Business across the pond

MBS students travel to UK to study tourism

How do recreation, tourism and leisure businesses in the United Kingdom measure up?

That was the question 10 MBS juniors and seniors pondered last March when they traveled to England and Scotland as part of the class “Recreation, Tourism and Leisure in the UK.”

Accompanied by Assistant Professor of Marketing Susan Myrden and Associate Professor of Management Jason Harkins, the students spent six days touring London, Manchester and Edinburgh, visiting companies that compete in these sectors to draw the attention — and British Pounds — of travelers around the country and the world.

Leveraging research prior to the trip, the students went into each visit with specific expectations of what they would experience.

Their itinerary included visits to Harrods, a luxury department store, and Beefeater Gin, both in London; Manchester United, a professional football club in northern England; Edinburgh Castle; and Glenkinchie Distillery, a Scotch distillery outside Edinburgh.

When they returned home, students wrote a paper analyzing whether the expectations they developed matched their actual experience. They also made recommendations about how the businesses should alter the expectations their online presence creates.

“We wanted them to look at a business from a tourist’s perspective,” says Myrden, whose expertise is in services marketing. “If their expectations weren’t fulfilled, we asked them to recommend ways the business could better prepare visitors.”

MBS senior Justin Hadley’s visit to Harrods confirmed his expectations that it would be expensive and difficult to navigate because of its size. But the high-end store exceeded his expectations with its “amazing” afternoon tea, he says.

He recommended that Harrods increase signage and instruct staff to be more friendly.

“If the company has set expectations that are inconsistent with the experience, then it is important to make changes to ensure that the customer is not leaving disappointed,” says the marketing major from Madison, Maine.

Praising MBS for offering the opportunity “to do something some of us likely would not have experienced,” Hadley says the trip enabled him to expand his horizons.

“For a business student, it is really important to understand other parts of the world and develop different perspectives that we can bring with us as we start new careers.”

Marketing major Cole Clement was pleasantly surprised by his visit to Manchester United, where he got to tour the famous stadium.

“The website gave the impression that our guide would give us a brief history about the club — the standard experience at most pro stadiums,” says Clement, a senior who grew up in Skowhegan, Maine.

“In fact, the Manchester United tour greatly exceeded our expectations. We got to experience everything from entering the locker rooms to going down next to the field. Combined with a presentation on the business side of the club, it made for an amazing experience.”

Manchester United should better promote its stadium tour by including reviews and a video on the website, he says.

“This would help set a much higher standard for potential visitors since the brief paragraph describing the tour doesn’t do justice to the actual experience itself,” he says.

Myrden enjoyed hearing students’ observations and perspectives.

“I’ve been to the UK many times and so I take a lot for granted,” she says. “But to the students, everything was glaringly different.”