Kim Boes is an ambitious researcher who has just started a PhD exploring the field of smart tourism destinations - a subject area that, as yet, has seen very little research conducted. Her thesis, entitled: Smart tourism destinations: Smartness as a resource for the competitive tourism destination will look at destination as complex ecosystems and examine how the introduction of technology can create value.
She is clearly very passionate about her subject and has relished the opportunity to conduct research into this emerging sector of the tourism industry. She is still in the early stages of her research, having started her PhD in September 2014, and has found the support provided by the Graduate School very useful.
Kim explains that the courses on researcher development have been especially helpful: “The courses are designed for you to be flexible and to endorse those skills important for your research,” she says, but is keen to stress that this isn’t the only way to develop your research skills. “The more informal sessions within our school and across faculties offer different opportunities to exchange knowledge and ideas,” she adds.
Of course, her supervisors - Professor Dimitrios Buhalis and Dr Alessandro Inversini - have also had a significant impact not only on her research, but also her development as a researcher. “They have both supported me a lot and their collective knowledge, critical feedback and guidance have helped me greatly to develop as a researcher,” Kim tells us.
Her studies are being funded by the Council of Bournemouth and the National Coastal Academy, which Kim says has been a big support and allowed her to fully concentrate on her research, which may help change the way destinations deal with tourists.
“The notion of smartness, in which technology is a significant component, is a new concept,” Kim explains, adding that this concept has evolved following recent developments in technology “where integrated, interoperable and interconnected systems collect, analyse and store data to enhance innovation and collaboratively create value for all involved”.
This has resulted in the notion of smart cities and smart tourism destinations, enabling places to become more competitive by effectively utilising technology. She cites Barcelona, London and Amsterdam as three excellent examples, with these destinations now perceived as “the smartest cities in Europe”.
Kim intends to use these three examples as case studies to inform her research. “Since research on smart cities, smart tourism destination and smartness in this context is in its early stage, my doctoral study takes an exploratory research approach and adopts a qualitative research design,” she reveals.
“This topic is contemporary and can only be analysed and understood within its real-world context, where its boundaries are difficult to determine. This is why I plan to adopt a case study approach,” Kim states. Her aim is to look at how Amsterdam, Barcelona and London have embraced new technology and to evaluate the strategies they have each adopted.
Once she has collected sufficient data - through interviews, formal studies, news clippings and other sources - she intends to cross-reference these three destinations with a range of best practices utilised in other smart cities or tourism destinations.
“My doctoral study focuses on gaining an understanding of how smartness as a resource impacts the competitiveness of ecosystems in the context of tourism destinations,” she says. “In particular, it focuses on real-time open innovation and value co-creation on a micro and macro ecosystem level.”
Kim aims to be able to provide destination managers with a better understanding of what a smart city is, as well as give them guidance on best practice in integrating new technologies into their location and demonstrate how this can give them a competitive advantage.
“Understanding the different components of smartness provides insights on how to implement and utilise it in a way it creates value for all tourism destination stakeholders and the tourism industry in general,” she enthuses.
However, she is keen to point out that there is much more to doctoral study than the academic side of things, and recommends getting involved with the wider postgraduate community at BU. “Our very own PhD society organises various activities ranging from sports events to international dinners. This has given me the opportunity to socialise across faculties and with people of different nationalities, and to be included in activities outside of my research,” Kim enthuses.