Travellerspoint.com Announces Innovative Academic Global Tourism Research

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From September 15, visitors to the virtual travel community http://www.travellerspoint.com will be able to participate in a survey and win a free trip to Dubai and cash prize, courtesy of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Jebel Ali International Hotels Dubai and Travellerspoint. This unique international partnership of hospitality and tourism industry organizations was created in support of an academic research project which is conducted jointly by the University of Leuven, Belgium, and the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, the Netherlands.

As part of a PhD research project, Travellerspoint.com will be hosting a two month survey, measuring people’s perceptions of places they have never visited before. The project focuses on Dubai, one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. Dubai’s image will be compared to other places that are in some way similar or particularly contrasting. It includes tourist destinations such as: Canary Islands, Flanders (Belgium), Florida, Morocco, Singapore, the Netherlands and Wales.

The project is particularly ground-breaking as it applies cutting-edge qualitative research techniques on a global scale. In the survey, respondents will be asked to imagine that they are travelling to one of the case-study destinations. They will then be requested to describe in story format, what they think this travel experience would be like. Travellerspoint; with nearly half a million unique visitors a month and 20,000 members in over 200 countries; will, it is hoped, generate thousands of responses from all over the world. Until recently, it would have been virtually impossible to analyse such enormous quantity of qualitative data and a researcher would have had to wade through literally hundreds of thousands of words and code them. Then, to assure reliability of the results, at least two other colleagues would have had to go through the same process, creating serious time and man-power demands on limited resources.

However today, with computerised neural network content analysis software such as CATPAC, these types of constraints have been eliminated. With respondents submitting their written accounts online, the data is already in digital format, thus significantly reducing the time involved in data-entry and analysis, from several months, if not years, to only a few hours. To maximise response rates, all participants will be entered into a grand prize raffle draw to win a free holiday to Dubai, including: an economy class ticket from any KLM serviced point in the world, via Amsterdam to Dubai; 7 nights at a 5-star resort hotel with golf course, shooting club, horse riding stables, spa, various wet and dry sports facilities, marina and of course a sparkling white sandy beach. On top of that, Travellerspoint will offer EUR 500.- cash spending money if the winner is a Travellerspoint.com member.

The initiator of the project, Robert Govers, is currently employed as Tourism Economics Research Coordinator at the Flemish Centre for Tourism Policy Studies, which is funded by the Flemish minister for tourism. The Centre is part of the University of Leuven; the oldest and largest university in Belgium with over 28,000 students. As a former lecturer at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, Dubai, Mr. Govers has been working on the project for several years. The project is supervised by Professor Dr. Frank M. Go of the Centre for Tourism Management in the Netherlands. The Centre is part of the Rotterdam School of Management, which, according to BusinessWeek, is one of the premier non-US business schools in the world. Mr. Govers and Prof. Go, who has also worked in the US, Canada and Hong Kong, say that they are delighted with the enthusiastic support they are getting from some of these clearly visionary companies in the industry.

Samuel Daams, owner manager of Travellerspoint said: “We were immediately interested in hosting such innovate research study, as it fits with the vision and objectives of our company and will provide us with valuable insights into the way in which consumers create mental images of tourist destinations. In return for their efforts, we insisted on linking the survey to a raffle in order to offer our visitors, all avid travellers, the opportunity to win a free trip. We are therefore very pleased that KLM and Jebel Ali International Hotels were willing to donate such a great prize”. Leon Weerts, Regional Marketing Manager KLM Middle East: “We are happy to support this research. Sales and customer service on the internet is a major issue in the airline industry these days, so we are very interested in innovative online consumer behaviour research such as this”.

David Thomson, Director of Sales & Marketing, Jebel Ali International Hotels L.L.C.: “Being one of the major hospitality management companies in Dubai, of course we are interested to know what various international consumer groups think of Dubai before having ever visited it”. Dubai is investing heavily in tourism, with islands in the shape of palm trees; another cluster of 260 islands to form the shape of the world map; a US$ 5 billion plus Dubailand project, which will encompass over 45 leisure, entertainment and tourist facilities; plus a US$ 4 billion expansion of Dubai International Airport. It should be interesting to see what image this particular destination currently evokes in the minds of consumers around the world.

Note to Editors:

The Rotterdam School of Management is the business school of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Its mission is to be a leading international business school that creates, disseminates and applies managerial knowledge. The Rotterdam School of Management is guided by the future needs of international business and upholds professionalism, fair play and teamwork as central values (http://www.eur.nl/fbk).

The University of Leuven, or K.U. Leuven, Founded in 1425, is a Flemish University of Catholic signature with an international orientation. It has the legal statute of private institution. As a university it is an academic institution where research that opens up new horizons and knowledge transfer are both essential and complementary (http://www.kuleuven.ac.be). The Flemish Center for Tourism Policy Studies was established by the Flemish government in 2002 as a research unit of the K.U.Leuven to support the policies of the minister for tourism and to contribute to the professionalisation of the tourism industry (http://www.steunpunttoerisme.be).

Travellerspoint went live in August of 2002, giving birth to an international meeting point for travellers worldwide. 20 000 members from 200 countries actively participate in the community, using the numerous free services offered to plan their trips, keep loved ones updated while on the road and stay in touch with friends they met on their journeys once they return. (http://www.travellerspoint.com).

Jebel Ali International Hotels LLC is located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and encompasses Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa, Hatta Fort Hotel and Oasis Beach Hotel (http://www.jebelali-international.com ).

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is an international airline operating worldwide. Its home base is Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, one of the most modern airports in the world. KLM forms the core of KLM Group, other members being KLM cityhopper and Transavia. Through close cooperation with European and intercontinental network and route partners, KLM Group offers passengers and airfreight shippers more than 132,000 city-pair connections throughout the world directly or via one or more airports (http://www.klm.com).

For further information contact:

Robert Govers

Tourism Economics Research Coordinator

Flemish Center for Tourism Policy Studies University of Leuven

42, W. De Croylaan, B3001 Leuven, Belgium

Tel.: +32 (016) 322 794

Fax: +32 (02) 700 4045

E-mail: rgovers@geo.kuleuven.ac.be

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