Marie Limme is the winner of the RICH Master's Thesis Award 2023. She receives the award for her thesis "Exploring Travel Sensitization on TikTok: How Backpacking TikTokkers Foster Awareness about Socio-cultural and Environmental Sustainability."
In her thesis, Limme looked at the way in which TikTok users who identify as backpackers can influence travel trends. Limme found that these content creators tend to post images depicting the discovery and respect of local practices, the preservation and conservation of (cultural) heritage, or the blossoming of meaningful human connections, as well as unspoilt natural scenes. In doing so, they play a central role in sensitising viewers to the urgency of socio-cultural and environmental sustainability and thus in creating more responsutable (responsible and sustainable) traveler behaviours amongst their viewers.
Given the currency of the research topic, Limme’s results are easily linked to practical applications in the field. “Practically, more and more businesses and travel agencies are taking into consideration the opportunities that both responsible and sustainable tourism and social media present as consumer demand for these types of travel grows,” explains Limme. “Moreover, policymakers could consider collaborating with travel influencers that show socio-cultural and environmental sensitivity as it may not always be simple to make information about responsutable and sensitized tourism available to a large audience. “
A timely thesis
The jury consisted of Marie van Haaster (winner RICH Master’s Thesis Award 2022) and RICH coordinators Nathalie de Haan and Maarten De Pourcq. They were impressed by Limme’s ability to embed the research question in scientific literature, with attention to the timeliness and relevance of the subject. From the jury report: “The argumentation in this thesis is in constant dialogue with recent secondary literature, demonstrating a broad scholarly knowledge and placing a strong emphasis on both traceability and impact.” Additionally, Limmes’ thesis topic aligns well with Environmental Humanities, which is one of RICH’s research themes, and incorporates a method (netnography) from Digital Humanities, another RICH research theme.
Marie Limme studied Modern Languages and Literatures and Cultural Studies in Belgium, before obtaining her master’s degree in Tourism and Culture at Radboud University. She was supervised during her thesis by dr. Apoorva Nanjangud. Limme is currently working as a Promotion and communication manager for Dutch-speaking markets at visitMons, a tourist office, where she is able to combine both her interest in tourism and cultural sectors and languages.
“When I received the email with this incredible news I didn't believe it at first,” says Limme about winning the award. “I'm someone who's never 100% sure of what I'm doing, but I think that receiving this award has somehow opened my eyes to the quality of the work I put so much effort into. I can say that I'm proud of what I've done, proud to have dared register for this award, proud to see my work rewarded. However, none of this would have happened without the support of my supervisor Apoorva, and I'd like to thank her for that.“