Simple, yet so difficult to implement: Intercultural Management in Tourism – A Report of the DGT Annual Meeting

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“Intercultural Management in Leisure and Tourism” was the topic of the last annual meeting of the German Society of Tourism Research (DGT) to be summarised here.

As we have long been dealing with cross-border tourism development, it was of course interesting to hear what is being researched within the topic of intercultural management and how the findings are put into practice. I myself have drawn a comparison between three cross-border projects and potential pitfalls and presented success factors, which can generally be considered for cross-border tourism projects. In various presentations, the topic has been discussed from different points of view. It was noticeable that in virtually all lectures – as different disciplines and subjects were – it became clear that in practice and teaching the subject is not really present. And that in an per se internationally and interculturally oriented industry!

Overall enjoyable, I found that intercultural management was not understood as a mere “technique” or “method” or purely studied academically. Rather, most speakers emphasised that the basic setting of the characters combined with traditional management methods   represent the elementary factors of success.

It was shown to what extent European destinations and companies can plan for hosting Chinese (individual) tourists, by helping them learning to better understand their needs and eliminate existing prejudices. Ultimately, it comes to that the guests’ needs match the appreciation which we learn when traveling abroad and expect as well. Amazingly, this seems to be not self-evident.

Another topic was the work on tourism projects of development organizations in Southern Africa. Here it seems to be the norm that the needs of the people and companies will only find their way into projects when those match those of the organizations. Any other perspectives are rarely heard or implemented. The much acclaimed and underpinned with various models “participatory approach” often fails because it is not used consistently. In other words, the helpers often do not listen reasonably and openly.

Within the topic of “Trust as a success factor in business cooperation” it has been shown which economic significance the supposedly “soft” factor trust has. Often, not clearly with numbers quantifiable and verifiable factors are massively underestimated. This is a large entrepreneurial failure that occurs every day, even though it is preventable.

In summary, it shows that analysed from the speakers, the success factors in intercultural management are mainly the following:
• Appreciation
• Active listening
• Trust
As ordinary as it may sound, it is so important. For an appreciative dealing with our counterpart, active and unconditional listening as well as the absence of re-insurance in favor of a trusting business relationship requires a lot of energy, courage, concentration and openness. In the end, however, these are the qualities we need in tourism.

In this sense, I wish all readers a Happy New Year!

Link to the website of the Annual Meeting: http://www.dgt.de/

Author: Karsten Palme

I am Managing Director of COMPASS. I studied Geography of Economics and Tourism M.A. (RWTH Aachen) and I am certified trainer for innovation and management. My consultancy focus lies in destination management and tourism marketing with focus on cross-border cooperation. I also offer managementtraining and train-the-trainer-seminars. Economic Development: Cross-border co-operations, promotion of investments, city and location marketing, development of business clusters. Contact: palme@compass-cbs.de, tel. +49 (0)221 94339638

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