What do you expect from me!?

What do you expect from me!?

02/07/2024 - 08:06

Impact. That’s ultimately what the Tourism Impact Lab minor is all about. But how exactly does that work? I asked tourism student Femke and client Sharon. They have worked together intensively for almost six months in the learning community called Tourism Impact Lab.

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I spoke to Femke and Sharon immediately after the Tourism Impact Lab minor’s Showcase Event on 24 January. They had just returned from the chapel on the Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUas) campus where the students presented their results to various clients.

The Showcase Event is over?
‘Thankfully, yes,’ Femke laughs, ‘it was actually over quite quickly, in the end you have just 12 minutes to give your presentation!’

Prior to those 12 minutes, a lot happened. Back in September, the kick-off took place. You can think of it as a kind of speed-dating session between students and companies. Sharon works for one of those companies, she is Team Lead Supply NL at Goboony. Not so long ago, she was a tourism student herself and now she sits at the table in the role of client.

What was it like to be on the other side of the table?
‘I experienced it all myself,’ says Sharon, ‘so I easily empathise with students. I went through the same process as them.’

‘And you really notice that!’ Femke responds enthusiastically. ‘Sharon gets it. She knows exactly what we need to do.’

Sharon graduated from BUas in 2021 and also did an assignment for Goboony as a student in the context of Tourism Impact Lab.

‘Something with campers, that’s right up your street, the lecturer said.’

Why is ‘something with campers’ right up your street?
‘I was once the youngest camper site owner in the Netherlands,’ laughs Sharon. ‘I was 15 or so when I had to write a business plan for school. I read in one of my father’s magazines that there was a shortage of campervan pitches in the Netherlands, which is how the idea was born. I also carried out the plan, on the grounds of my family’s farm in Zevenhoven.’

So during her studies, Sharon chose Goboony, ‘the Airbnb of campervans’. She went there to graduate and ended up ‘sticking around’, as she puts it.

‘That’s one of the great advantages of Tourism Impact Lab, the network you build. And that you can choose something that connects to what you like. I thought Goboony was super fun even then. It’s a start-up, a lot of young people work there and students are very valuable to us.’

Why are students in particular so valuable?
‘Students can grow along with a company, they are agile. We like hiring students from BUas. We have good experiences with them. The type of student suits our company; tackling things, quick to find their way around the organisation. Students from other universities of applied sciences tend to be more ‘on the theory side’, having very theoretical mindsets. It may sound strange, because I graduated not long ago myself, but we like working with students because they have a fresh outlook.’ 

‘We are trained in that,’ Femke laughs, ‘to think differently. And yet in practice it is difficult. When speed dating, I was thinking all the time, I have to ask questions that the others don’t ask. Most students ask what the company stands for and so on, I think I asked: what do you expect from me!?’ 

‘Femke asked good questions, I soon realised that, I wrote her name down right away too,’ says Sharon. ‘I mean, after all, we as a company are having a kind of ‘sales pitch’ at these speed-dating sessions. And in the end, it does matter that there is a good match.’ 

‘Goboony was in my top 3,’ says Femke, ‘I really wanted to do that assignment. How cool, then, is it when you actually get chosen!’

‘Quite so! As students, we weren’t allowed to put together our own group, because the company chooses five students who get to do the assignment together. So yes, very exciting, is the click there with the other students or not?’ 

‘I have sometimes experienced a group not going so well,’ says Sharon, ‘there were too many internal struggles between them, that takes a lot of time and energy they can’t put into the project. This is not ideal, but it’s just part of it all, it’s good preparation for real life.’ 

‘True,’ says Femke, ‘working together in a group like that is really a learning process. The good thing about that combo of students is that you get a varied mix. Just look at our minor class, where we have students from Tourism, Leisure & Events, Hotel and even from HZ University of Applied Sciences (in the province of Zeeland, eds.) as well as several internationals.’

And Femke, you are a Student Ambassador, so you give presentations about the study programmes of BUas. What do you tell prospective students about Tourism Impact Lab?
‘I talk about the principle of the learning community and how it works. That it involves working together with a company to come up with a solution to an issue of that company. And that, as a student, you really add value! The fact that this company takes time for you and listens to you just feels so good.’ 

‘I see it as a kind of graduation with a group,’ says Sharon, ‘and that’s good preparation for the student’s real graduation.’ 

‘That’s right,’ says Femke, ‘you are not a placement student assisting in the daily work; you do real research. At first I wondered, does a company really need that? But it turns out that they really do. Sharon absolutely took ample time for us.’ 

How much time does it cost a client?
‘The duration is about five months,’ says Sharon, ‘during that period you usually have one meeting per week with the students. That way you can make timely adjustments if necessary - after all, it is a learning process. The students work together on the BUas campus, at home or in the office, you make agreements about that in advance. By the way, there has to be some budget too, to create a prototype, for example.’

What did you learn from each other?
‘I learned a lot about Goboony’s onboarding process,’ says Femke, ‘the steps advertisers have to go through in order to rent out their campervans through Goboony. Together with Fleur, Nina, Tim and Jaëlle, I researched how to optimise this process. It’s mainly learning to apply what you’ve learned previously in your study programme. And what I said, Sharon understands exactly what the intention is, her guidance and supervision were superb!’

‘Above all, I learned yet more about our customers,’ says Sharon. ‘The students did a thorough review of our customers, brought the theory back in. Our company has grown so fast that we don’t always have the time to explore things in depth, for example the customer journey.’ 

And what impact did the students ultimately make for Goboony?
‘The students’ advice is mainly going to contribute to making the process smoother for advertisers, because the students’ solution has a higher degree of automation. Every question an advertiser has to answer at intake will be linked to a button with a short info section. This tells you what you need to know to answer the question correctly. For us, it means that we will soon receive far fewer calls with questions about the application procedure for camper rental suppliers. And that means a lower risk factor, because the experience feels right for the customer. We will definitely implement the advice.’ 

‘You also have to show the client what the solution might eventually look like,’ Femke explains, ‘so we worked out our advice with the buttons into a prototype. And you also have to test whether it all works. In the end, we only had two weeks for that, so we had to shift gear quickly before the Christmas holidays!’

‘Coordinating schedules between school and company is not always easy,’ Sharon explains, ‘so the minor itself is still learning too. As a client, we provide feedback after each new round, so that together we can make Tourism Impact Lab’s way of working ever so slightly better.’ 

The Showcase Event is behind you. What are you going to do now, Femke?
‘Graduate! I know how to do it now,’ Femke laughs. ‘I’m going to graduate with BUas’ Sustainability professorship. I really liked my placement and the Tourism Impact Lab assignment, because they were both very practical. Now I want to move up to a slightly higher level of research. I like to dive back into the books to learn new theories.’ 

And you, Sharon, will you join Tourism Impact Lab again next time?
‘Definitely! I learn from the students every time. As it happens, two students from Femke’s group are going to graduate with us. We always have plenty of issues!’ 

If you have an interesting case for our students to work on, please contact Martijn Smeenge via smeenge.m@buas.nl.