Greetings from Penang from our TDM students

Greetings from Penang from our TDM students

04/23/2024 - 08:50

Our Master Tourism Destination Management students are currently midway through their three-month-long field research project in Australia and Asia. Currently, they are in Malaysia, actively engaging with local stakeholders to understand the developments in different research areas, while aiming to answer their second assignment question: what is most likely to happen within five years in Penang as a tourism destination?
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Our first week in Penang was rather eventful and the weather was much hotter compared to the mildness of the final days of summer in Melbourne. To familiarise ourselves with the destination, local guides took us on tours through The Habitat on Penang Hill, a part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and home to diverse species of mammals, birds, insects, and amphibians; and Georgetown, Penang’s ‘capital’ designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. Later in the day, we were hosted at DISTED College by Prof. Vik Nair, who delivered a presentation on the paradox of tourism growth in post-Covid Penang. It was also a nice opportunity for our students Karen, Dennis, and Thiago to present their findings from desk research on Penang to the rest of the class and engage in discussions with local students who joined us for the day.

On the second day, the presentations were held at the Penang Heritage Trust in Church Street, one of the protected streets of Georgetown. Here, we gained new knowledge of the rich multicultural heritage of Penang and its history during the spice trade and colonial era from the PHT President, Ms Lim Gaik Siang. Mr FC Chong, the Managing Director of HCM Hospitality, discussed developments in the hospitality industry, while Mr Allan Tan, the Managing Director of Habitat, and Ms Kim Theng, Marketing Officer at Penang Hill Corporation, shared information about various projects and activities taking place in Penang Hill. Their presentations gave us a wealth of insights but they left us a bit puzzled – do they want to attract ‘quality’ tourists? ‘Premium’ tourists? ‘Responsible’ tourists? ‘Cultural’ tourists? Maybe ‘luxury’ tourists? Or all of the above? These are just some of the questions the students are trying to answer through the ongoing conversation with stakeholders they have met so far, or are yet to meet.

Our third day took us to the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), where we were greeted by the Dean of the School, Prof. Mohd Rodzi Bin Ismail, and lecturer and programme leader, Dr Diana Binti Mohamad who gave us a presentation on their MSc programme in Tourism Development. Over a traditional (spicy of course) breakfast, students had the chance to interact with a group of USM doctoral students. Lara and Maarten shared their experiences of studying at BUas and their life in Breda through engaging presentations, highlighting the international character of the TDM programme. The highlight of the day was when we got to flex our muscles at a creative workshop, trying our hand at traditional Batik painting, and crafting our own souvenirs (thinking of the best ways to take them home undamaged).

It has been a challenging, yet exciting journey thus far. Commencing their fieldwork in an English-speaking, and somewhat familiar environment of Melbourne, the students transitioned to Malaysia, greeted by cultural differences, tropical heats, spicy foods, biting insects, stinging jellyfish, and mischievous monkeys stealing lunch from our plates. These new experiences, however, opened up new experiential horizons and allowed for new ways of learning - together with places, with people of those places, and with and from each other!

This journey has been a learning experience not only for the students but also for us lecturers. It was  wonderful to share with the students humid canopy walks, boat rides, hikes, flavours, dances and life stories outside the confines of the classroom. These moments strengthened us as a team and allowed us to grow, learn, understand, and needless to say, better support each other along the way.

Jumpa lagi!