Claudia Dolezal has extensive experience in studying, working, research and teaching in the field of tourism in different contexts and countries, especially in developing countries. Her particular passion is researching and teaching the power of tourism for development and poverty reduction in rural areas in developing countries, as well as studying tourism as a social phenomenon, especially tourism for social change, using anthropological methods. Her areas of expertise are: Tourism for Empowerment, Sustainable Tourism, Community-based Tourism, Tourism & Development, Tourism Policy, Tourism & Social Change, Tourism and Social Entrepreneurship, Tourism and SDGs, Tourism and Destination Management, and Encounters in Tourism.
The international atmosphere at the university was special.
What Claudia Dolezal found most special about her studies at the IMC Krems was the international atmosphere at the university and the excellent links to both industry and partner universities. The IMC Krems has a great international network, which she used both for her internship in Spain and for studying abroad in Thailand. Particularly the latter significantly shaped her career as she started researching tourism in Southeast Asia from then onwards.
She decided for an academic career
Dr Dolezal completed her PhD at the University of Brighton, focusing on unravelling the power relations in community-based tourism in rural Bali to understand the possibilities for the empowerment of local residents and a more sustainable development on the island. She decided to pursue an academic career first of all because she really enjoyed the MSc in Tourism and International Development that she had previously completed at the University of Brighton. Secondly, she has always been a curious mind and eager to learn, with a passion for reading, writing and engaging with complex materials to answer some of the key questions that arise for her personally in her day to day life and also when she travels. Dr Dolezal sees herself as a critical person and academia offers the right environment for that.
She asks key questions on how to manage destinations
She focuses her teaching on modules that engage with tourism from a destination, geographical and anthropological perspective, asking key questions on how to manage destinations to ensure a sustainable development in all aspects (economically, environmentally and socio-culturally) that suits the respective destination. Her utmost aim at all times is to make students understand the role that tourism plays for destinations and societies around the globe – going beyond a merely economic perspective. Tourism is more than an industry, it is also a social phenomenon. Another key competence of hers is research methods – particularly qualitative methods are something where her PhD experience really enabled an in-depth understanding over the years. She very much enjoys getting students interested in research as it is not only important for an academic career, but for many jobs in the industry, too.
She put a lot into both: Teaching and research
The teaching and research position she had at the University of Westminster for the past 5 years was a great opportunity that she applied for and was then lucky enough to progress to the interview. Dolezal successfully convinced the panel and worked hard over the years, putting a lot of effort into both teaching and research and was therefore promoted to Senior Lecturer. It was a great, dynamic and extremely collegial place to work in and she definitely left with one crying but also one smiling eye.
She felt a strong desire to return to her homeland
Dr. Dolezal has decided to return to the IMC Krems due to various reasons. First of all, she was ready for a life change and a new challenge. Over the past years she felt a strong desire to return to her homeland and be closer to family and friends. At the same time, during her time in London, she also remained connected to the IMC Krems through the alumni meetings that the IMC organized in the UK capital on a regular basis. Returning to the IMC was definitely the right decision for her – she believes that the IMC is a University that combines a highly global and international outlook with local roots and projects. Dr Dolezal felt like this was the perfect environment to explore global-local sustainability connections, particularly in a time where we have probably all returned to revalue the local. She was ready to pack the international network and experience she have gained over the years into her backpack so to say, and bring it with her to the IMC Krems to make a positive contribution here.
She believes that the current times create several challenges but also opportunities
Obviously, the key challenge lies in enabling destinations and residents to ‘survive’ in times of COVID-19 – so many livelihoods around the planet depend on tourism, particularly in developing countries, where it is often difficult to find alternatives to tourism income. Further challenges lie in enabling social distancing in the destination but also on planes – both without compromising profitability but also the tourist experience. It is mostly international tourism that suffers from this crisis and it will be a huge challenge to revive this sector. With many airlines having gone bankrupt and the opening and closing of borders changing on a daily basis, travelling internationally has become extremely difficult. Many people are staying at home and governments and destinations are rethinking the way destinations are managed and the products that are offered. Domestic tourism is suddenly becoming a sector that is more important than ever before - not just Austria but other countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Russia or New Zealand (to mention a few) are asking their resident population to explore their backyard now. It is hard, however, to make this a true alternative for countries that depend nearly entirely on the international visitor, particularly when their local infrastructure is built to serve the international tourist. This is also where the opportunity lies, though. Destinations are now starting to realise that they need to be sustainable and good places to live in (or visit for residents) rather than just to visit for international tourists. This is an opportunity to rethink how we do business and recalibrate tourism, the way we travel and the products that destinations offer. Overtourism and the flight shame movement have shown us prior to COVID-19 that hyper-consumption and hyper-mobility have compromised sustainability. Destinations such as Maya Bay and Boracay Island have been shut to tourists – now, we are seeing many destinations around the world ‘recover’, however, we should not forget how important financial income is, even for vulnerable destinations.
This is the time to be creative and think out of the box
Whether anything will really change to the better, however, or whether we will repeat the same mistakes as previously (potentially in more rural areas) will remain to be seen. However, Dolezal does believe that people started to rethink their travel choices and that products will be adapted. This is the time to be creative and think outside the box – a key skill that the tourism managers of the future need to have. In her lectures she will definitely cover topics such as the above and also look at how the role of destination/tourism managers and experts will change in the future. Their role is more crucial than ever before given that tourism will not cease to exist in the years to come. Previous crises have shown that it is a resilient industry than can bounce back, however, it is the duty of all of us working in the industry to think of new and different ways to manage and understand tourism. Dr Dolezal is convinced that tourism professors are aware of those challenges and necessary skillset and ready to equip students for a career in an industry that is dormant at the most but will never vanish.