- publication: 1 November 2016
AIHR - RG Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism visits the EuroCHRIE 2016 Conference
By Elena Cavagnaro and Femke Vrenegoor
The theme of the conference was Wellbeing. Almost 400 people from 40 different countries were welcomed to the conference by EuroCHRIE president Dr. Fung. Several IHM colleagues attended. What follows is based on the experiences by Femke and me. I am sure that Roel and Craig, among others, will share their own impressions with you, too.
At the opening we were reminded that 'wellness' is by now even misused as 'sustainability' or 'eco'. It is a way of selling: pants, bread toasters and towels are now advertised as improving your wellbeing. Thus we have to be careful to define this concept properly.
In her key note Melanie Smith, the main force behind the conference organization, focused on wellbeing as an outcome of a travel or tourism experience. This is the usual take on wellbeing, a take the paper I co-authored with Simona, Flavia and Alessandra challenged by focusing on wellbeing as antecedent of tourism behaviour.
During the key note by Sally Brown and Phil Race we were asked to think back to the first time we thought a certain subject and the first time we assessed the students in that subject. A common experience is that after both experiences we understood our own subject better. An easy conclusion is that learning by teaching could be better implemented in our curricula. Being passionate about what you teach and explaining to students why they 'need' to learn a certain subject are also seen as determinant of students' engagement and thus students' learning. On their websites (http://sally-brown.net and http://phil-race.co.uk) they have free PPT’s on the topics on student and staff engagement available.
During the Innovative Research Techniques workshop, six colleagues from UK, Slovenia, USA and the Netherlands presented research that either tested innovative tools such as google glasses to deliver information to museum visitors, or applied less used data collection techniques such as online surveys after an event, or innovative and yet ancient methods such as auto-ethnography (studying yourself by reflecting on your development as philosophers did in the past), or innovative techniques borrowed from other disciplines such as design thinking. If you are curious Google glass enhanced the experience, but people in the control group remembered the given information, such as date of the paintings and names, of the artist better.
Femke presented her PhD proposal focusing on the gaps that she individuated in the literature and that justify her focus on hoteliers' motivations to choose for a specific eco-certification. She shared with the audience some challenges she faces, such as how to compare different certification systems. The audience was deeply interested in her research proposal and shared with her some ideas on how to overcome these challenges. I was involved in her presentation, as her PhD co-supervisor.
Furthermore, I presented a paper on Wellbeing and tourism that I co-authored with Simona and several colleagues form the University of Macerata and chaired a symposium on Sustainability in Hospitality. The paper on wellbeing excited some interest. The room was full, and Melanie Smith (the congress chair and an expert in wellbeing) was in the audience. She was impressed by two innovative features of the paper: the conceptual model where wellbeing is seen as an antecedent and not an outcome of the tourism experience and the use of a validated scale derived from sociological studies to measure wellbeing. The symposium was less well attended but exciting, also because the colleagues who attended were all very much involved in the theme. There are two insights I wish to share from the discussion: The first was shared from an Italian colleague now working for the University of Barcelona. As we all know Barcelona is suffering under the enormous amount of tourism arrivals. A consensus has been reached now that de-growth is the only option to give Barcelona back to its citizens. De-growth, a notion that when introduced in the 1970s caused major outrage is now embraced by policy makers, researchers and citizens as a viable option. The second insight was offered by NHTV colleague Jeff. He questioned whether 'upscaling' best practices is the best way to encourage sustainability in hospitality. His take will be more towards innovation, let the market embrace the new concept and then following the market. It is an interesting thought, notwithstanding the fact that a neoliberal market frame, with its hedonic and short term focus, may not be the best feeding ground for truly sustainable innovations.
In the keynote delivered by Jeremy McCarthy, the SPA group director for Mandarin Oriental, the rise of wellness in the hospitality was discussed. It was stated that due to the need of people to prioritize a healthy life because of for example an aging population and obesity, there is a demand from the consumer for more wellness, and that the market is reacting to this. The wellness industry has grown with 14% despite the declining GDP. An important point made during the presentation was that there are two paradigms from which the industry approaches wellness: either as an amenity offered, or integrated in the whole guest journey. In the latter, which he named the new wellness paradigm, the focus is on things we need more of in our lives(like good healthy food, stillness, rather than things we need to prevent (like obesity, cancer, etc.). For employees to be able to offer wellness to their guests, they need to be well as well, and need e.g. movement breaks and to be able to destress. He concluded his presentation by saying that wellness is not a fad, but that it’s here to stay.
Finally the day was closed with awards for the best PhD paper, the best poster and the REDGlobal University Challenge, and a debate on the proceedings of the EuroCHRIE organizing committee.
Under the motto practice what you preach each day the conference dedicated some time each day to enhance our wellness, starting with a short yoga lesson on day one and some Buddhist techniques to relax on day two. On day three there was an explanation of how to let go of stress in your life.
All in all it was a very interesting conference, with loads of valuable research, good keynote speakers, and interesting meetings with education colleagues from around the globe.