Co Design for Sustainable Tourism Development

Co-Design project outcomes for the tourism industry

Collaboration with the tourism industry was prioritised in two Danish contexts, based on already existing networks. One was the newly established Destination Lillebaelt, which covers Kolding, Fredericia and Middelfart municipalities. Destination Lillebælt serves to establish a Destination Management Organisation for the Lillebaelt area. The objective of the Destination Lillebaelt is to create 400 new jobs in the tourism and experience sectors by gathering and coordinating the stakeholders, and by initiating tourism development and marketing of the area by December 31, 2014. Sustainable tourism development is integral to all activities and the overall strategy of Destination Lillebælt. This involves, among other, the development and implementation of Nature Park Lillebaelt, which will be the first of its kind in Denmark. Destination Lillebælt is committed to the sustainable development of special interest tourism based on existing nature-based attractions such as whale watching, sea kayaking, diving, sailing, guided nature interpretation walks.

The tiny island of Fanoe, located in the Wadden Sea National Park, was the other context for the seed project. The independent municipality of Fanoe enjoys a long trajectory of working with the principles of sustainable development in everyday governance. Specifically, the project with Fanoe aimed to investigate how co-design could help create new relationships for sustainable tourism development between multiple stakeholders.

Destination Lillebælt hosted and guided an all-day field visit in September 2013, where students and researchers met with a number of industry representatives. An all-day field trip was also conducted to the island of Fanoe with a similar agenda. The fieldtrip also features a guided nature walk to expose students to how the municipality works with sustainable tourism development in a highly protected area. The municipality did not serve an active role in collaboration, but appeared to be a ‘shadow stakeholder’ on one of the two industry projects.
Based on site visits, students self-selected into groups divided along the respective industry partners. Two groups worked on Fanoe with Victoria’s Palace and Butcher Noerby.
In Destination Lillebaelt, the industry partners were Match Racing Denmark, Severin Kursuscenter, Hotel and Education Center, Slotssøbadet, Indoor Waterpark, Gl. Aalbo Camping, MoDaVi, Modern Danish Wine, and The Danish Museum of Ceramics.

Coordinated by Destination Lillebaelt, the director and project manager were instrumental in generating a high level of commitment and willingness by industry partaking in the co-design project. The project manager, a graduate of the SDU MSc in International Tourism and Leisure Management, noted that “it was pleasant to see that there is an obvious need for collaboration between the students and the industry” (Anders Johansen, Destination Lillebaelt).
The participating companies represented a selection of accommodation and experience providers, ranging from private companies with one employee, to a conference hotel with several employees. In general, the businesses were satisfied with the collaboration. They were less aware of what to expect, which was attributed due to a lack of upfront information about the theoretical skills of the students, best cases from prior collaborations, and an understanding of the role of researchers in the process.

The theoretical and analytical approach of the students initially contributed to a kind of mystery shopping outcome to the businesses. Students were seen as new customers in the individual businesses by which businesses gained valuable knowledge based on the observations made by the students.

The industry partners in general saw the co-design process as providing inspirational input to build new relations and generate novel ideas. For instance, Match Racing Denmark expressed their gain of new, international ambassadors from the project. Moreover, they identified a business opportunity by linking the University of Southern Denmark to Match Racing Denmark by means of teambuilding events, particularly aimed at new students. The Danish Museum of Ceramics gained valuable knowledge on their strengths and weaknesses. They were introduced to ways of attracting new segments, and utilising the vast network of volunteers.

The co-design proposals were successfully presented to industry partners, and to the Destination Lillebaelt board of directors in various forms. Destination Lillebaelt awarded the overall winner, the co-design group working with the Danish Museum of Ceramics, based on its innovative outcome and sustainable development propositions. (Read more in the Destination Lillebaelt News Letter).

In Fanoe, collaborations with industry partners, Butcher Noerby and Victoria’s Secret, have evolved into follow up projects, albeit with overlapping and different groups of tourism students. To Butcher Noerby, identifying new networks and business relations are tied to business plan development. The co-design project with Victoria’s Secret was centred on the involvement of Victoria’s Secret in a larger project on dissemination of cultural history, notable the Atlantic Wall of World War II. Uncovering conflicting and corresponding opportunities between public and private sector partners, a spin of student project is focused on the forms and content of contested heritage on the island of Fanoe.