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What is it really like to study a Master of Arts in Management (MAM) at SUMAS? We spoke with Pyon, MAM graduate in Sustainable Tourism Management (2021) to learn more about why she chose us as the business school to guide her on her next steps in sustainability.

1. Let’s start with a short introduction and what you were doing before starting your MAM at SUMAS.

I have been working as an airline crew member for 9 years, based in the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, and I have visited countless popular tourist sites in the world. I was especially fascinated by beautiful nature and wild animals, such as a herd of elephants in Kenya and sea turtles in the Maldives. Sadly, I have also seen how some popular tourist places have suffered from mass tourism and consequently damaged by humans. I therefore wondered if there was anything I could do to help recover these sites in a sustainable way. I found that one of the most effective ways for change was to understand the various situations depending on the country or the sites and amend the policies and regulations on a national scale. As I majored in hospitality and tourism for my bachelor’s degree in Japan, the MAM in Sustainable Tourism Management at SUMAS was the perfect course for me to enhance my knowledge about the tourism sector with sustainable practice and initiatives. I am very happy knowing that I finally found the institution where I was eager to invest my time and effort to learn and contribute something meaningful back to the universe.

2. How did you apply the theory learnt on the course into real-world situations – were there any experiences that surprised you?

While I was conducting my project as a sustainable manager as part of my studies, I found that there are countries such as Thailand, and the Maldives that are highly impacted because of the pandemic – since they are depending on tourism as their main source of income. However, the pandemic can also propose a once-in-a-generation opportunity for those countries. This situation has meant that they can properly take care of the nature and surroundings which have been destroyed by mass tourism, as well as being able to rehabilitate the animals and rebuild the damaged spots during this time. My goal as a sustainable manager was to suggest setting new policies within the tourism sector, to utilize this opportunity to shift the old ways into a more sustainable way, on a local, national, and global scale until they welcome the visitors again.

3. You worked with world-renowned Thai hospitality group, Dusit Thani. Can you tell us a little bit more about the project and your contribution?

This was one of my favorite parts of the course: collaborating with Thai hospitality group, Dusit Thani Maldives, and its Sustainable department team. It was my final project to analyze the situation that Dusit Thani Maldives is facing and utilize all my knowledge throughout the entire course to suggest to them what will be the best solution for them to improve the business in a more sustainable way. In particular, I was in charge of their CSR marketing plan.

Project brief
My task was “How to increase participation internally and externally within the resort”. I worked with three other students from SUMAS and we set the meeting together with the Dusit Thani Maldives team to understand what their needs were and how we can help as sustainable managers. Our client, Dusit Thani Maldives, requested us to solve their tasks in a feasible and practical way. According to our customer’s needs, I researched other reputed resorts that are also investing in their sustainable activities within their resort operations to identify what the Dusit Thani Maldives could do differently to encourage their in-house guest’s participation in sustainable activities. I conducted a survey to collect the guests’ preferences upon selecting the resort, how much they know about sustainability, and what kind of feature might grab their attention to participate. The result provided me with direct guest feedback on how to attract more attention from the guests and how to encourage them to learn more about the sustainable activities within the resort. 

My solution
Based on my analysis, I developed a demo app called Sustainability Passport which can be used by in-house guests to increase awareness of sustainable activities and encourage their participation during their stay. Sustainability Passport is a useful tool to make effective communication between Dusit Thani Maldives staff and their guests. By simply logging in to the app, the guests could see the currently active sustainable activities they can participate in. They can collect the stamps by completing each of the activities during their stay, which will increase their participation in the activity or offer other benefits. Also, a direct share button to connect to their social media will help to increase the awareness of Dusit Thani Maldives’s sustainable activities externally for others’ future stay.

End results
My final presentation was held through Zoom, with the other students who were in charge of different tasks, the Dusit Thani Maldives Sustainable department managers and professors from SUMAS. I was able to make a positive impression with my presentation to both Dusit Thani Maldives and my professors. At the end of the presentation, the Dusit Thai Maldives team gave positive feedback and acknowledged that they will consider how to apply my idea to their business.

4. Can you explain any challenges that you faced and/or how you overcame these during your studies?

I came to realize that my decision to undertake an online Master’s needed more sacrifice and responsibility than the passion or joy for my study. Managing the time to study and to work was a challenge and truthfully, it was beyond my expectation. I also struggled with the weekly readings in English since none of my previous degrees were in English. The reality was I could not handle the number of tasks and readings each week based on the time I could sufficiently allocate to them. However, there is always a solution. I was able to drop courses before Week 5 and readjust my workload to one or two courses per semester, which meant that I was able to balance my degree work with my job. The degree took me a little longer than anticipated yet resulted in the same outcome. This degree was no easy accomplishment; sometimes (well…many times to be honest), I regretted taking the courses because I thought they were too hard for me. Yet perseverance and an unanticipated reduction in my working hours due to the pandemic allowed me to throw myself into my studies and successfully complete my MAM.

5. How do you feel the MAM at SUMAS prepared you for your next professional steps?

My final project motivated me to feel confident enough to work within a company as a sustainable manager after graduation. It also gave me a clear idea of which sector I want to work in. In my case, I would like to work in a resort. I highly recommend SUMAS to someone who also has a desire to learn about sustainability as their future career. It was a truly amazing experience that I could achieve my goals during my studies with great support from the faculty and admin. Thank you SUMAS, I will continue my journey to create new ways to make the tourism sector work together with the nature we are in.

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