Tourism as Work -research project
18th December, 2009
The research project was grounded on a change occurring simultaneously in tourism and working life in terms of a shift from the saliency of know-how, experience, and professional identity toward performance, experiencing, and flexible, precarious work. In both tourism and society as a whole, audience effects have become an important key to success and survival. In Finnish Lapland, where the tourism industry has succeeded better than in the neighboring countries but which is also a periphery on the global scale, the impact of tourism on the economic and social wellbeing of its inhabitants is central – especially as the region is burdened with factories shutting down and the number of jobs traditionally occupied by men decreasing. Tourism provides possibilities, but at the same time it poses challenges to local nature, culture, lifestyle, relations between the sexes, and also local and global "logics of earning".
Four senior researchers participated in the project: Seija Tuulentie, Jarno Valkonen, Anu Valtonen, and Soile Veijola (project leader). The following persons worked on their doctoral thesis in the project: Minni Haanpää, Maria Hakkarainen , Mika Kylänen, and Outi Rantala. Hakkarainen and Kylänen were funded by the Finnish Academy, and Haanpää and Rantala worked as assistants in tourism studies. Two pro gradu theses were written in the project – one by Leena Hakkarainen in tourism research and one by Antti Pakkanen in sociology. Katja Seppinen and Veera Kinnunen are still working on their theses. Also two research amanuenses, Sanna Kyyrä and Tiina Pirttijärvi, performed preliminary analyses in the project. The project had several cooperation partners from different countries and representing different fields.
The purpose of the project was to generate information on tourism as work, occupations, skills, and a target of socio-political decision making and business applications.
The targets of observation and the operating principles according to which the researchers formed smaller research groups within the project were
- reconciliation of tourism work and traditional work
- tourism work viewed as gendered performances and an intermediary of our relationship with nature
- tourism work as a cultural competency.
Key words: tourism, work, information, nature tourism, identity, local community, tourism experience, Lapland, cultural studies, sociology, marketing
The following issues were accomplished in the project:
- The doctoral theses written in the project were supervised in the project’s own research seminars and in each writer’s three-person supervisory group meetings; in addition, the doctoral students organized and participated in international conferences, education seminars of their respective fields, and benefited from courses of the Graduate school of the University of Lapland.
- A writing contest on tourism-related vocational biographies in Lapland was arranged, and based on the received material a book for the general public and the industry was made: Jarno Valkonen and Soile Veijola (eds.) Töissä tunturissa. Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia matkailutöistä, 2007 (At Work in the Fells. Thoughts and Experiences on Tourism Work, 2007).
- The research materials were gathered by interviewing tourism workers, by observing, by participating in tourism work and training, and through the methods of action research
- The materials were analyzed through qualitative methods such as rhetorical analysis, ethnography, semiotic narration analysis, and discourse analysis.
- By the end of 2009, the results of the studies carried out in the project were published as follows: ten international referee articles (another three submitted) and four national referee articles, two anthological books, two other international articles, and one joint article by the project members. Several other articles are under construction in 2010.
- Together with its cooperation partners the project arranged five (5) international conferences and researcher meetings and two (2) domestic working groups at international science days
- The project leader gave six (6) international keynote presentations on the topic of her research; the group members gave 25 presentations at international science forums. Five (5) scientific presentations and five (5) presentations on working life were given in Finland.
- The project invited eight (8) foreign researchers either to pay a researcher visit or to act as a keynote speaker at conferences (UK, USA, New Zeeland, Norway).
- The research results were integrated into the teaching of over twenty (20) lectures, and one outcome was the mandatory study unit Tourism as Work and as a Profession in advanced tourism studies and the associated research-related literature sets.
- The project’s web pages were updated throughout the project; at the end of the project they were renewed to offer information on the research results and to function even better than before as a conveyor of information related to the topic.
- The research results were popularized by publishing them in six (6) newspaper articles and in a Lapin Kansa newspaper’s blog and column maintained by the group members.
- Together with the University of Lapland Library, the project started a pilot project on a project-specific library contact person, involving a dedicated librarian who took part in the project from the very beginning, followed up its information needs, and enhanced the availability of project-related research literature and databases (librarian Tapani Takalo).
The project communicated its activities and research results through its own web pages, by taking part in the joint Experience Club of LEO (Lapland Centre of Expertise for the Experience Industry) and the University of Lapland, by establishing a researchers’ blog (Matkailu avartaa ajattelua / Tourism Broadens your Thinking) in the Lapin Kansa web magazine Hetki.fi, by renewing its web pages at the end of the project to meet the information needs of both the academic work community and the surrounding society, by writing articles in newspapers, by giving interviews to the media, and by publishing a Finnish book on tourism work. The book was aimed for the general public and it came out first in print and later as a web book.
- Updating the web pages with respect to research and training on the subject matter
- Starting up further projects with foreign and regional cooperation partners
- Planning training packages to be used by various educational levels and by the business life and societal decision making
- Three monographs (Valkonen, Rantala, Veijola) and four doctoral theses (Haanpää, Hakkarainen, Kylänen, and Rantala) between 2010 and 2012.
- Writing a manuscript for a play on the basis of the research results
The results of the project can be applied also in the future for example as follows:
- Projects on wellbeing at work in the tourism industry and corresponding fields of working life
- Practices of tourism work management
- Planning and implementing interactive tourism products
- Safety of tourism experiences, especially in nature tourism
- Tourism-related education and pedagogy at different educational levels and in further education
The project’s societal impact can be assessed as follows:
- The project enriched multidisciplinary cultural studies on tourism, opened up a connection between research on work and research on tourism and free time, and strengthened interaction between the research traditions of business life and society with respect to tourism
- In the context of tourism in Lapland the project articulated joint objects of interest between research, working life, and the public sector and promoted interaction between actors from the previous fields
- The project activated the villagers of Lokka to examine the changing livelihoods in the region and the possibilities of tourism as part of the business structure. This is demonstrated by the project Lokka as a Stage of Change, funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
- The project widened in a significant way the perspective on the load and challenges of nature tourism work by demonstrating for example a safari worker’s responsibility in both customer work and safety issues.
- The project enabled to pay attention, both in international tourism research and in the tourism industry, to workers’ wellbeing and role in the production of tourist experiences.
- The book At Work in the Fells was utilized in the induction of new recruits at the Tunturi-Lapin työvoimatoimisto employment office.
- In view of the objectives of the newly established Lapland Institute for Tourism Research of the Lapland Higher Education Consortium, the project was a good example of the convergence of academic research and the information needs of working life as well as the organizational prerequisites and challenges related to this convergence.