Rodolfo Baggio

Rodolfo Baggio

Course completed in Australia: PhD in Tourism
Institution: University of Queensland (UQ)
Current position: Professor at Bocconi University, Research Fellow at Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics

Only a few universities in the world offered the kind of study experience Rodolfo Baggio was seeking.

Dr Baggio, a physicist and information technology specialist, was interested in applying quantitative network analysis methods to the study of tourism destinations. But....he wanted to remain in Milan teaching the Master in Economics and Tourism at Bocconi University while he studied.

Tourism is all about relationships and it was the existing affinity with teaching staff at the University of Queensland (UQ), plus their shared research interests, that convinced him to undertake his PhD by distance learning in the School of Tourism at UQ.

“I had already met the Head of School through work at the World Tourism Organisation and I knew about the university’s good reputation,” he says, “but I had never been to Australia.”

Rodolfo took the plunge, enrolled and visited Australia for two months to get to know his thesis supervisors and discuss how to proceed.

“It was on the other side of the world,” he says. “I expected it to be more American but instead it felt somewhere between the UK and Europe but with an Asian influence.”

“On my first night in Australia I spent hours looking at the sky. For one trained in observing stars, the first impression is a feeling of being 'lost'; you don’t see familiar patterns and you don’t recognise constellations you are used to.” But, he insists, he felt at home.

Each year, Rodolfo would spend two months at UQ at the beginning of the first semester, which as luck would have it coincided with the Australian summer. The rest of the time he communicated via Skype and email; the 8-10 hour time difference was of little consequence to the self-described ‘night person’. “I have a certain habit of working late,” he says.

Dr Baggio had already completed a thesis in astrophysics, conducted research in radio astronomy and worked extensively in information science and technology before becoming involved in tourism.

He decided on a PhD in Tourism, he says, because he was interested in doing research at a high level. “I wanted to use my past knowledge of complex systems and networks to explain and understand the structural and dynamic characteristics of a tourism system,” he explains.

The experience at UQ strengthened my skills as a researcher on more qualitative methods I was not so accustomed to.”

It also helped him to continue his position at Bocconi University, and “broke” some of his perceptions. “I started with very clear ideas,” he says. “I had already published papers. I knew how to build models and conduct a study, but a PhD is different.”

For Rodolfo, personal contact was essential, especially as he was a “remote” student spending only a limited time on campus. “They were a wonderful group of people,” he says of his colleagues at the School of Tourism.

Within a few months of enrolling at UQ, Rodolfo had begun writing his thesis. Two and a half years later he was awarded the Dean’s Outstanding Thesis Award for his meticulous work.

He continues to work today on the same premise, at times teaming up with his former supervisors to write papers and always “adding a little more” to the research he commenced in Australia. In fact, some of the papers on the themes originating from his PhD research are among the most cited works in important journals such as the Annals of Tourism Research.

“In the periods I have visited Australia I have seen a wonderful country and met interesting people,” he says, recalling the occasion in which someone described Italy as “exotic”.

“Well, it’s just a matter of perspective,” he reflects. “We call Australia exotic.”