Design Based Education in The Tourism Product module

By Lina Dafesh, Akke Folmer

In the first year Tourism Product module, which will run from April to June, Design Based Education will be used as the main educational concept. The students will innovate a tourism product (existing of products, services and experiences) in a responsible way, which adds value to one of these three organisations:

(1) The Afsluitdijk Wadden Center, a new visitor center about water management heritage of the Afsluitdijk, and its relationship with the natural environment around it;
(2) The Kazematten Museum at the Kornwerderzand, a visitor center about the military history of the Afsluitdijk; and
(3) Holwerd at Sea, a plan to make a hole in the Wadden Sea dike in order to improve the livability of this area by developing tourism and nature.

Picture 1: The New Afsluitdijk. Artist impression Waddenvereniging.

In small groups, the students will first analyze the tourism product (consisting of products, services and experiences) from the viewpoint of the tourist, by mapping the customer journey. Part of this is being a tourist themselves: searching information, travelling, observing, experiencing, analyzing and evaluating the tourist attraction. The students will visit the Afsluitdijk Wadden Center and the Kazematten Museum, or Holwerd on Sea. On the same day, they will explore the surroundings as well, for instance by visiting Dokkum. They will get a guided tour by our own lecturers: Peter Nonhof, Brigitte Nitsch and Bauke Folkertsma. We are also working on a presentation by the tour operator “Frisian Lake District Tours” who is attracting international tourists from Amsterdam to Friesland – via the Afsluitdijk.

In addition, the students will find out more about feelings, cognitions and actions of tourist by building ‘personas’, a qualitative way of investigating who the tourist is, and what his/her needs and wishes are. The Research I assignment is linked with this part of the assignment, as students will do interviews with (potential) tourists. Then the students will choose what part of the tourism product they would like to innovate. Their idea has to fit with what the tourist needs and wants, it should add value to the organization, and students need to take into account the social, economic and ecological impacts of their tourism product innovation. They will present their innovation at NHL Stenden. The representatives of the Afsluitdijk Wadden Center, the Kazematten Museum and Holwerd at Sea will be invited to these presentations.

Picture 2. New ways to experience the Wadden Sea at Holwerd at Sea?

As we are dealing with first year students, we will provide the theoretical framework  (customer journey mapping) and we will guide their learning process. However, the results of their innovations are not known beforehand, and there are no right or wrong ideas. Yet, the quality of their ideas do depend on their theoretical framework and learning process.

Students will also develop a website for a certain tourism destination of their own choice. The development and design of the website is not linked with the DBE assignment to innovate a tourism product, but this could be done in the future. The tourism product innovation assignment could be linked with promotion and marketing as well. Furthermore, these innovative projects offer many opportunities for crossovers with other disciplines, such as traffic and mobility studies, health care studies, animal studies, biology, economy, architecture, and cultural geography (livability, spatial planning).