. Lab lead:
Alongside Roos Gerritsma, designer, researcher and innovation strategist Wina Smeenk has been leading the lab team since January 2020.
‘We are builders of bridges’
As the founder of the Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab, urban sociologist and associate lecturer Roos Gerritsma was there at the start of the lab in 2015. Roos considers the lab to be a testing ground for more: ‘North is the starting point, not the destination. By working here on complex challenges at a micro level, we can also make our mark at a macro level. Rather than designing quick fixes, we are building partnerships for the long term. Our interventions always consist of three steps: local expertise, local value creation and measuring local impact. In this way, we truly connect with local communities’.
What is your educational background?
I studied Urban Sociology at the University of Amsterdam and Communication at the Haagse Hogeschool. My masters – more than 20 years ago – was about Amsterdam residents and their attitude to tourism and tourists. I am still dealing with this theme and its context today with my students.
What do you contribute to the lab as a learning community?
Connecting with the community, both in Amsterdam-North and beyond, I liaise with a comprehensive network of residents, businesses and policy officers. I live in North myself, which obviously also makes a difference. Other than that, I am frequently led by intuition and it is quite often only afterwards that I realise how much my feelings have prevailed. Obviously, that is also partly due to my work as a sociologist. I once compared myself to a sponge, because I absorb many things using all my senses. I share my expertise in the fields of leisure and recreation, tourism and urban development. To me, development of vision is quite important; I am always looking to the future. Writing is important too, and my publications are both scientific and practice-oriented. I also have the capacity to work in a structured way and to reflect, in other words, to ask what we have actually learned.
What is your favourite spot in Amsterdam-North?
Can I choose two? I am inclined to say: Hamerkwartier, the vantage point over the IJ River. With a little imagination, you can see the Sluispunt – the very tip of the Sluisbuurt island – from there. It really is a beautiful riverside vista. The Pllek restaurant is also one of my favourite spots. There is a lovely song about Amsterdam-North: ‘On the sunny side of the IJ’. The nice thing about this northern bank is that it catches the evening sun.
Finish this sentence: for me, leisure and recreation mean…
… freedom, recharging batteries, connecting with other people, nature and myself. And it is also a luxury; in many other countries, this question is simply not relevant.
What factors do you think are key for the positive development of the tourism, recreation and events industries?
The end of Covid, obviously, meaning that we can move freely again without any fear. Hopefully, we will see this in 2021, so fairly soon, combined with some sort of pleasant and healthy balance. On the one hand, it will be lovely when we can engage in all kinds of activities again; at the same time, it is also bound to cause a great deal of irritation. It would be great if, once society has opened up again, we all took more account of each other’s situation. And as for the lab, I would like to set the standards even higher; we should be able to deploy leisure and tourism as a positive strategy to turn the tide in terms of climate change and inclusivity, as well as reducing loneliness and poverty.