The second year of my studies at Wageningen University included an 8-month internship at Bureau BUITEN (October 2010-May 2011), a notable consultancy firm in Utrecht (the Netherlands) specialized, among other fields, in the leisure- and tourism economy in the Netherlands.
The objective of the internship was to make an inquisition into the development and redevelopment of hospitality businesses in protected natural areas in the province of Utrecht. These businesses were all located within the “Ecologische Hoofdstructuur” (EHS, quite literally translate: Ecological Head Structure) which is a network of existing and projected nature areas in the Netherlands. The study relied on a statistical analysis of data from public and private sources, as well as interviews with the stakeholders involved. The resulting report served to advice municipalities that deal with policy and regulatory frameworks related to the EHS in the Netherlands, in particular in relation to their tourism development strategies.
This internship position was created in order to assist in a joint project with the Advisory Committee Recreation and Tourism, Province of Utrecht (Adviescommissie Recreatie en Toerisme). This Committee advises municipalities and hospitality businesses on the development and redevelopment of hospitality businesses in protected natural areas in the province of Utrecht, the Netherlands. The assignment included an investigation into the acquisition of unprofitable recreational real estate by development companies in the past two decades, and the resulting privatization of such real estate. The aim of the assignment was to explore how this development affected the recreational sector in social, economic and environmental ways. The means to address this research objective was threefold and included a:
- spatial analysis through GIS;
- quantitative analysis of all recreational objects and businesses through secondary data and surveys;
- qualitative analysis through interviews with stakeholders involved.
The resulting report included a baseline study of all recreational objects in the study area including cartographic matter of the affected area. It also included a summary of land use planning policies of the municipalities involved. In conclusion the report provided provisional advice on future policy for municipalities and more general the recreation sector in the province of Utrecht.
The internship allowed me unique insight into tourism governance at the regional and local level. Overall, the internship taught me a lot about the politics of regional and local level decision-making related to tourism and nature conservation and the tensions that are sometimes produced between these two fields. It was also one of the first opportunities I got to bring my quantitative and qualitative research skills into practice. I very much enjoyed working together with colleagues at Bureau Buiten who took their time to show me the ropes of consultancy-related tasks and who provided the necessary guidance wherever needed throughout my internship.