Towards more sustainable tourism – lessons learned in Vietnam
Leena Grönroos ja Annika Konttinen 11.1.2019

Greetings from Hue and the Erasmus+ TOURIST project! We would like to share our experiences with you. This is our first international project and we are really excited about it.

This project is testimony to the fact that it only takes one person with an idea to change the lives of many. It was an idea by Claudia Linditsch from JOANNEUM University of Applied Sciences in Austria when she visited South East Asian countries during a holiday. She saw there many sustainability related issues that needed attention. She also realised that Europeans are among the biggest customer groups to the region. That way we have a responsibility to contribute towards making tourism more sustainable. She was determined to do something concrete about it and applied for project funding from the EU.

So, now we are involved in an Erasmus+ project called TOURIST. The aim of the project is to create competence centres for the development of sustainable tourism and innovative financial management strategies to increase the positive impact of tourism in Thailand and Vietnam. We travelled to Hue in central Vietnam in the beginning of October to participate as trainers in the Training for Trainers part of the project. The idea is to do trainings with the Thai and Vietnamese university staff members who will, in turn, train their students, other staff members and industry representatives in their own towns. The other trainers came from JOANNEUM UAS in Graz, Austria, and University of Alicante in Spain.

We collected our thoughts before, during and after the training in Hue.

Before – what can we learn from the training

 

Well, besides being excited about the trainings, we had three issues that we were rather anxious about.

First, we felt uneasy about the idea of being Europeans who would go to Asia to tell how things should be done. That thought reminded us about the colonial days, when European masters would rule the world. We wanted to avoid that impression altogether and approach the trainings through co-creation.

Second, although all the participants were perhaps not going to be tourism experts, nonetheless they were going to be on a very high level in their respective organisations. Most of them had PhDs, were deans and presidents of their faculties. Our hands-on approach in training was probably going to be something new and strange to them.

However, we also thought that it was actually a good thing that the participants were going to be of such a level of hierarchy as their high status would make it possible for them to commit to and follow the progress of the training centres.

Third, we were anxious that the trainees would find the contents too familiar. Would the trainees find the content relevant to their stakeholders: students, industry representatives and other faculty members? We were worried that the participants would know it all, and feel that they are not getting anything new out of the training.

On the other hand, we were also enthusiastic about spreading the Finnish pedagogical know-how and Haaga-Helia’s student-centered learning approaches. That is, after all, the reason why we were selected as a partner in the project.

During – towards co-creation and sharing

 

During the training week, the focus was on co-creation and sharing. We aimed at creating a common understanding of the issues relating to sustainable tourism through collaborative methods.

The first day raised the interest and enthusiasm. We, as trainers, were relieved and happy about the outcome. The participants were particularly interested in the method of Gallery Walk. In fact, the method was given a new nickname, “shopping method”, as each team presented their findings and it was like going to a market and shopping for ideas.

The spirit and atmosphere in the group was very good from the start. The participants were willing and able to share experiences and learn from each other from the start. The younger members of the trainees came to tell us that such an active way of learning would be especially motivating for the students at their universities. Many said that they would implement our “brainstorming activities” in their classes in the future.

After – A global sustainable tourism network

 

The feedback for the training was collected through the method of Fish Bowl, which proved to be a success, again. The method gives each person an opportunity to share their viewpoints and opinions in a safe environment. We knew that Asians do not feel comfortable about having to give direct feedback, so we needed to find a method where it would be natural to do so. In the end, we were very satisfied with the constructive feedback we got. We will be able to design the programme for the following trainings based on the feedback given.

The power of the project: The project brought us together. We might not have met at all, had Claudia from Austria not been wondering how she could contribute towards sustainable tourism development in South East Asia while travelling there. This idea started with that thought, and has now brought 10 universities (4 in Thailand, 3 in Vietnam and 3 in Europe) together to innovate and educate in ways to make tourism more sustainable. Now we have started the process of building a global sustainable tourism network.

So far, so good. Even after four days of intensive training from 9 till 5 each day (+ social activities in the evening), we are very happy with the experiences of Hue. We hope that you found this an interesting reading. Maybe you, too, will be inspired to join international projects.


Leena Grönroos & Annika Konttinen, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

Hue is located in central Vietnam and has around 350,000 inhabitants. It used to be the former capital where the royal Nguyen family lived. The main attraction is the Imperial City which belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The traffic in Hue is not as bad as in the bigger cities of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. In fact, the representatives of Hue University told us that Hue is a cosy town to live in. Life is not as hectic as in the bigger cities of Vietnam. For us, it seemed to be featured in many of the group tour itineraries of Vietnam as there were so many buses in front of hotels. Individual travellers and backpackers also visit Hue on their way to the coastal destinations of Danang and Hoi An. Tourism development in Vietnam has been rapid in recent years and there are already cases of overdevelopment. Hue, on the other hand, has retained its authentic atmosphere, which you can feel especially in the local markets and streets. 

 

 

 

 

Read more about TOURIST project:

Sustainability through cooking

Taking the TOURIST Project to the next Level

Leena Grönroos on Haaga-Heliassa matkailun liikkeenjohdon lehtori ja Sustainable Travel Finland -valmentaja Visit Finland Akatemiassa.

Senior Lecturer
Leena Grönroos ja Annika Konttinen

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