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From Soba to Solar Panels: Symposium Highlights Global Innovations in Leisure and Hospitality
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The Graduate Institute of Sport, Leisure, and Hospitality Management (SLHM Institute) at NTNU hosted the annual International Symposium on Sports, Leisure, and Hospitality Management on May 18-19, 2024. The theme for this year, 'Innovation at the Intersection: Reshaping the Future of Sport, Leisure, and Hospitality,' focused on the transformative impacts of technological advancements and global changes on these industries. The event featured international keynote speakers from Japan, the United States, Singapore, Thailand, and New Zealand, alongside presentations from 80 researchers and 400 participants.

In his address, NTNU Vice President Kwunmin Chen noted that the SLHM Institute began hosting the symposium in 2000. Now in its 24th year, this event has become an anticipated platform for collaboration among industry, government, and academia. “The post-pandemic era has brought significant changes to consumer behavior and resource management in the global tourism, sports, and leisure sectors,” Chen said. “This two-day event will enable much-needed discussions on innovative and strategic approaches.”

Symposium speaker Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray from the University of South Carolina's College of Hospitality remarked on the diverse representation at the symposium, which brought together scholars from various countries. “These perspectives will enrich the discussions by bringing a wide range of knowledge, experiences, and cultural backgrounds,” she said.

Li-Jung Lin, Professor and Director of the SLHM Institute, emphasized the breadth of topics covered by the panels and speakers, including sports, hospitality, emerging tourism, sustainable tourism, and the post-pandemic era. “This is a testament to ongoing efforts to bridge academia and industry,” Lin noted.

The symposium featured four keynote speeches. Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray discussed contemporary consumer values in sports, leisure, and tourism experiences. Dr. Govindasamy Balasekaran from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore spoke on ways in which technology is transforming the sports industry. Dr. Pairach Piboonrungroj from Chiang Mai University in Thailand explored current trends in sustainable tourism through the sustainable supply chain of Thai coffee.

The symposium also celebrated the 100th anniversary of Hanshin Koshien Stadium, a significant cultural landmark in Japan, popularized in Taiwan by the 2014 film 'Kano.' Osamu Tanimoto, Director of the Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium, delivered a keynote address on the stadium's historical and future significance, describing recent sustainability efforts such as installing solar panels over the infield roof, switching to LED lighting for nighttime illumination, and implementing paperless ticket services. The stadium's ability to adapt to changing times has enabled it to remain resilient through war, pandemics, and earthquakes.

In addition to academic presentations, the symposium featured a cultural exchange team from Nishikawa-machi, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. The team showcased traditional Japanese culinary practices, offering attendees freshly made soba noodles, matcha, and other local specialties. Led by Professor Po-Hsiu Lin of NTNU, Professor Takeda Ryuichi of Yamagata University, and President Kazuo Chikamatsu of the Nishikawa Machi Tourism Development Organization, this cultural exchange promotes Taiwan-Japan friendship and enhances the symposium's international dimension, and has been a regular feature of the symposium over the past decade.

Since signing an industry-academia collaboration agreement in 2013, NTNU and Nishikawa-machi have worked together on sports tourism research and practical courses, including annual skiing exchanges in Nishikawa-machi, allowing NTNU students and alumni to engage in experiential learning and contribute to the development of the local tourism industry.

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