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Working in the field of Sustainable Tourism & Society

Date:24 November 2022
Sustainable Tourism & Society students
Sustainable Tourism & Society students

Lisa, Alumni of our MSc Cultural Geography – Sustainable Tourism and Society Track, recently found a new job as a Young Professional Sustainable Tourism economy at the Municipality of Leeuwarden. We spoke to her about her search for a job, what motivates her and how her study helped her with both these things.

Can you tell us something about your background and how you came to this job?

I’m Lisa, I’ve got a background in tourism. I did a bachelor in Tourism Management and a Pre-Master in Tourism, Planning and Policy at NHL/Stenden and then came to Campus Fryslân for the Master Cultural Geography with a track in Sustainable Tourism and Society (formerly Tourism, Geography and Planning). After I graduated in September 2022 I started applying to jobs within my field of work, so Tourism and Sustainability, and preferably locally, so within Friesland. However, I already noticed that tourism positions within the municipalities are limited due to small departments and limited rotation. This is why I eventually also started to look at positions in Groningen and applied to a variety of positions within municipalities, often related to policy advisor tourism or leisure. Eventually I found this position on as Young Professional Sustainable Tourism economy. I’m very happy with this as I needed to previous working experiences as it was a young professional position, and I really noticed during my search that as policy advisor they often ask you for at least 3 years of experiences. 

You mentioned that you had a quite a clear view that you wanted to work locally and that you wanted to work within the sustainable tourism sector, why were those things important to you? 

While I learned in my bachelor a lot more about the commercial side of tourism, in my bachelor thesis I focussed on support for tourism among residents of my home town. Since then I’ve been really interested in how policy is made on a local level and how you have to take into account the bonds, needs and desires of both residents, visitors and businesses. This is also why I decided to study this master programme, as it focussed more on the sustainability of tourism and how to include all stakeholders in the process. This is something I find really interesting, so I really wanted to continue with this. And the region was really based on the fact that my boyfriend bought a house here, otherwise searching for a job would have probably been a bit easier as I wouldn’t have been place bound, but at the same time I also really like Fryslân because, and this sounds maybe a bit dramatic, but it’s not yet too late here. For example in Amsterdam you look at tourism policy in a very different than here in Leeuwarden, where we don’t have to deal with issues like too many tourists. Like here in Leeuwarden you can implement a sort of prevention-policy. I think at least, because I of course did not yet started [laughs]. But here you can prevent these issues instead of look for solutions for the already existing problem. I also really like that about this region as opposed to for example Amsterdam, but also Giethoorn. They of course have this issue too, so it’s not only an issue in the west of the Netherlands. So yeah, that’s how I ended up with this position.

Is this prevention policy, like creating a sustainable growth that avoids these issues from the get go, one of your goals within this new job?

Yes, I think you could say that. I would say there are two possibilities for that within this job. At the one hand prevention, but also making sure that everyone is being heard within the policy process. Of course that will be really hard, because you always have opposing needs and wishes. One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. So you always need to make sure that the policy takes into account the local citizens, companies and organisations, so they are not hostile, but welcoming towards tourists, while the tourist can still remain a tourist and will be received with open arms. For that you of course need the host-community to accept tourists.

On the other hand I really want to put Leeuwarden on the map. Because Leeuwarden, but especially Friesland as a region, is really culturally unique, with its own language and customs. I really like that about this region as well and that will also be a big part of my job. 

Leeuwarden is not really known as a student city, but you’ve lived and studied here for 5 years now and also decided to stay. Is that part of the reason why you want to shine this spotlight on Leeuwarden?

To be honest I also never thought I would be coming to Leeuwarden, I really wanted to go to Amsterdam. That I ended up in Leeuwarden was more based on the fact that I wanted to study Tourism in English and that I wanted to start in February, so that was only possible here. And at first I also really didn’t like it here, but over time the city really grew on me. On the one hand you have all the facilities you need, but it’s still very cosy. And through assignments and guest lectures in my studies I also learned a lot about the city, of course also from a tourism perspective and about the history, so over time it really became ‘my city’. I really noticed that with my family and friends as well, as they came by more and more and also went to Leeuwarden for weekends away and such. My parents are by now about once a month at a hotel here in Leeuwarden for a weekend. 

And I think this is something a lot of people have, in a way that you don’t really consider going to Leeuwarden, but once you’re here you really like it. So the bottleneck for Leeuwarden is really to get people here and not so much what you can offer here. And that really counts for tourists just as for students. Of course these are very different groups, but also for students it’s not really known as student city and you don’t know whether going out here is fun. If that becomes more known I think that will also attract more students. I think that Campus Fryslân can really play a role in that as well.

Of course this is partly based on your whole time here in Leeuwarden and also your bachelor, but what is something you took a way from your Master here at Campus Fryslân?

To a certain degree I already got a lot of the content about tourism in my bachelor, but my master really helped a lot to broaden my mindset and knowledge. For example, the course on Nature, Landscape and Heritage really helped me to understand the region of Friesland and its emergence. This is also something that I really take with me in my new job. 

It also really helped me to find out what I really wanted to do. After my bachelor I really didn’t know what to do and after my master I had a lot clearer picture of that. All our fieldtrips, guest lectures and cooperation with local partners really helped with that. You get a lot more insights into the local policy and organisation perspective, than for example in my bachelor. That was really more focussed on the financial aspects, like for example big companies like Transavia. In my master we went to for example Holwerd aan Zee or the Frisian Social Planning Bureau, so this focus on local partnerships and also the networking aspect of this really helped me.

This is also something I noticed on the topic of sustainability. The focus in my bachelor was a lot more on global sustainability and the impacts of tourism worldwide, while my master focussed a lot more on the local impacts on society. In my bachelor we were talking about “Global Challenges”, but here at Campus Fryslân we talked about “Global Challenges, Local Solutions”, which is of course also the motto of the faculty. 

To end with, do you have any tips for prospective or current students? 

During my studies I did not yet knew what I wanted, while I noticed that a lot of my peers where putting a lot more effort into building a network or creating some ‘stepping stones’ for the future. Like for example volunteering or doing an internship with a company or organization they wanted to work with later. I would have wished that I would’ve done that a lot more during my studies, because I think this is really valuable when looking for a job afterwards as you learn a lot about the possibilities and chances within your work field. And there are a lot of possibilities for that during your master at Campus Fryslân, so I would really advise them to already do that and gather some experience in the field you want to work.