ITHAS 2015: Sustainable Development of Tourism Destination

ITHAS 2015: A week-long sea-bound case study of destination management
ITHAS 2015: A week-long sea-bound case study of destination management


The International Tourism and Hospitality Academy at Sea (ITHAS) took place in 2015 for the tenth time.

A week-long sea-bound case study of destination management, an international encounter with academic insights, intercultural communication and new bonds of friendship across lots of borders, hard work and great enjoyment: this is ITHAS, the International Tourism and Hospitality Academy at Sea, which was founded in 2005 and held in 2015 for the tenth time.

ITHAS 2015 was once again hosted by the Faculty of Economics & Business of the University of Zagreb (Croatia). Professor Nevenka Cavlek, our “Queen of ITHAS” planned and organised every detail with absolute perfection, and the cruise was run and generously sponsored by I.D. Riva Tours GmbH (Munich). This year’s route took 114 participants (90 students and 24 teaching staff from 30 nations) to different sites of tourism interest on the Croatian Coast. “Sustainable Development of Tourism Destination” was the overall topic of the case study module.

The participating universities were the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, Croatia; Munich University of Applied Sciences, Department of Tourism, Germany; Jyvaskyla University of Applied Sciences, School of Tourism and Services Management, Finland; University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Economics, Slovenia; The German University of Technology in Oman; and – joining ITHAS for the first time with students – the University of Haifa, Israel. The students were an international mix representing 31 nations, all studying in bachelor or master courses of tourism management: the students from the European Master of Tourism Management course in Ljubljana came from different countries and continents, the Omani students enriched the intercultural mix, the Israeli group contributed new insights through their eagerness to discuss and share experience, and the Croatian group were – as always - very hospitable hosts. The whole academic event was highly commended in a special broadcast by the secretary-general of the UNWTO Taleb Rifai, and the whole ITHAS week was a real intercultural adventure.

The Department of Tourism of the Munich University of Applied Sciences was represented by 25 bachelor students and Profs. Burkhard von Freyberg and Ralph Berchtenbreiter. Prof. Patricia East, founder member of ITHAS, accompanied the group for the tenth time. The logistical planning and the smooth running of the itinerary were once again a demonstration of professionalism and operational perfection: the credit goes to Prof. Nevenka Cavlek and the tour operator I.D. Riva Tours.

Starting from Rijeka, four old-timer motor-sailing boats took the group along the coast to Malinska/Island of Krk, Island of Rab, Mali Lošinj, Pula, Rovinj, Rabac to Opatija. A one-day hydrofoil excursion across the sea to Venice was a special extra. The boats were floating hotels with full board, good catering, delightful service, and the ITHAS activities took place both on and off shore. In Venice, for example, the students listened to a highly interesting presentation about the sustainable development of Venice as a tourism destination by Mr. Anthony La Salandra, director of Risposte Turismo and lecturer at the Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia; in Mali Lošinj and Rovinj the students discussed sustainability in the hospitality industry with local hotel operators.

Lectures and discussions with the guest lecturers on board filled the sailing hours:

  • Professor Erik Cohen, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, lectured on "Sustainability in tourism: ideology or salvation"
  • Professor Jafar Jafari, University of Wisconsin-Stout, USA, lectured on “Culture Matters in Sustainability and Competitiveness”
  • Professor Charles Arcodia, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, together with Margarida Abreu-Novais from Griffith University, Australia, lectured on „Unusual events: A distinctive way of enhancing the sustainability of destinations”
  • Professor Yoel Mansfeld, University of Haifa, Israel, lectured on „The rise and fall of sustainable tourism”
  • Professor Michel Poté, Ecole supérieure des sciences commerciales d’Angers, France, lectured on „Puzzles in Predicting Tourist Expectation and Behaviour in a Cross-cultural Environment“
  • Professor Catalina N. Juaneda Sampol, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain, lectured on „Tourism, sustainability and economic growth”
  • Professor Burkhard von Freyberg, Munich University of Applied Sciences, lectured on „Sustainability in the Asian hospitality industry”
  • Professor Ralph Berchtenbreiter, Munich University of Applied Sciences, lectured on „Sustainable tourism in the digital world”
  • and last but by no means least, the students from each university gave creative presentations of their home universities and countries plus background information about the sustainable development of selected ITHAS destinations - in addition to making active and positive contributions to every aspect of the entire programme.

The onshore programme included visits to tourist attractions and facilities as well as meetings with representatives of local tourism institutions. The input from these excursions was rounded up in an afternoon workshop under the guidance of the lecturers to analyse and reflect on the destinations visited and the management insights gained.

The evenings were filled with discussions among students and staff, team building rehearsals for the competitive evening of student song and dance performances, and free time to go out and have fun together until the early hours of the morning. We have come home with new friends and deeper understanding of sustainable tourism development and intercultural competence. Thank you to everyone who made the tenth anniversary ITHAS week such a tremendous success.

Patricia East & Burkhard von Freyberg