Melise Rikels

Student Tourism Management

When Melise Rikel’s minor in Malaysia came to stop before it had even started, she had to rethink what she was going to do in her third year of International Tourism Management. Not wanting to delay her studies unnecessarily, a decision had to be made quickly – Melise started writing her dissertation. It won her the TUI-CELTH Sustainable Tourism Thesis Award!


”The grounding you get in writing reports means you are well-prepared to write your dissertation.”

“I'd only been in Malaysia a few weeks when I had to come back to the Netherlands. The COVID-19 pandemic had hit and brought a stop to my minor before it had even started. It was too late to take one of the minors in Leeuwarden and I really didn’t want to delay my studies, so we had to think of an alternative – and one was for me to write my dissertation. It’s unusual for a student to write their dissertation in the third year; there are all kinds of conditions to be met in terms of credits and supervision. The great thing was that as soon as the decision was taken, NHL Stenden worked quickly to make it possible. In no time, I had a dissertation supervisor and a research question.”

Experience-based research

“It was actually my trip to Malaysia that inspired the topic of my dissertation. When you book an intercontinental flight, there’s usually an option for compensating CO2 emission. For my flight to Malaysia, it was only about €12.50 for a return flight. So you can fly to the other side of the world and back and compensate it with just €12.50! It made me wonder how much people would be willing to pay.”

"We have to act sustainably in order for the tourism sector to survive."

“My research showed that consumers would be willing to pay more. I think there's an increasing realisation amongst tourists that there needs to be more attention paid to sustainability. It's long been one of the main topics in International Tourism Management and is covered throughout the programme. We have guest lectures on the UN sustainable development goals and sustainable tourism is integrated into all our assignments and projects. After all, we have to act sustainability in tourism in order for the sector to survive. Take, for instance, a site with ruins, if we don't ensure we look after the ruins and how tourists can visit them, then they will deteriorate and we'll lose both the ruins and the tourists.”

Flexible programme

“Writing my dissertation instead of taking a minor demanded a level of flexibility from the programme, but it went really well. I think that the grounding you get in writing reports means you are well-prepared to write your dissertation even before you need to write it. We have to write research reports and we're guided through them step by step, so, in the end, the dissertation is like a development of this process. I felt really supported the whole time and my assessors thought my dissertation was good enough for publication - but then I was tipped about the TUI-CELTH Sustainable Tourism Thesis Award. Again, I got a lot of support from NHL Stenden although it was still nerve-racking to enter as I knew I was up against 16 other really good dissertations. However, my dissertation was chosen as winner. I'm really proud of what I've achieved.”