it by testing different ways to schedule our courses and assignments and hopefully, the experience from this year will again make the scheduling a little better next year.

Orientation week

Our two-week orientation period is a great success for us, but still, something to be improved even further. We will be including more information about presentation skills for our introduction course. This is a topic we have so far overlooked, but an important one as our students will give a large number of presentations during our studies.

We will also be learning more about group works, how to work in groups both online and offline. This should help our students to better meet the required skills for our course assignments.

Academic writing course will now be provided for all our students.

Programme staff

Our programme exists to give our students the skills and knowledge they need to develop tourism business responsibly anywhere in the world. As people working in the programme change every now and then, it is a challenge for us to get the new members into the spirit and culture of the programme. It does not happen overnight but requires time. The feedback below helps us to pay attention to ourselves and how we can better receive feedback. Our students have the same goal as we do and only by working together it is possible to achieve our goals. However, we are a really small programme with limited resources, and the courses are still new. It is natural that we have challenges in the start, but every year should be better than the last one.

Skills and knowledge in our programme

We have only two years to teach our students everything about tourism marketing and management. It goes without saying that it is impossible, especially as half a year is focused on the master’s thesis and a half for minor studies. Basically, most skills and knowledge of our programme is taught during the first year of studies. It is a short time and we have to prioritise what we teach. We have made a conscious decision not to include for example that many practical marketing skills like how to do Google Ads marketing to elective courses and for the students to learn by themselves. We teach our students what is important and why these things are important, but it is not possible to make them, for example, digital marketing practitioners within our programme. We give them all the possibilities, skills and knowledge to become one if that is what they want, but going into details of marketing is impossible for us within the timeframe we have.

We have also made a decision not to have separate courses for wellbeing, nature or sustainable tourism. They are present in all our courses, and especially during the introductory weeks. All the courses have materials connected to these topics. What we can do however is to better emphasize those topics more strongly in our courses.

 

Table 2. What kind of actions would you suggest for our programme staff and university that would improve your scores?
Practical based assignments and few more exams may help to learn better
Flipped learning is nice idea but it should be controlled somehow that students really study before the lecture. However, it should be considered well how to do that (e.g not in a way it was in experience design course. Some kind of discussion among students in the class would be good.)  -It should be possible to distribute studying time more equally during the studying months, now it is very much loaded to certain months or even weeks  -Just a minor note, but I would have a discussion with all students about what kind of is a good presentation, I feel the level of presentations has been lower than in my previous studies  -Google digital garage should be compulsory  -I would pay more attention to individual tasks and have group works only for the tasks that require creativity and/or solving problems. Students teaching each others when doing a group work is an optimistic idea which come true only if you have a very very good group.  -In the beginning of the studies I would have a discussion with students about group works regarding the fact that if ~half of the class does not live in Joensuu and not participate to group meetings (not even through skype) and maybe not to the lectures, it is quite a big work amount for those who always attend to every group meeting in every course, and try to refer the lectures for those who were not there. I don’t say this has been a big problem, but something to think about just to make students think that for example the first group meeting is also working for it, even though nothing is written to any report – planning is often the most challenging part and would be nice to get everyone involved in it.  -Having examples from everywhere in Finland and all over the world, I think it does not require guest lectures everytime. Lecturers could just tell how are tourism things organized e.g. in Kalajoki or some city in New Zealand. This could be done maybe even as group work.  -It is confusing that there’s no consensus regarding citation to be used in assignments, why don’t we just use the one UEF recommends? Now everyone is using whatever they want and that’s a problem in group works as no one knows what to use, no one remember to discuss about it in the beginning of the group work and it doesn’t work that the “strongest” person just decide it or no one decide it.
There is some consistency missing from teaching; sometimes everything goes extremely smoothly and great, but it can then change suddenly, this was particularly an issue during the spring when it felt like for example the grading of assignments was not coherent and stable (getting way better grades than should have been given for example); it’s not very motivating when grading is not consistent. Assignment instructions were very confusing from time to time, which also resulted in missunderstandings when conducting assignments. It is natural that not all professors grade assignments in the same way, but I have never experienced such difficulties of knowing what am I expected for in assignments as I did during the spring, and I think I was not the only one who was from time to time unsatisfied with this.
Better instructions! They need to be clear so that students know what it is that they should do and what kind of assignment they should do. This was a problem during many courses and different lecturers. Raija has very detailed and clear instructions which could be used as a guideline when making instructions for other courses.  Staff giving lectures should be aware how the programme works and know the topics they teach well. They should also be open to constructive criticism. One staff member had problems with these things that really affected the satisfaction of many students.
Teaching could be done by using different ways, the real life examples and collaboration with companies is always good.
Courses included too much group works especially at that point when there were too many groups in different courses, it doesn’t reflect or help working in the “real world” and it only decreases the motivation when the energy is put to form the groups and schedule rather than focusing on the work itself. Not compulsory presence in the courses at this point of the studies is appreciated. Accounting courses are very useful and would have like to take more of those.
Less group work, clearer instructions for assignments, more classes in business and accounting etc=kauppiksen kursseja. Flipped learning did not work with us. I am still lacking concrete skills in online marketing, which is why I enrolled on the Google ads Project, but a long course during the summer is extremely difficult to fit in with work schedule.
Maybe include a course about wellness tourism or sustainable tourism. It is marketed as one of the core issues of this program but it is not really included as a separate course. Of course, it was a bit part of some assignments, but it should made a separate course as it is advertised as such an important part of the whole program on the web page. Then, also students should be encouraged to speak more english. It should be mandatory that applicants know how to write academic texts or it should be recommended to them to take suitable courses. focus on quality of assignments instead of quality, meaning better have a higher level and make them more difficult and expect more than just have a lot of stuff to do. Some instructions should be made more clear and the expectancy and grading varies too much. For some courses like Destination marketing it would be better to have the course over a shorter time period. Maybe split Practical Tourism research course in two separate courses. The communication is sometimes very confusing, it would be better to limit on one channel and just use email or Facebook and be consistent with it. Also, sometimes things were told too late.
More field work, collaboration with real businesses, work oppirtunities
Maybe some charting about accounting skills on the beginning. As there are much of group works, there should be more focus on how people are working in a group. As there is no “named” leaders in the groups, the communication in a group can be challenging. When someone tries to “take charge” and lead, he/she eventually can be in a situation where he/she is doing all the jobs, and every one else is just waiting for the job to be done. As in the “real life” teams normally have leaders, could this be applied also in the program? E.g. dividing groups in the way that e.g. two persons is in charge in every course. The shifts circulates, so that everyone knows that if they don’t play their role in supporting the leader and being a equal member of a team, it will eventually backfire when he is in charge. I don´t know if this is a solution, and did my writing made any sense – but anyway I feel that some improvements would be nice to this issue if the group works will play a major role in the future – as there students are from different kinds of backgrounds and working in different manners.
In my opinion the Introduction to Tourism -course should be compulsory for those who are not coming from tourism studies. It should also be in the beginning of studies. On the contrary, more business studies would be good for people coming for tourism studies.
I suggest more knowledge at international level than North-Karelia level. The program staff are really nice and support us a lot.
I would direct the entity of the Tourism Marketing and Management perhaps even more towards commercial or economic degree, since that was the main applying aspect for me personally. I am basing this on comparison to the University of Lapland´s social science degree, which is the (only) other (university) option for most Finnish restonomi-degree applicants.
I like the idea that no exams are included. It works and challenges the students in a way that mirrors the work life. Although, some of the group works could be changed into independet or pair works, since in some of the group works, it so happens that people just do their share and dont understand the main picture. This is also because the students choose to do so, so it is a multi-sided problem.

 

What we are doing great

We also asked our students what were the best things during the past 12 months (Table 3). These are really nice to read and shows that we are doing many things quite well. We are evidently doing a lot of practical things, many of our courses are inspiring, we have excellent staff and great guest lecturers. Our fields trips have been successful and there is a good team spirit among students.

Table 3. What were the best things in our programme during the past 12 months?
field visits, practicle based assignment and more importantly introduction to technology in tourism. The technnology part is very interting as it helps us to learn what is going on and what are the possiblities in the industry
Good atmosphere in the class.  Quality of teaching (especially at the beginning I felt many times I cannot write fast enough my notes as there were so much new knowledge and information for me, I really felt these are master level studies and that I am learning a lot.) Very interesting topics in courses! Easy communication with staff! Flexibility. I am satisfied I chose these studies!
I really like the staff of this programme, everyone is so encouraging! But I have to say there is also a downside there; sometimes the programme is too flexible for the students, which seems to create difficulties sometimes. I understand it is nice that we are able to adapt, but sometimes it goes too far I think.  I basically have enjoyed all the courses we have had, except that Experience Design was a big dissapointment to me. Then again, Profitable Tourism Businesses was one of the courses I was least excited for, but it turned out to be one of my favorite courses, even though many of the subjects that were taught there were already familiar to me. However, I am very bad in that particular subject, and this was the first time I actually enjoyed learning all those things.  Practical Tourism Research was one of the most hardest, but also most rewarding courses. It was a lot of work, and especially still in quantitative methods there is so much more to learn, but it was all worth it. During the autumn, I would say that Tourism Behavior was one of the most useful courses then, as it was more learning something new.  All in all, I have enjoyed my time in general in the programme, even if I have not been satisfied with everything. I think the encouraging attidute of the staff is one of the most unique and inspiring things. It’s still a new programme, and you’re finding your direction, but with little work this could turn out be something very unique. Great work!
-Guest lectures have been great! -Possibility to go to exchange -Grading through assignments not exams -A lot of group work and presentations to help with working life -Not having to do presentations alone -Staffs close relationship with students -Flexibility of staff
No exams, great trips to Ilomantsi and Sortavala, good project works, amazing team spirit.
Of course the people. Amazing how you have chosen so likeminded people. The extra courses such as ITB and Sortavala.
Real-life context and examples are practical, not having exams most of the courses and more focusing on some task done with a company instead is teaching more.
Our class! Flexible teachers. Study trips. Learning more than in UAS. Being able to write assignments about our own interests (e.g. the destinations of our choice).
I enjoyed the practical things, assignments and excursions such as the trip to Sortavala, the Tahko Ski lift Pitch or the marketing plans for real companies. The internationalization of tourism firms guest lecture was really cool and I had the feeling I learned a lot.
Sortavala course
Excursions. Overall the whole program was really nice, and the whole class has good spirit towards everything. Learned a lot new about marketing, doing a research and academic papers and from the whole tourism business, which completed in a good way my previous knowledge about things. I also think I did a lot of friendships which at least hopefully, will last a long time. Good work, and I can really recommend this program to everyone without hesitations!
Interesting courses, trips, friends
Practical course is really helpful because it helps us use our own knowledge on a real business and meet new people with different background to widen our network.
The preactical co-operation with real tourism businesses and the diversity of different courses, even though there were some overlappings.
The courses, I think the content has been relevant and clear. I feel that most of the objectives set, are being accomplished. Improvements should be made on the assignments concerning the experience design course. The group work made for Koli, was interesting for some groups, for others it was more like what we did at previous studies (studying the signages and information plates of the hotel)

 

Second-year student feedback

We also collected some feedback from our second-year students who are finishing their studies. Their main issues are connected to the master’s thesis process, which we are now also developing. The idea that also the second year studies should foster the great group spirit achieved during the first year is a good one for us to ponder about. Our first student just recently graduated and others will soon follow, but the master’s thesis does indeed take a lot of time. However, all the students have the possibility and supervision to graduate within the time frame and we do not want to have strict guidelines and rules for writing the thesis. It is also a self-management exercise and more relaxed time schedule increases the quality of the work.

What kind of actions would you suggest for our programme staff and university that would improve your scores? What were the best things in our programme during the past 12 months?
Possibility to study abroad
More concordant course workload. As a second year student, there was not so much connection with school this year but I am happy to see all the action and different kinds of field trips and various projects going on with the first year students. Every time I saw the teachers they were happy to discuss about how it’s going with us older ones 🙂 I almost wish I could do it all over again!
More practical courses, especially on management. Independent course on sustainable tourism and wellbeing tourism. Research based programme, the second year is basically just writing the master’s thesis. Master’s thesis course with supervision for the thesis. Other courses have been online studies, which is not motivating. Second year does not have mandatory courses, which makes the group spirit disappear.
Talking and planning about the thesis from the very start. The possibility to learn so many new things. I don’t know if I improved my professional profile so much (except almost having this education). What I mean is that I learned a lot about research articles, to write reports, to communicate better in English, to survive from all the deadlines etc. but I’m not sure if I can really say for some company that I know how to do marketing. How to utilize this knowledge in a working life?

 What happens next?

Huge thanks to all our students who voluntarily answered this feedback survey. Many of the issues have been brought up during the year in many conversations we have had, but now they are all documented. Our 2019 students start their studies in September and our more senior students keep graduating. The application period for our 2020 studies will start in November. 

What will our tourism business students know after finishing Master’s Degree in Tourism Marketing and Management?

The second year of Tourism Marketing and Management programme is about to start soon. We had a successful first year, but that does not mean that we can stand down and relax. Our goal is to continuously develop our programme. Based on our Business School AACSB Accreditation membership, experiences from the first year, input from our advisory board and other stakeholders as well as our perceptions of what will be required from the experts of tourism business in the future, we have developed a new curriculum for the years 2018-2021.

Continue reading “What will our tourism business students know after finishing Master’s Degree in Tourism Marketing and Management?”

Review of the First Year of Tourism Marketing and Management Studies

It is summer and it means that the first year of our studies in our International Master’s Degree programme in Tourism Marketing and Management at the University of Eastern Finland is about to be finished. And what a year it has been! We have done and accomplished so much. Tourism Marketing and Management studies have proven to be innovative, useful and interesting, but there is still a lot to do to improve. Go on and read what is it like to study tourism business in our programme.

Tourism Marketing and Management studies can be a lot of fun!
TMM students and staff during the orientation week

Student feedback on Tourism Marketing and Management Studies

We collect continuous feedback from our students as well as stakeholders. We have an advisory board that consists of business representatives who ensure that our teaching corresponds to the needs of the industry. However, the most valuable feedback we get from our students. For the first year, we had a total of 20 students who are co-creating this learning experience with us. After each course, course-related feedback is collected. This feedback is used to develop individual courses. Once a year we also collect general feedback with a completely anonymous survey from our students. 14 students answered the survey and this is the feedback we got from 2017-2018 studies:

Tourism Studies Satisfaction
TMM student satisfaction results 2017-2018

From these results, it is obvious that our students would be quite likely to recommend our programme to other students, but we can also see that there is a lot to improve. Especially teaching methods need to be improved, and it is our top priority coming to the second year of studies. For us, the results show that we are doing things overall quite well, but we still need to improve in many ways.

We also asked for written, open feedback, and this is the feedback we received. We have not censored or edited the feedback in any way, but have responded to it on the right side column.

Student feedback Staff response
Perhaps focusing in a few themes instead of trying to include everything in the studies. I have enjoyed the atmosphere though and hope the connection between students and teachers remain close. Indeed, our programme is quite ambitious, to say the least. Students need to work quite hard and learning goals have been set high. We definitely need to prioritize our learning goals better and have clearer focus on courses and the whole programme on what we want to achieve.
More info on flipped learning at the beginning, before using it as a teaching method. Emphasis on reserving time in calendar besides contact lectures, maybe have an assignment where that is practiced. Having all tasks and their due dates available at the beginning of the course, so that there are no surprises afterwards about extra tasks along the way. Our studies start now with 2 ECTS Introduction course that has enough time to discuss the teaching methods we use and how we are expecting the studies to be completed. During the first year we had to partially build the courses as we advanced, but for the second year, the situation should be better as a majority of the materials and assignments are now ready.
In some courses, whole course was based on group work. To me, better if half of the work is at least individual task. For group work, better if the teacher makes the group randomly, so there is opportunity to work with every classmates and learn from everyone. We do emphasize working as teams in our programme quite a lot. However, we understand that the grade should not be completely dependent on how other people work.

For the next year, we will always randomize the groups to make sure that our students get to know each other better and have different teamwork experiences.

I have done everything to my best ability. I notice in some courses I could have done a better job.  For the future, I suggest the programme staff to be more aware of what is going on with the students’ workload and not placing deadlines in the same times. Trying new teaching methods is good but make sure to also inform the students about all the changes. We have already planned the second year schedule so that assignment deadlines are visible for everyone and that there is not too much overlap between assignments and deadlines. We will also go through the timetable for the year during the Introduction course.
There’s nothing much to add for the topics we’ve already discussed during the year. Schedule should be planned better, instructions for assignments should be clearer right at the beginning, dead-lines should walk better hand-in-hand with other courses and flipped learning method needs to be open up for students beforehand. This feedback summarizes well earlier comments and these are definitely the issues that we have and will be paying more attention to.
Group work was not working very well (most of the times), it was more like split the task and everybody take care just their own part. Nearly every group somebody was complaining, lacking interest etc. Better to work with pairs or max 3 people in a group.   You can learn by yourself a lot but when students are not at the same level of previous knowledge or share the same interests, you need a teacher to tell the basics and give quidance in tasks.  There is a lot of material in Moodle, so I can continue learning by myself and I will. Flipped learning method was working well in Experience design course and you should use it in the future, too. Tourist behavior course content was excellent. Tasks in IT course were good and educational.  I was hoping to here more about the future of tourism industry from the business perspective. We should have our own course about the leadership in tourism firms, the other Uni courses do no help much. The other marketing and business courses in Uni are mostly online courses or not very interesting ones. Comparing the other courses in Uni our own were excellent, so keep up the good work! The goal of group work is to give our students a possibility to openly discuss topics and work genuinely together, increasing the skills and knowledge for everyone on the team. Doing group work by partitioning it for every student does not really advance this goal. In the work life however, it is common to do group work in a way that everyone does his or her part and then the combined work is reviewed together. Probably smaller groups would work better in any case and we will pay attention that a wide variety of different kinds of teams is used during various courses we have.

Leadership in tourism is something that we will supplement with additional courses. This year we had Dr. Teresa Aguiar Quintana from University of Las Palmas to teach the topic in a supplementary course and hope to continue this in the future.

This was a pilot year, so a bit more organized approach. Maybe to evaluate a bit more closely the starting level of students skills. But not to lower the expectation level of these studies rather expect some bridge studies if needed.  Positive: Diverse learning methods, flexibility, focus on learning (not executing the program), connecting academics to practical business reality, focus on current and future (not only old theories), all professors have a different style to teach which I found good. The starting level of our students vary quite a bit and it is a constant challenge for us. We will be thinking about the application criteria so that the students should be more similar with their starting level. A bachelor’s degree in business studies such as marketing or management should provide a solid background for our studies and knowledge about tourism business is definitely a great thing to have. However, it is also a fact that some students need to study more than some another because we aim that all the students graduating from our programme match our knowledge and skill goals.

The academic year 2017-2018 in numbers

How did the first year in Tourism Marketing and Management studies succeed in numbers? Altogether 20 students started their studies in the Autumn semester of 2017. We have one full-time staff and two working with the studies in part-time. Professor Jamie Murphy has been a great assistance to us and he spent the Autumn with us in Joensuu starting up the programme. We are also happy to welcome him in Autumn 2018! We also had three other international guest professors visiting us and giving our students courses on their own expert topics. Besides that, we had dozens of businesses, destination staff, and other guest lecturers providing insights on Tourism Marketing and Management to our students.

Our students managed to study 1175 ECTS credits with an average of 58,75 ECTS and median of 64. We clearly surpassed the goal of 55 ECTS per year on average, so well done to all our students!

For the 2018 studies, we had 119 applicants, a growth of nearly 100 percent from 2017. The programme is becoming quite popular! Our mission of making tourism better resonates all over the planet and we have had applications from all over the world. Our website www.uef.fi/tmm has visitors from more than 100 countries with at least a dozen visitors from 50 countries just during the past year.

During the past year, our blog www.tourismmarketingandmanagement.com has been visited 4582 times. The most popular student-written blog post was from Lari Turunen, who discussed the most common problem in destination marketing.

Our students have been updating our Instagram to show how it is like to study Tourism Marketing and Management in Joensuu, Finland. The new students will start to update the account this fall. Looking at the Instagram feed, the year has not been just about studying, but a lot of fun has been had. Our Facebook page has almost 2000 likes and it is by far the best way to keep up with what is happening with the programme.

What will be happening in academic year 2018-2019 in Tourism Marketing and Management?

Our second student group will be starting their studies in September 2018. We are working now to develop the courses for the next year to make the learning experience even better. We have great collaborations and guest lecturers planned and many fantastic cases to test our skills in the real world.

It will also be an exciting year as our first students start to graduate. Many of them are now writing their master’s thesis and we have extremely interesting studies coming up during the next academic year!

We will start looking for new students again sometime in November for studies starting in September 2019. If you want to be kept up to date with the application process, sign up for our newsletter.

The most important concept in destination marketing?

What is a concept or a term that every destination marketer should know and understand about destination marketing? I think I found it. It is very catchy. A bit marketing-oriented even. Quickly thought, something far-fetched? But coherent and makes a lot of sense when thought more deeply.

It gathers up something very wide in one tight, distinct term. It makes me go “aha” and to nod. Have I now learned the most important concept during my master studies in tourism?

Destination DNA

Understanding Destination DNA is the key to plan and implement destination marketing. The identity of a place, the code written there by nature, the basic framework of a certain destination. It is something not to invent. It is something that already exists and has existed for a long time. It cannot be faked to be something it is not or changed to something else.

Destination Marketing DNA

Destinations, embrace your identity!

Place DNA is the destination’s competitive identity, and that’s why it is important to dig out. It must be deeply understood and commonly agreed among the entrepreneurs and residents in the area – the destination’s ‘frontline ambassadors’: those with whom visitors come into contact.

It is the atmosphere, the setting, and surrounding, the natural staging of the destination. It makes the genuine holiday experience possible to happen, to exist.

Or can the DNA of a destination change?

Actually, will it – eventually – anyway?

No. It won’t. Destination DNA is something that stays as it is. Presence, personality, and characteristics change. Or rather, develop. It is important to distinguish these two.

As important as it is for a destination to be well aware of its DNA, it is important to understand that once it’s known, it cannot be ignored, left unattended or unutilized.

What matters the most in destination marketing?

People build the destination marketing

Destination DNA is the basis of “what” and the core for “how”. Also, it gives the visitor a purpose, “why”. What makes a certain destination special? How are the available attributes possible to experience during the visit? Why should someone visit in the first place?  Therefore, an essential concept in tourism marketing and management.

As I stated in the beginning, learning this term got me captivated by its importance. Destination DNA – I pondered, maybe even the most important realization considering my tourism studies? Well, it is a term. A written, nicely formulated concept. Putting into practice, another thing. And who does it?

The people.

People behind the product, the service,

the experience.

Heart and soul to destination marketingThe final touch, in connection with the customer, comes from the business owners and the employees. They, the people, are the ones who transform the destination into a tourism product. Into experiences which breathe the place atmosphere.

And they add their own personal DNA into it,

 to make it memorable for the people.

For the customer.

TMM developing tourism business at Etelä-Konnevesi region

Our International Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management (TMM) has started a collaboration with municipalities of Konnevesi and Rautalampi and tourism stakeholders in the region. The concrete first step in this collaboration was a two-day workshop on developing nature tourism in the Etelä-Konnevesi region, organized in Konnevesi research station 14.-15.3.2018. Together with Anne Hyvärinen, project manager at a regional tourism development project, two days full of tourism business content were designed and tailored for the region.

Tourism insights and knowledge

The idea of the first day was to bring in all the actors to the same level when it comes to tourism marketing and management in a nature tourism destination. The day started with introductions and three short group work presentations by our students. As a preliminary assignment, our students had examined how the region is represented on the Internet from the perspective of potential tourists, both domestic and international. They also gave a quick overview of the recent development of the region in combination with development possibilities.

Making tourism better
Nature tourism workshop at Etelä-Konnevesi region

From the student presentations, it became obvious that the region has a vast tourism potential, but the problem is that very few know about this hidden gem. Most tourists that come to the region just visit the Southern-Konnevesi National Park, even though the region is full of interesting, high-quality and distinctive tourism businesses. Thus we were able to pinpoint the tourism development problem to marketing and sales, as well as networking between the actors in the region.

Besides our students, there was a wide range of presentations from local entrepreneurs and tourism personnel, Jyväskylä UAS and Visit Jyväskylä, and Johku. The tourism in the region and development possibilities were discussed from many different viewpoints, providing a great overview of the topic.

Networking and collaboration

At the end of the first day, we had the chance to visit a local rural tourism business Suopirtti Highland and meet their “hairy cows” (ie. highland cattle). It was indeed an experience for all of us. Afterward, we had a chance to taste delicious locally produced dishes at restaurant Mierontie. The restaurant also had a unique, wooden interior design made by local Jukola Industries. At the end of the second day, we had the chance to visit the National Park and experience KalajaRetkeily hospitality from Markku Utriainen. These visits only reinforced our view that there are many great and original tourism products and services in the region, but very few have ever heard of them.

Tourism services at Etelä-Konnevesi
Local tourism services

Professor Raija Komppula emphasized at the workshop how important collaboration and networking are for tourism businesses. Not that much can be achieved by doing things alone. Tourists seldom choose a destination based on one tourism business. Tourists are looking for an amalgam of experience that they can enjoy during their trip and only by working together a region can provide tourists what they want.

Tourism business development

Our students are now working with individual tourism businesses as their second assignment. Each student was assigned with a tourism business with their own development possibilities. The businesses gave our students practice-oriented tasks connected to topics such as marketing mix development, service packaging, experience design, technology adoption and new-service development. Our students will provide each involved business a short report that guides the businesses to take the next steps.

Students in a nature trail
TMM students and staff at the Etelä-Konnevesi National Park

Collaboration with TMM

We have built our programme so that this kind of destination and business collaborations are possible. Our students performed really well during the workshop and have clearly learned a lot during this past year they have been studying with us. We will continue our collaboration with Etelä-Konnevesi region and are also open to new possibilities to make tourism better. If you are interested in collaboration, please contact me at juho.pesonen[at]uef.fi.

How to promote a tourism destination online in international markets

 “Summary: Plan, use different online tools to analyze, make things easy for others and Care!”

Like every other business, there are some strategies to follow while promoting a tourism destination online in a foreign country to attract tourists. In this post, I present some ideas how a tourism destination should be marketed for international audiences. If you are a destination marketer, take a look!

Traditionally, expanding destination marketing to new markets is conducted through various partneships with for example travel agencies. However, tourism destination should also have visible online presense to support these partnerships.

Nowadays, internet is flooded with tons of similar things. Among them, some are interesting, useful while many of them are annoying, time consuming and just scam. So, no one wants to spend time in online for something that he/she doesn’t like, when there are many better options available a click away. So, to stand out as a right option to the customers, there are many things that one can do to succeed in his work.

   1.  Proper Website

Websites are often the first part of business identity for a foreign customer. So, a good website can work as a good representative of the destination. But, it needs to be customized for that targeted group. Only translating contents to a foreign language is not enough. There are many other things which need to be checked to make a good and well-functioning website.

  • Use a native speaker here to translate. At the same time, it needs to be localized in terms of message.
  • The core message of the product and services need to be delivered to the customers in a way they expect, accept and understand easily.
  • Language in a website should be easy, simple and understandable by everyone. Remember to talk with the customers in their tone.
  • Is the website responsive to all the devices that customers use?
  • How easy it to navigate?
  • Are there core messages in a way that customers can get it within few seconds when they come across this page?
  • Are there easy payment options and prices in local currencies, so no one face any difficulty?
  • How fast webpage loads in devices in different countries?
  • Is there something that can make it difficult or annoying to use?
  • Is there right contact information, so customers can reach easily when needed?
  • Is it attractive and well decorated?
2. Online Marketing for tourism destinations

Online marking is a critical part of a modern marketing mix. Now a marketer has only a few seconds to present his product to grab attention from customers and deliver core messages. The failure of doing this can bring a total failure of a business. By following few steps correctly, one can reap the best fruits with minimum effort.

  • Proper planning.
  • Setting a measurable short time and longtime goals.
  • Checking financial capabilities such as budget and base the plan on that is also important.
  • Categorizing customers based on region, age, interest etc.

Thinking is the most powerful tool any marketer has at their disposal. Think and study who your customers are and what they need and want. Find out who are already interested in the destination and looking for it online. It is easy to talk to someone who is already interested in and knows about the destination than to a stranger. “Google Market Finder” tools can help in this regard. As countries all over the world are different from each other in terms of language, culture, lifestyle and purchasing power, marketing to them need to be different as well.

    3. Promotion

For promotion, the best idea is to use multi-channel online marketing to reach the customers faster. These channels are social media marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), paid advertising in different search engines, social media and other websites that have similar users. But, before starting all these tasks, first

  • Find out which marketing platform would be most effective for that targeted country.
  • What kind of search engines do they prefer?
  • Make ads in the local language. Ads with precise and interesting contents directed to a landing page might work better.
  • Use email marketing.

Of course, timing is also importing to engage more people in the advertisement. There are tools like Google keywords planner which can help to find the best keywords for SEO and ads. Email marketing is always good option to consider. It is targeted for the people who have already visited the website and has shown some interest. It is the fasted way to reach potential customers and let them know about updates, offers and a reminder of destination. It is very effective for re-targeting customers who already checked destination and signed for news update through mail. Sometimes, it influences them to make a purchase later. Finally, in email, keep easy unsubscribe option if someone wants to do so.

Make it easy for the customer to reach customer support whenever needed. Everything should be frank and honest. Make sure that, customers get enough care before and after purchasing. Collect honest feedback from them, so things can be improved. Checking things time to time from customers’ point of view is also important!

From Marketing Strategy to Values Strategy

Having been processing the concept of marketing strategy during the ongoing autumn due to our course on destination marketing, the concept of strategy has been wandering in my mind. What does it actually mean and how important is it for a (tourism) company?

Applying the concept of strategy

In his book Valonöörin käsikirja (A lightneer’s guide) Frank Martela poses the questions What are our goals, what things are worth doing? and What can we do to reach our goals? as the central questions about the human life. He also points out that too often we do things that we didn’t actively choose to do. Too often we spend time on social media or Netflix though our goal is to do sports and be physically in a good condition. Or maybe we feel pressure to do certain things or maybe we just accept them because that’s how people always have done them. I think these questions and thoughts can be applied to business strategies as well.

During our course on marketing it was highlighted how important the mission, vision and values of the company are when creating a strategy. Another author and teacher Jim Collins reveals in his book Good to Great ways to develop a good company into a great one, based on a broad research. One of the core findings is to first find the right people around you, to keep them around you and then to “figure out the best path to greatness”. Also because with the right people you can more easily face changes in the changing world: “if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then  it’s much easier to change direction”. This can also be seen as a value-based approach: when there’s a group of people who share the same values and hopefully the same mission, it’s easier to set the direction.

Getting the right people on the bus (although the bus might need to be repaired along the way).

 

 

 

Don’t get stuck to the word: it’s about the content

Wikipedia, tells that the word ‘strategy’ derives from the Greek word stratēgia and the original meaning would be something like “art of troop leader, office of general, command, generalship” and that a strategy is a “high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty”. The other week I also had the chance to hear some thoughts about marketing from Timo Kiuru, who works as a creative director for different companies. In his opinion the term ‘strategy’ shouldn’t be used at all. He still stressed the importance of values and to on a weekly basis check if you have been acting according to your values.

It was a very inspiring speech and I also agree that we shouldn’t get too stuck to the word itself or think that if there’s some kind of a strategy, everything will fall into places. The importance of the content of the strategy, the goals and actions have to also be highlighted: a strategy is no use if it’s not concrete, applicable and if it’s not applied. For a company it’s quite essential to define some sort of a strategy. If there is a high level plan with at least some values or core thoughts that are important and/or motivating  it can’t go very wrong. Also, possible changes in the plan don’t necessarily mean it was wrong in the first place.

Setting a direction.