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Between 5 – 7 July 2023, IMT Master’s student Nieke attended on behalf of Barbara Neuhofer and herself the Surrey 2023 Conference ‘Bringing Hospitality, Tourism, Transport and Events Back for Good’. She presented their co-authored research paper on transformative event design and had the opportunity to network and represent FH Salzburg on an international level.

From Master Thesis to Research Paper

Over the course of two years, IMT Master’s students at FH Salzburg learn about Management and Innovation in Tourism through courses such as eTourism, Experience and Event Design, Project and Tourism Management, Service Design and more. Out of these learnings and experiences, students select a topic they would like to dive deeper into while writing their Master’s thesis. For our student Nieke, Experience and Event Design in particular caught her attention during the organisation of the Welcome Experience as part of the course Experience Design Case Study.

In her Master’s thesis, she explored the role of the Transformative Experience Facilitator (TEF) at events that have the intention to trigger transformation among participants (more details below). After finalising the thesis and receiving a positive evaluation, Barbara and Nieke re-edited the thesis into a research paper for which they submitted an abstract to the Surrey Conference 2023. The abstract got accepted and they were invited to present the research and its findings in the UK this Summer.

Surrey, here we come!

Finally, the hard work of the last months was rewarded: on the 4th of July, the plane to London was ready for take-off. At the University of Surrey, located at Guildford, a wide range of industry specialists, professors, PhD candidates and students from Australia to China, South Africa to Germany and the United States to South America came together. During the three days of the conference, panel discussions, poster presentations and paper presentations took place focussing on the topics ‘Humans’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Sustainability’ in the context of Hospitality, Tourism, Transport and Events.

On day two of the conference, Nieke and Barbara’s research presentation was scheduled and positively received by the audience. After the presentation, one PhD candidate was interested to apply the study’s outcome as a basis for a study on ‘gig-workers’, which was a wonderful outcome and a great example of how knowledge is passed on and deepened at conferences like these.

Research Paper – Transformative Event Design: The Role of the Transformative Experience Facilitator

The research paper focussed on Transformative Events, which may range in size and type including psychedelic retreats, transformative team workshops and designed events with up to 150 participants intended to co-create experiences and potentially transformations for participants. As previous research focussed mainly on the consumer and what transformative experiences (TEs) are or how they are created, this study is original in that it focuses on a specific type of employees at transformative events, namely the facilitators of TEs (TEFs). What role does a TEF need to take on to guide participants through their experiences and what traits or competencies are useful to facilitators to fulfill these roles?

After conducting 31 online interviews and a thematic template analysis, the study put forward the Transformative Experience Facilitator Framework, where the TEF’s roles and competencies are described. This new framework is based on the original Experience Broker (EB) framework by Weiler & Black (2015) and the extended EB framework by Parsons et al. (2019) and includes seven ‘accesses’ which describe the TEF’s role and nine competencies that are useful when facilitating TEs. The work is currently under review for an international journal and the study results will be made available and shared soon. Keep tuned for more on this topic.


Student Experience

All in all, it was a wonderful experience for Nieke to explore the world of academia through a topic she felt passionate about in her Master’s thesis leading eventually to the creation of a co-authored academic research paper. Nieke said:

I look back at this experience with a sense of pride to push myself to make the most of the research and gathered insights. I’m happy and grateful that FH-Prof. Dr. Neuhofer guided me through the process and stimulated me to turn my Master’s thesis into an academic research paper. Thank you for this opportunity!

– Nieke Dieteren, IMT2021 Cohort

Learning and acquiring knowledge is a privilege we sometimes tend to forsake. When was the last time you dedicated your time to learning something new?


Parsons, H., Houge Mackenzie, S., & Filep, S. (2019). Facilitating self-development: How tour guides broker spiritual tourist experiences. Tourism Recreation Research, 44(2), 141–152.

Weiler, B., & Black, R. (2015). The changing face of the tour guide: One-way communicator to choreographer to co-creator of the tourist experience. Tourism Recreation Research, 40(3), 364–378.

Photo Credit:

Sandeep Chitreddy on Unsplash


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