Diary of a trip to Italy
What are ten students, one professor and one lecturer doing in minibuses on their way to Italy? Taking a tourism management excursion. IUBH student Denica kept a travel journal for us
The whole idea of the excursion started at the ITB (International Tourism Fair) 2017. That is where our professor Dr Peter Neumann met Giusepper Tulli, the owner of the Castello Monticelli Resort. Tulli was interested in developing new and creative ideas for the touristic operations of his historic Castello. IUBH could help! No sooner said than done – our professor, lecturer Dr Kai Pagenkopf and ten students set off for Umbria in 2018.
Day 1: Sunday, 18.3.18
Punctually at 6 o’clock in the morning, in the cold and snow, we met on our campus in Erfurt and boarded the hired minibuses. The trip got off to a good start: snowy roads, a police control after the first 10 minutes due to a broken dipped-beam headlamp…but we had music to sing along with and a were in a good mood.
A couple of hours later the warning of a control light stopped us again and we had to wait two hours for ADAC. Fortunately, we had no other incidents to slow us down until we reached our first destination, Verona. We checked in to a nice hotel in the city centre and did some sightseeing, including of course, the Arena di Verona and the famous balcony of Romeo and Juliet.
Day 2: Monday, 19.3.18
The only goal we had for today was to get to Castello. However, Professor Neumann suggested taking a detour to a typical Umbrian mountain village along the way. Once we arrived in the village of Montone, we were glad we took the time to visit this breath-taking place, even though it did mean not reaching Castello Monticelli until late afternoon. The architecture of this impressive building, the green Umbrian countryside and the sunshine were the first things that stood out for us. Giuseppe, owner of Castello, and Ellen, manager of the resort, welcomed us warmly. We set ourselves up in the accommodations, or better said the Italian-style apartments.
Just half an hour after our arrival, we met again with Giuseppe for a historic, sun set tour of the resort grounds. The outer walls, some thicker than one metre, could certainly tell stories for hours about previous owners and former times. We learned that the history of the house goes back to the 11th century, although more recent research suggests that construction of at least some buildings dates back to the 6th century. Giuseppe’s family bought the house as a summer residence and its restoration lasted over 15 years. Gradually however, they rented apartments to tourists and this sparked the idea of making it into some sort of hotel or holiday resort. The current goal is to establish Castello Monticelli as a separate brand and expand its touristic profile: address new target groups and develop new concepts while also taking into account the assets of the rural setting.
After the tour, a beautifully set dinner table awaited us. After a five-course meal and a few bottles of wine, we were all well acquainted. Using this creative energy, we gathered as students to do brainstorm and capture our first impressions and ideas.
Day 3: Tuesday, 20.03.18
The goal of the third day was to familiarise ourselves with Umbria as a travel destination and to better evaluate tourist attractions and target groups. Our tour guide was Ellen, who is very knowledgeable about the history and special features of the region. Our first stop was Perugia, the capital of the region. We travelled in the minibuses and then with the mini metro and were able to discover one of the most beautiful cities of Umbria. Perugia is rich in works of art, culture and architecture from four historical periods: from the Etruscans to the Romans and the Middle Age to the Renaissance. In a complicated system of tiny streets, narrow alleys and sometimes very steep stone steps, the past and the present merge in perfect harmony. Our sightseeing included, of course, drinking expressos and visiting a Chocolaterie.
From there we went to the city of Bevagna. Here we admired the interior of an opulently decorated theatre, enjoyed local architecture and learned about the production and distribution of typical Umbrian cashmere products. The next item on our to-do list for the day was a wine tasting at an organic winery.
Back in Castello, Beatrice Morlunghi from the Umbria Office of Economic Development awaited us and gave a talk about the region as a tourist destination. Afterwards, we did an initial analysis of Castello’s strengths and weakness and then presented this to the hotel team. This led to interesting discussions late into the night, which helped prepare us for our workshops on the next day.
Day 4: Wednesday, 21.03.18
It was now time to develop concrete product ideas with the goal of making the resort more profitable. To do this we used parts of the “Design-Thinking-Approach”. Here, in a creative environment, you develop new ideas that are convincing from the user’s point of view. The strategy has six steps: understand, observe, brainstorm, refine, execute and learn. Proposed concepts are reviewed and developed in several rounds.
To start, we divided into groups of two, selected appropriate target groups and developed our concepts based on them. After a few creative rounds, we presented our ideas to each other to decide which three of the six concepts we would later present to the hotel team. In the next step, we used the help of Lego-Serious-Play to illustrate our ideas graphically. You visualise your idea or situation with Lego blocks. This creative technique often gives you new perspectives for assessing a situation. Then came the round of criticism, in which ideas were further examined by critical questioning from the other groups. The concepts were then revised and finalised for the presentation.
We selected the following ideas:
- Travel group concept: suited for reunion with family or friends, target group from all over Europe with a focus on cultural travel and spending free-time together
- Slow tourism concept: target group is connoisseurs who want to have an authentic experience of Umbria
- Children’s farm at Castello: target group is families with small children
We presented our concepts to Giuseppe, Ellen and the rest of the team at Castello. All our ideas were well accepted and we were invited to come back to control their implementation and progress. Of course, we won’t miss out on that opportunity!
Our last evening was at a rustic organic restaurant. Everything we ate was from the restaurant’s own gardens and production. It was the perfect end to a beautiful and educational excursion.
Umbria, we will be back!