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Will Tourism Survive in a Changing World?

The international graduate student conference organized by the Master's Programme in Experience Economy, ‘Sustainable Tourism Development in the Changing World’ which took place from February 5-6 at HSE St. Petersburg, was a forum for the discussion of new approaches in researching the tourism and hospitality industries for young researchers from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Petrozavodsk, and South Korea.

Creating Tourist Images

The conference was opened by Professor Athinodoros Chronis from California State University Stanislaus, with his lecture 'Making tourism destinations more attractive through creating tourist images'. Taking as his example Gettysburg, a small town in Pennsylvania, which experienced the horrors of the American Civil War, Professor Chronis explained the concept behind how tourist images and impressions are built, and focused attention on the often seemingly insignificant values inherent in tourism destinations, their inevitable association with space and the material world.

Introducing his concept of ‘imagineering’ the Professor gave speakers in the ‘Imagineering and Reimagineering of tourist destinations’ the opportunity to enjoy a new perspective on opportunities to make tourist destinations more attractive: working with tourists to create or produce (or involving tourists in the creation or production of) tourist products, using the imagination, creating memorable impressions involving people’s key values and concepts.

During the first ‘Imagineering and Reimagineering of tourist destinations’ session, Elena Chicherina (HSE St. Petersburg) used St. Petersburg as an example of the role played by creative spaces in territory branding, Yulia Shulyatieva (HSE St. Petersburg) looked at the ways in which art-galleries can be used in creating a city’s image, Svetlana Knyazeva (HSE St. Petersburg) looked at creating a gastronomic brand for a city, and in the case of St. Petersburg, suggested developing ‘gastronomic tourist sites’ in promoting the city’s image.

How to Adapt Tourism to Different Needs

The second part saw Northern Arctic Federal University (Arkhangelsk) students Valeria Gladkaya and Elvira Kruchinina present their research on eco-tourism in the Arctic, explaining that it is vital to focus on solving the complex environmental problems faced by the Arctic. Yulia Kamaeva, a graduate student at HSE studying history, brought new energy to the discussion, noting that the small cities and towns around Moscow in the ‘Golden Ring’ are promoted not through their history, but through folk tales and epic tales, while historical exhibits are underfunded and subject to temporary closure. Sergei Tvilik, from the Northern Arctic Federal University (Archangelsk)’s presentation argued that there is a vital need to adapt tourist services to differently-abled people. Ekaterina Tsarapina (HSE) and Natalia Polkanova (HSE) focused participants’ attention on the need to study on-location tourism. They analyzed the attractiveness for Russian people of various different tourist sites in Spain.

The section ‘New approaches in Tourism and Hospitality research’ involved reports on festivals, environmental awareness in the tourism context, and how welcoming places are (backpackers and hotels). Presentations on festivals were given by researchers from South Korea’s Kyung-Hee University, Moon Yuzhin and Sim Seung, and by HSE graduate student Elena Elkanova. Elena stressed the particular difficulties encountered in organizing staff during festivals.

The South Koreans outlined their analysis of how attractive the sand sculpture festival in St. Petersburg was, and shared their quantitative research methodology. Han Yuong, Park Jong and Kim Chulwong from Kyung-Hee University looked at environmental behavior by measuring the environmental impact of using disposable crockery during sporting and cultural events.

Innovations in Tourism and Hospitality

The researchers plan to use GPS systems to track waste produced by tourists at home and while visiting sporting and cultural events.  A presentation by Anna Korelina from HSE looked at attracting consumer interest and creating value in hospitality, and measuring consumer satisfaction, while the presentation by Park Jong and Kwak Yong Hye from Kyung Hee University gave an overview of their research into tourist destinations’ image among backpackers.

The STEP conference concluded with a session on ‘Innovations in tourism and hospitality’. Although not all participants were able to present their reports, those who came and gave presentations had the opportunity to discuss their projects in detail. All the subjects raised generated significant interest among the audience.

The first report by St Petersburg State University student Sofia Tilinina, ‘Gastronomic startup. The concept of its integration into the business space of youth entrepreneurship’ was dedicated to a new initiative to develop business incubators at the university to support projects in the restaurant business sector. As gastronomic projects are becoming increasingly popular among tourists, and students also find them interesting as entrepreneurial initiatives, creating new forums where young entrepreneurs have the opportunity to test their skills was indeed an interesting idea.

The second presentation by students from the HSE Sociology Faculty Polina Zolotareva, Kirill Makarov, Diana Fatkhudinova, and Alexei Spirina ‘Couchsurfing as a socio-antropological aspect of hospitality’ also sparked a lively discussion. As a phenomenon, couchsurfing offers a new take on mobility and travel, particularly for younger generations. Not much research has been done into the motivation behind people swapping homes while they travel, about what builds trust for people who had until then been strangers and prompts them to welcome them into their homes or set off on an adventure. On the basis of a survey of Russian couchsurfers, the researchers were able to formulate several hypotheses as to how this form of tourism connects with people of a particular lifestyle or value structure, supporting relations and rules within the couchsurfer community. This subject raised significant interest among the audience, particularly regarding its development potential.

The third report, by Olga Gachkova, a second year student at HSE St. Petersburg studying the Economy of Impressions looked at issues relating to the adoption and use of IT as an innovative product for museums. The broader trend of technological modernization in museums is viewed as creating a material base for their development, and creating new museum products and content. The main development trends and limits from the producers’ point of view, i.e. IT companies, and from the customers’ point of view, i.e. the museums, to this form of innovation were examined in the report.

It is important to note that one of the conference’s significant results was not only the broad range of subjects considered in the presentations, but also the outstanding level of knowledge of the English language displayed by participants and audience alike. In addition, all those who gave talks had the opportunity to receive feedback to their work – be it how the research question is phrased, the methodology used, or the possible further development of the subject under consideration. We are very grateful to all participants in the conference, wish them success with their projects as they continue to work to develop them, and hope that this collaboration will continue. Participants’ theses will be collated and published on the website in the near future.

By Ksenia Kuzmina, Marina Matetskaya

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