28 ADVENTURES AND MISADVENTURES OF A RESEARCHER – Contributions by Agueda Esteban Talaya
My first contact with tourism research was in the 1979-1980 academic year when I was studying Economics and Business at the Autonomous University of Madrid. In order to pass the 4th year Econometrics class, we had to make a model on some sector, demand, price or other economic indicator. My group chose, at random, to do a model on Tourism. The teacher recommended that we talked to the head of studies at the Instituto de Estudios Turísticos (Institute of Tourism Studies) part of the State Department for Tourism. I had no idea at the time that a large part of my professional life would be linked to this institution.
I liked this subject so much that the following year I specialized in Econometrics. In November 1982, I defended my Bachelor’s thesis with the title Modelos de comportamiento y previsión de la demanda turística española (Behavioural models and forecasting of Spanish tourism demand), under the supervision of the same professor who had taught me Econometrics. An anecdotal but important fact is that this same professor wrote the first doctoral thesis in Spain on tourism models in 1966. His influence was decisive.
After graduating, I continued to collaborate with the research department of the Institute of Tourism Studies, in specific research carried out by this Department, while I was preparing my doctoral thesis and until I obtained a permanent position at the public university.
Another fact due to chance was my dedication to university teaching. Although I had taught some basic courses on statistics, it was not until a family acquaintance told me that there was a vacancy, because of retirement, in the area of Marketing at the Complutense University of Madrid. I applied and got the job as less than an assistant. Although I didn’t teach econometrics or tourism, I thought that marketing was a good topic for modelling demand, prices, distribution or the impact of communication.
My Ph.D. dissertation was in February 1987, with the title Análisis de la demanda: aplicación a la actividad turística de las técnicas de predicción (Demand analysis: applying forecasting techniques to the tourism industry), and I obtained my PhD in Economics and Business Administration from the Complutense University of Madrid.
In my early days, Tourism was considered a very minor area. Tourism from the academic perspective had no official studies within the University. No degree, no diploma, no second cycle, no doctorate. Nothing. There were only a few regulated studies, recognised as Diplomas and supervised by the Ministry of the day (Economy, Commerce, Industry, Transport, Energy… which has been through many).
It was thought that research in tourism was a minor subject because it was not considered an industry per se, nor an economic activity, it was just a phenomenon. Some people even said to me: that’s good, you must travel a lot. Tourism was somewhere between “Let others manufacture” and “What do they want us all to be waiters?”, literally said by a member of the Spanish government, who was clearly in favour of industry (manufacturing, of course). Since then I think I have dedicated myself to a kind of apostolate in favour of the necessary and indispensable scientific research in Tourism, and not only in Economics and Business but from many other perspectives: urban, legal, geographical, linguistic, historical, architectural, energetic, …
In 1988 I obtained a position as assistant professor and in 1990 I started teaching the module Forecasting and Demand Estimation Techniques in Marketing within the Doctorate Programme New Trends in Marketing at the UCLM. This allowed me to come into contact with students who were preparing their theses.
I thought it would be interesting to go outside Spain and I applied for an El Amo Grant, managed by the Complutense University of Madrid, which allowed me to research and document myself on Forecasting and Marketing Techniques at the University of California, Berkeley (USA) in 1989.
From my contact with doctoral students, I began to supervise PhD dissertations and the fourth one I supervised was the first one in Tourism with the title Communication and Image of the service company: application to hotel services, defended in 1995. This thesis was awarded a grant from the State Department for Tourism.
Of the 17 PhD dissertations supervised, 11 are oriented towards Tourism, 7 with scholarships from public institutions, 4 with different awards and 3 with international doctoral mention. The main tourism topics of these Theses are satisfaction with travel agencies, image and usefulness of tourist information brochures, market orientation of air transport companies, the impact of technologies on the marketing of the hotel product, competitiveness of tourist destinations, loyalty towards the tourist destination and the new dominant logic of service, wine tourism, competitiveness and image of cultural tourism destinations, service cannibalization in travel agencies, prospective in tourism.
Almost all the PhD students I have directed are now assistant professors or full professors in different public and private universities in Spain: Complutense of Madrid, Rey Juan Carlos, Antonio de Nebrija, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, La Rioja, Castilla-La Mancha.
In 1992 I was given the opportunity to direct the Tourism Studies Institute in the State Department for Tourism. Having been a basic researcher before had allowed me to get to know this institution from the bottom, its fabulous Documentation Centre and many staff with whom I had shared lectures, courses and many training experiences in my early days. Now I was directing The Institute and my position was different.
When I was doing my thesis, I often complained about the way in which the basic data for tourism statistics were collected, especially on demand from abroad, and I always had the feeling that the data could be improved. As fate would have it, public policies were in transformation at that time. Border statistics would soon disappear due to the Schengen Agreement and the Institute, which I directed, was charged with setting up a system to replace the visitor statistics that had existed since the 1950s. This gave the opportunity to incorporate more reliable and relevant methods of obtaining information for the construction of tourism statistics. Be careful what you ask for …
Among the main studies and research carried out by The Institute under my direction until 1994, the following can be mentioned: Spanish Tourist Information System (SITES), Survey of Tourist Movements at Borders (the basis of the current Frontur statistics), Spanish Travel Survey (precursor of the Familitur survey and the current Survey of Resident Tourism), Study of the Prices of Tourist Packages, Study of Indicators of Tourist Activity, Intersectoral tables of the tourism economy TIOT 1992, The competitive position of the Spanish tourism sector, Vehicle counting by borders through the collaboration agreement with the Directorate General of Traffic, Collaboration on tourism statistics with the Autonomous Communities.
I left my activity as director of the Institute to have and be with my daughter and to return to the University.
One of the most gratifying activities that began during my time as director of the Institute, and continued afterwards, was being part of the Working Group on Human Resources and Training, delegate of the Interministerial Commission of Tourism for the study of the incorporation of tourism education in the University. Finally, tourism entered the University.
Present and future tasks
In 1999 I obtained a position as full professor of Marketing at the University of Castilla-La Mancha at Toledo. A new assignment, new people to train and guide, but without ceasing to collaborate with the administration at national level and with international organisations, and incorporating more focused research in the region of Castilla-La Mancha.
Of the collaborations at national level, the most important was Coordinator of the group of experts on Knowledge of the Horizon 2020 Strategic Plan for Spanish Tourism, for the Spanish Tourism Council.
Another important contribution was the participation as a member of the research team and coordinator of the tourism group of the Project financed by the Spanish Office of Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment, Evaluation of the Impacts of Climate Change in Spain (ECCE), 2003-2004.
At international level, I participated in three Projects financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) monitored by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Latin America, related to regional tourism statistics and regional tourism marketing.
In the region of Castilla-La Mancha, the development and maintenance of the Castilla-La Mancha Tourism Research System (SIT-CLM), financed by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha, 2008-2011, stands out in addition to a dozen projects related to tourism in this region.
All the research developed has allowed me to publish approximately 85 articles in scientific journals, 28 in international journals, and 77 book chapters of national edition and 11 of international edition. Most of it in the fields of tourism and marketing. I have also served as editorial board and reviewer of a dozen of academic journals including Tourism Management, Annals of Tourism Research, Current Issues in Tourism and Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research.
The research team I have been working with for the last 20 years is magnificent, with very good researchers and the results are there for all to see: in 2020 UCLM was ranked between 100th and 150th in Shanghai Ranking’s Global Ranking of Academic, in the subject of Hospitality & Tourism Management. I am proud to belong to this extraordinary group.
An example of an excellent researcher in this group is Estrella Diaz. Now I am supervisor of the European project headed by her within the European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) Horizon 2020 actions.
My experience as a researcher has allowed me to learn a number of things, which may be useful for future researchers:
- Do research on what you believe you need scientific knowledge, even if the rest of the world thinks otherwise.
- Research as freely as you can, but knowing that there is a dark side: academic demands, hierarchies that are difficult to overcome, funding only for renowned researchers, difficulty in publishing in high-impact journals…
- Sharing knowledge (Publish or Perish). Although there are many difficulties, especially for researchers from languages other than English, to publish in prestigious international journals, and some of them still resist us, things are gradually changing. They are not as indulgent with us as they are with renowned authors from prestigious universities, especially in the USA. We are not all the same.
- It is always better to belong to a research team than to research alone. A good research team makes more and better progress than an isolated researcher. In addition, it is good to leave the comfort zone of our own universities, to spend time in other universities and to choose those where the best are and learn from them. Generating networks of international researchers is enriching for everyone.
- Open up to other fields of research. Tourism is a cross-cutting subject and it is highly recommended to have contact and develop research projects with, for example, urban planning, meteorology, energy, technology, economic development and poverty, health, among many others. These are rewarding experiences for researchers and beneficial for society.
Finally, tourism, from any perspective, needs women researchers to lead multidisciplinary teams that expand scientific knowledge and offer their results to society to try to solve existing problems, especially in times of crisis like the current one
Written by Agueda Esteban Talaya, University of Castilla-La Mancha at Toledo, Spain
Blazquez J.J., Molina A. & Esteban A. (2012). Key quality attributes according to the tourist product. European Journal of Tourism Research. 5, 166-170.
Blazquez J.J., Molina A. & Esteban A. (2015). Service-Dominant Logic in tourism: the way to loyalty, Current Issues in Tourism, 18, 706-724.
Cordente, M., Esteban, A. & Mondéjar, J.A. (2015). Personal influence on the image of a tourism destination: mediating effect of familiarity, Revista Turismo & Desenvolvimento, 24, 109-123.
Diaz E., Martin-Consuegra D. & Esteban, A. (2015). Is ICT good for employees? An analysis of its effects on sales agents’ perceptions of service cannibalization. Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 263-271.
Diaz E., Martin-Consuegra D. & Esteban, A. (2015). Perceptions of service cannibalisation: The moderating effect of the type of travel agency Tourism Management, 48, 329-342.
Diaz E., Martin-Consuegra D. & Esteban, A. (2017). Sales agents vs the internet: Understanding service sabotage based on the conservation of resources theory. Internet Research, 27, 858-884.
Diaz E., Martin-Consuegra D. & Esteban, A. (2018). The effect of new technologies on psychological consequences and risk perceptions of sales agents. Journal of Risk Research, 21, 1409-1429.
Esteban A., Lorenzo C. & Alarcon M. C. (2012). Segmentation of Tourists and Day-Trippers in Castilla-La Mancha (Spain) Main Differences and Similarities, in G. Ferrari & J. Mondejar-Jimenez (edit.) Research Studies on Tourism and Environment, 69-87. Nova Science Publishers.
Gomez M., Molina A. & Esteban A. (2013). What are the main factors attracting visitors to wineries? A PLS multi-group comparison, Quality & Quantity. 47(5), 2637- 2657.
Martin-Consuegra D. & Esteban, A. (2007). Market orientation and business performance: An empirical investigation in the airline industry”, Journal of Air Transport Management, 13 (6), 323-400.
Martin-Consuegra D. & Esteban, A. (2010). The role of market orientation in managing crises during the post-crisis phase, in N. Scott, E. Laws, B. Prideaux (edit.) Safety and Security in Tourism: Recovery Marketing after Crises. 59-71. Routlegde,
Millán, A. & Esteban, A. (2004). Development of a multiple-item scale for measuring customer satisfaction in travel agencies services, Tourism Management, 25 (5), pp. 533-546.
Molina A. & Esteban, A. (2006). Tourism Brochures: Usefulness and Image, Annals of Tourism Research, 33 (4), 1036-1056.
Molina A., Gomez M., Gonzalez B. & Esteban A. (2015). Market segmentation in wine tourism: strategies for wineries and destinations in Spain Journal of Wine Research. 192-224.