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.