University of Sunderland in London

Why attending Academic Conferences counts

By Blerton Hyseni

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May 5

We very often wonder and question ourselves on certain things that we have not tried before and find it difficult to take that very first step to make it happen. Inside our heads, the thoughts flow and questions to get answers build up further and further.  Once we realise that the brain is “overloading” with the unanswered questions, we then start acting on those unresolved issues.  It was the same kind of feeling with myself when one of my colleagues approached me and asked me to prepare a paper to present on one of the world conferences in tourism and hospitality in Istanbul.  I struggled at the beginning and the butterflies in my stomach started rumbling as I thought that I am not ready for that. I started asking questions like: what if I am not ready? What if they asked questions? What if I do not know the answer and what else?  But then, coming from a background where I always challenged things and like being challenged, I though why not.  Let’s see what happens.  And then we started working towards a paper to be presented on the Conference with my colleagues.

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The 7th World Conference for Graduate Research in Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure was held on Istanbul between 3rd of June and 8th of June 2014. The aim of the conference was to provide a forum for research collaboration and mentoring of emerging tourism researchers in order to share their research experience.  The conference was attended by participants across the globe which raised the effect of the events as there were some key contributors to the industry who were attending the Conference.
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The picture represents the seminar run By Jafar Jafari who is a faculty member of the University of Wisconsin-Stout School of Hospitality Leadership USA.  Jafari is also one of the Founding Editor of Annals of Tourism Research which is one of the top ranking Journal in Tourism and Hospitality sector.  

Other members of Panel are made of David Airey Profesor of Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, UK. Cathy H.C. Hsu Professor in the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, SAR, China.  Also, Muzzafer Uysal Professor of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Pamplin College, Virginia Tech, USA etc.

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Dr Vipin Nadda on the right and me on the left June 2014

The Joy of presenting the paper:

Although this was my first time presenting the paper and thousands of things were going through my mind, somehow I managed to convince myself that this can be done.  But, this was made easier for me only when I saw others doing it so it was important for me attending few sessions before I had a chance to do our presentation as somehow seeing others put me on easy with my inner self and I was more confident.  Though, this opportunity would have not been possible without the support of the University of Sunderland in London who supported us throughout financially and morally to attend the conference.   The paper presented was based on “Motivations of South Asian Students to Study Tourism and Hospitality in the UK: Case of Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Nepali Students”.

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First experience of presenting the paper, June 2014 Istanbul

The focus of this study was the students from South Asia including Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal where put together these countries represent almost 25% of the world’s total population (British Council 2014). The governments of these countries put a lot of investment in their efforts to increase primary and secondary education enrollment and today their youth are seeking for higher education.

Therefore, the aim of this study was to be able to understand what motivates the students from South Asia to choose UK as their education destination, and why choose to study tourism and hospitality in particular. The study was carried out on students at the University of Sunderland London Campus which at the time was recruiting international students and with a big percentage of the students coming from the South Asia region.

The paper was successfully presented and attracted a lot of interest from the panel as well as the audience.  There were many questions from audience which in fact gave us further idea to develop the paper and publish it in one of the leading journals such as Emerald.  Soon after the conference, we have had an invitation to publish in the book series of Emerald from the conference organisers and our paper has already been published in Proceedings book.

Overall Experience

Now, coming back to the question of “why attending conferences count”, the fundamental answer is that the experience was great as we had a chance to get closer to the industry and learn from the people who are considered to be the “fathers” of the tourism and hospitality industry.

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Bob McKercher Professor in the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, SAR, China

There were several workshops and seminars which delivered essential information from the key authors of the industry.  For instance worth to mention the seminar based on “How to Publish in Scholarly Journals: Challenges and Prospects for the Future” moderated by Jafar Jafari.  In this seminar we were able to learn debate and even through questions at the panel which were happy to answer in regards to any fields of research.  The conference, except the research part, was also useful in terms of motivation as I felt that I can actually prosper forward in research field and since that I learned some of the techniques of publishing, I feel much comfortable and more motivated to take this further.

Furthermore, attending the conferences has enabled me to learn from others and improve my skills and knowledge about the tourism and hospitality field and I was able to engage with big scholar’s research and work and even share some of the ideas which otherwise I would have never had the opportunity to do so.  This goes with the famous quote “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants”. (Isaac Newton)

And that is no doubt as I felt motivated and encouraged to get engaged in research and there is no day in my class that my experience is not mentioned to students which in return enhances their learning.

The fun part..

Of course while we were there, it was an opportunity for us to go sightseeing and explore Istanbul to some extent which again added to our field experience.  At the end the trip was finalised by a conference Dinner where we had an opportunity to do networking with some of the key people in industry and promote our University worldwide.  Networking is fundamental in conferences as you get to share experiences but meantime create contacts where you can exchange best practices and learn from the best. So I deeply suggest to those who still have fears “Break Out of Your Comfort Zone and Do It”

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University of Sunderland in London

University of Sunderland in London Blog

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Adefila Adijat Folasade


I aspire to be a role model to young minds and show them the sky can be a starting point and not a limit.

Blerton Hyseni

Assistant Programme Manager for Tourism

I have a strong business management perspective and have particular skills in efficient project delivery, educational administration and course development which will contribute to enhancement of student learning.

Regina Dias

MBA Marketing

I aspire to pursue a career in Digital Marketing, and wish to lead an organisation someday.

Shrirang Chaudhary


To build the progressive values in business analysis and business information systems.