The division of Tourism, Hospitality and Events recently travelled to Berlin for four days with its first-year students, Dr Dan Wright and Dr David Jarratt. The aim of this educational visit was to expose students to an on-trend city break destination which hosts various forms of culturally based tourism and events. According to Lonely Planet,
‘Berlin's combo of glamour and grit is bound to mesmerise anyone keen to explore its vibrant culture, cutting-edge architecture, fabulous food, intense parties and tangible history.’
Based upon our experience, we have to agree (except perhaps for the parties). Furthermore, Berlin’s visitor economy is a growth area and a priority for the city. Berlin's governing mayor, Michael Müller, describes tourism as a success story which is,
‘…an important economic factor for our city and an important element for promoting our culture.’
During the first full day of the trip, the Tourism, Hospitality & Event Management students took a city walking tour. This started with a visit to the top of the TV Tower, formerly of East Berlin, to enjoy panoramic views of the city’s skyline. The tour encompassed key tourism attractions such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the Jewish memorial. The tour also included less obvious attractions varying from an incredible chocolate shop to the flats which mark the site of Hitler’s bunker. The tour was kindly led by Asaf Leshem, a UCLan PhD student in Dark Tourism and professional tour guide in Berlin.
The second day featured a graffiti / street art and walking tour and workshop. Students learnt how to make their own street art and gained insights into this distinctive arts movement, which has become part of the fabric of Berlin as well as an increasingly significant element of its alternative/cultural tourism offer. One student, Paulina, said: “I have been to Berlin many times, but it was interesting to explore the alternative tourist attractions in Berlin like the graffiti tour. It was an amazing eye opening experience.” Evening entertainment included a mixture of theatrical displays and restaurant experiences. The students particularly enjoyed the ‘Blue Man
Group’ show, which has now been seen by over 25 million people worldwide. This popular but left-field show is comedic, musical and visually stunning. It relied on mime and so could be appreciated by an international audience. Even those students with conservative tastes appreciated the unique experience / USPs it offered – something which is often stressed in our classrooms when we discuss the experience economy.
Opposite the Blue Man Group theatre is a venue associated with the Berlin Film festival, The Sony Centre, which was another point on our itinerary. It contains a mixture of restaurants, shops, a conference centre, hotel rooms, luxurious rented suites, art and film museums, cinemas, and an IMAX theatre. Here the whole group indulged in a meal at the Lindenbräu restaurant. On the menu, local specials, regional delicacies and German beer which is brewed on site. The Hospitality students, in particular, were in their element.
Part of the visit to Berlin included the investigation of destination and place branding. Students were not only required to physically explore places on this trip, but to reflect upon their own sense of place and relate this to destination branding. This was facilitated through various individual and group activities in a ‘Sense of Place Workshop’ run by David and Dan on the third day. The workshop culminated in the students devising, presenting and defending their proposals for a new place brand for Berlin. This work will prove invaluable when they come to study cultural tourism and events, the experience economy, place branding and marketing in the future. The venue for this workshop was interesting in itself, it was the NHOW conference centre and hotel – apparently, Europe’s first ‘musical hotel’.
The afternoon of the third day allowed the students some free time to explore, with some visiting the Olympic Stadium, and others preferring museums such as the DDR, the Topography of Terror, or the infamous Bodyworlds exhibition. On the fourth day, the weather cleared up and the group returned home!
David Jarratt commented: “Dan and I think that this was a great visit for the students who not only learnt about various aspects of the experience, cultural and visitor economy, but also bonded and developed a stronger sense of group belonging. All of this should help them on their journey through the next two or three years on their Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management programmes. We’d like to thank our Division and School for supporting this invaluable trip.”