Marine Wetlands are areas where land and sea converge. They are of inestimable value to the natural world, being home to many plant varieties (including a large number of rare varieties) and animal species. At the same time, they are also valuable to people because they provide food (including fish, crustaceans and shellfish) and because they offer protection against flooding. These areas are also attractive tourist spots, offering natural beauty, abundant space and pristine scenery that lends itself to relaxation and contemplation

The various uses of the area and the different interests at stake have given rise to public debate. The communities in the north of the Netherlands therefore have a need for practical research, which is where the Marine Wetlands Studies Department comes in. The Department, which was founded at the request of the Waddenvereniging (the Dutch Society for the Preservation of the Wadden Sea), is a partnership between Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen and NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. The former specialises in sustainability and climate awareness, while the latter focuses on tourism development in the region. Our research explores why tourists visit the Wadden Region, along with the behaviour they exhibit during these visits.


The Department has been involved in a number of different projects.

Correlation between visits to the Wadden Islands and development of tourism on the coast

The mainland of the Wadden nature reserve attracts a relatively small number of Dutch tourists compared with the number of people visiting the islands. Compared with the German coastal region, the Dutch Wadden Coast is barely developed at all, nor is there much tourist information available about the area. Our Department is conducting research into how to increase the appeal of the coast among a wider group of people.

Impact of the World Heritage Site nomination on tourism in the Wadden Sea Region

When the Wadden Sea was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was expected that this would boost tourism in the area. This status was actively promoted in Germany, and travel providers have even developed special World Heritage Site package deals. However, our research into the effect of the nomination showed that many visitors in the Netherlands were unaware of the region’s status as a World Heritage Site. The results of the survey were used to design future scenarios for the development of tourism in the northern part of the Netherlands.

Operationalising the term “sustainable tourism” in the Wadden Sea Region

On its designation of the Wadden Sea as a World Heritage Site, UNESCO recommended that the Netherlands and Germany pursue a strategy for the sustainable development of tourism in the Wadden Sea Region. We have investigated how sustainability is interpreted by the various tourist categories (businesses and government) and have concluded that this interpretation is by no means unambiguous. Nature preservation organisations also tend to have different perspectives on sustainable tourism. The research results were incorporated into the international draft of the UNESCO recommendation.

Natural assets of the Wadden Sea in relation to the development of tourism and recreation

One of the members of the Research Group, Akke Folmer, has researched the role of natural assets in tourism in the Wadden Sea Region as part of her PhD thesis, concerning the role of wildlife in the locality of visitors to the region. Her research is based in part on a large-scale survey conducted in 2011 in conjunction with the Department among participants in nature excursions.

Tourism development and management of the Wadden Sea

Large numbers of visitors can pose a threat to vulnerable natural areas, and besides, some tourists undermine the assets that make the area appealing to other tourists. Good organisation is essential when it comes to managing the region with any degree of effectiveness. During 2012 and 2013, we conducted research into the need for tourist development in the region as a whole and the management objectives based on the applicable policy, and examined to what extent they are compatible with one another.

Cooperation and education

Our research involves the efforts of many different partners. We work together with other departments researching tourism and hospitality and with peer lecturers working in the north of the Netherlands who study the sustainable development of the Wadden Sea Region. One of our other key partners is the Wadden Academy, a research institution devoted to the Wadden nature reserve.

We also make a point of involving students in our research. The Department of Marine Wetlands Studies is affiliated with the degree programme in Leisure and Tourism Management. If you are currently a student in this course and take an interest in the Wadden Sea Region, we would like to invite you to get involved in our research. We invite students for all our research projects. You will also be studying the marine wetlands in your classes, as the findings of the research are incorporated into the curriculum.

Future research

We presented a new Department plan following a positive evaluation of the Department in 2014. Based on this plan, the Boards of Governors of Hanze University of Applied Sciences and NHL Stenden have decided to extend the term of the professorship, and the two universities of applied sciences intend to start working more closely together over the next professorship period. The focus is the following line of research, which is consistent with our previous projects:

'How do visitors and residents of the Wadden Region interpret the assets offered by the area and how, given the various spatial changes proposed for the Wadden coast, can the appeal and quality of life in the area be improved?'

We intend to research various questions.

  • What spatial concepts have been developed based on various sectoral interests for the Wadden mainland coast?
  • What significance or sense of place do residents of the Wadden region attribute to their area and how does the UNESCO World Heritage Site status of the Wadden Sea affect this?
  • How do visitors to the Wadden Coast interpret the value of the Wadden Sea as a World Heritage Site and how can this be translated into new ideas for tourism and recreation?
  • With this knowledge, what integrated and mixed-use spatial concepts may be developed for the Wadden Coast based on the principles of Integrated Coastal Zone Management?

Research Group

The Professor of Applied Sciences heading the Research Group is Hans Revier, MSc, with the other members including lecturers from NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. They teach in the various degree programmes and are engaged in practical research work.


NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences
Academy of Leisure & Tourism
Postbus 1298

Rengerslaan 8-10
NL-8900 CG Leeuwarden, the Netherlands

Administrative Assistant in the Marine Wetlands Department: Ms C. Pafforaad

T: +31 (0)58 244 13 83

Office Manager ESR/Academisation Office: Ms Sonja Schuil
T: +31 (0)6 19281329

Team members

  • Hans Revier