The Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research (ATLAS) which was founded to develop transnational education and research initiatives in tourism and leisure held their annual conference virtually that was originally meant to take place in Prague, Czech Republic.
ATLAS in a nutshell:
Was established in 1991.
Provides a forum to promote staff and student exchange, transnational research and to facilitate curriculum and professional development.
Members in about 60 countries.
Promotes links between member institutions through regular meetings and information exchange.
Organizes conferences on issues in tourism and leisure education and research.
Offers information services, publications, website, member portal and a yearbook called ATLAS Reflection
Designs and coordinates curriculum development projects under the SOCRATES programme
Runs international courses such as the ATLAS Winter University in Europe and the Summer Course in Asia
Research publications and reports
Organizes and participates in transnational research projects (cultural tourism, sustainable tourism, information technology)
Tourism 21: Re-building Tourism - Continuities and Changes
Tourism 21 seeks to generate debate and discussion amongst and between academics, policy makers and practitioners regarding expectations, prospects, policies, plans, ideas, and initiatives for the re-building of global tourism. Conference participants were invited to consider the future of global tourism from international, cross-cultural, and multi-disciplinary perspectives within broad themes such as
Governance, policy and planning
Networks and collaboration
Sustainable tourism futures
Tourism and cultural change
Environmental considerations in tourism development
The tourist experiences
In this period of reflection, it was important to bring all the many different sectors together that comprise international tourism to discuss how to adapt to a covid/ post-covid future and it will be shaped by new realities in tourism demand and tourist behaviors.
Virtual Event and Virtual event Platform
Members of ATLAS can form Special Interest Groups (SIG’s) related to specific education and research topics or for specific geographic areas. This was also taken into consideration in the program and execution of this year's event. The virtual event was built in such a way that, apart from the above mentioned six themes’ delegates could select to attend, attendees had nine different special tracks they were able to choose from depending on their own interests on the subjects at hand. Special tracks were created on the following themes:
Scenario planning workshop collaboration
Engaging in meaningful research and action for climate change and tourism
New frontiers in volunteer tourism research
Legitimizing visual research in tourism
Re-marketing or De-marketing in the Post-COVID City?
Challenges and new solutions in tourism and leisure education
Gastronomy tourism as tool for sustainable development
Event Communities: Trends and Futures
Cultural tourism re-visited
ATLAS had also organized a new form of meeting for the ATLAS Annual Conference in Prague 2021. Alongside the usual paper presentations, they were focusing on their research questions and research processes in the event field through a virtual ‘research cafe’. This meant that there were a number of ‘tables’ at which experts from different fields were leading discussions on hot topics in tourism, leisure and events research. These were built to generate ideas that could lead to research projects, publications, and perhaps even to a new Special Interest Group. The format was to welcome comfortable space for interaction with open conversations in a much broader and more creative way but not to replace the traditional paper presentations at the conference.
Attendees landed in the lobby of the event, which included instructions for the conference attendees. They were able to see the program for all four days from the tab on the top, read more about all the keynote speakers etc. Conference attendees had also received a detailed conference program, workshop program in advance, but were also able to find this information directly from the platform.
By scrolling through, they were able to see all the different rooms and spaces that they were able to access during the conference: main conference hall, welcome reception room, coffee break or lunch room (where you can meet and greet the organizers and other delegates), workshops etc. All the rooms were open throughout the whole event and the conference attendees also had the possibility to have 1-on-1 chats or video calls with each other, or in groups. They were also able to schedule meeting time with each other as well to find a suitable time to connect.
ATLAS had also created a space ‘Meet Senior Academics’ in which the young academics had a chance to talk to senior academics who they might know from their books and other work. There was also a separate space created for the publishers, in which you were able to find a short introduction video of those who were present and contact them.
A special informal student event was also created to give them the opportunity to meet fellow ATLAS students as well as some of the ATLAS board members and organizers were invited to come and listen to the students thoughts, ideas and tell more about the ATLAS membership.
Cooperation with Liveto
The virtual event gathered about 200 participants and ATLAS was able to create a customized look and feel for their event where the attendees were able to discuss the subjects at hand. The event organizers confirmed that the event went well and smoothly -participants were active, the virtual event platform worked well.
"The cooperation with Liveto was wonderful. The platform worked well, it was very user friendly, easy to use and it gives a full benefit in interacting with other attendees should they want to do so. You will be able to choose yourself if you want to be networking or just enjoying the event yourself.”- Jantien Veldman, Project Manager, ATLAS
ATLAS had also asked their attendees about their experiences about the platform and received good feedback. Some of the comments from the attendees anonymously were:
“Liveto platform is intuitive and works well.”
“Very friendly and efficient platform.”
“Highly recommend it for conferencing. Flexible and interactive”
“Easily usable platform, very good.”
“It was very user-friendly, I had never heard about the platform before and was pleasantly surprised.”