Faculty Spotlight: Professor Laitamaki
April 9, 2019
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The following interview was conducted by Tisch Center student worker, Haley Park.

What is your research about?

I am currently working on two different research topics, sustainable tourism and a case study of cruise ships. For sustainable tourism, I focus on finding the balance between the need for preserving at UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the need for managing tourism in a sustainable way. So far, I have collected data from four historic city centers of Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Camaguey in Cuba. The other research topic on cruise ships, addresses the next generation cruise ships for the top three companies, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian cruise lines. These companies are investing around 1 billion dollars per new ship and I’m doing research on innovations that these next generation cruise ships will have.

Why you are interested in these topics and why is it important to you?

I am interested in sustainable tourism because I believe that we need to leave this earth in a better condition for future generations. To go along with that, I am interested in Cuba because this country has preserved their cultural heritage very well. I have an interest in the cruise line industry because I find it fascinating how the cruise line industry operates. I met the president of the Norwegian Cruise Line Holding Company Mr. Frank Del Rio at the Tisch Center Brenner Lecture last year and he encouraged me to write this case study.

What have your findings been?

My findings in sustainable tourism have been that Cubans have done an excellent job preserving cultural heritage but the tourism industry in Cuba is struggling with their limited resources. One challenge for Cuba is their lack of funding for sustainable tourism. In terms of the cruise lines, I have discovered that it’s challenging to differentiate their cruise ships from competitors. Between various cruise line companies, Norwegian cruise lines have been the leader in several innovations. One of their unique innovations, Freestyle Cruising has introduced a more flexible set of choices for passengers compared to the traditional cruise ship. Last year, Norwegian announced that they will be building six new cruise ships sailing their maiden voyages  between 2022 and 2027. The case study addresses the future needs that cruise passengers will have and how these six ships can cater to these needs and wants.

How does this research influence or have an impact on your teaching?

I teach two graduate courses, Strategy Formulation & Decision-Making and Strategic Brand Management. In my branding class, I use Cuba as a destination to convey to my students how to brand a tourism destination, specifically how to build long term values and ways of preserving culture, heritage and nature. In my strategy class, starting this summer, I will use the case study on cruise ships extensively. Up to 40% of the course grade will be based on examining this case study.

Is there anything else you want to share on this topic?

The Norwegian cruise ship case study was funded by the SPS Dean’s Grant. The previous study, sustainable tourism was also funded by the SPS Dean and I am very thankful for this support. In addition, last week I found out that I received another grant from the NYU Curriculum Development Challenge Fund. This research will address how to use artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality in future Tisch Center graduate classes which I am very excited about.