Portrait: Yannis BELLE, a young Polynesian with a PhD in Management specialized in Tourism

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Yannis BELLE defended his thesis at the University of Nantes on December 14, 2018. This makes him the first Polynesian to hold a PhD in Management specialized in IT and family-run guest houses.

Yannis BELLE is the first Polynesian to hold a PhD in Management and to be specialized in Tourism. With a Bachelor's degree in economics and management, at the age of 28, Yannis returned to university and left his fenua to pursue a higher university course in Nantes, France. He had one goal in mind: the study of Polynesian family-run guest houses and their relationship to IT. After successfully defending his thesis in Nantes on 14 December 2018, this young researcher has given us the honour to answer these few questions from the Center for Research on Tourism in Oceania-Pacific.

Can you tell us more about your thesis?


So my thesis is entitled "The influence of Culture on the adoption and use of ITI by very small businesses in tourism: the case of Polynesian family-run guest houses". »

Lhe first observation was that nowadays, the use of information technologies is becoming essential, particularly in the tourism sector, where consumers are increasingly using the Internet for their information research and booking activities. The second observation was that VSEs tend to have more difficulty (than SMEs

or large companies) in adopting the use of IT in their business processes. The idea of the thesis is to contribute to the understanding of why these difficulties are occurring, and why particularly within the VSEs? There are certainly explanatory factors such as insufficient financial resources, skills, staff, etc., but the idea was to explore a non-traditional factor such as... culture.

In order to explore the issue, I opted for an ethnographic approach and semi-directive interviews. The idea was simply to immerse myself in the reality of family boarding house professionals and see how their cultural affiliation influences their behaviours and decisions, especially those related to IT.


What difficulties have you encountered in the last four years and how have you managed to overcome them?

The main difficulty is loneliness, I think. Unlike the Bachelor's or Master's courses, during which you evolve in a class with other students in the same canoe as you, in a PhD you are all alone. All alone facing your workload, your subject and dealing with your motivation. I was fortunate to have two thesis directors who were very involved in my work and my success. They knew how to pull me out, accompany me, motivate me, and put me in the best possible conditions to succeed. It may sound strange, but one of my main motivations for moving forward was that I didn't want to disappoint them... They got both involved for me that I refused to let them down.

I would like to thank Mrs. Clergeau and Mr. Rival for their top-notch support.


What is your best memory of those years of doctoral studies?

My presentation! While at first I thought it was going to be terrifying, I actually had a great time talking to the jury. It was a pleasure to be able to have an open and serious discussion with people who took the time to read in the slightest detail your work, and to debate on the relevance of the different concepts, on the methodology, on the development of the fields, on the results... It was a bit like telling one of the greatest adventures of your life.



Yannis Belle (second from the right) surrounded by his jury after his thesis defense at the University of Nantes on December 14, 2018. (Photo credit: Yannis Belle)


Your thesis convinced the jury and will probably be presented at the AIM and FNEGE thesis prize, can you tell us more about it?

So yes, the jury strongly recommended that I apply for various thesis prizes, including the AIM (Association, Information and Management) prize, which rewards a thesis in Information Systems oriented management up to 1000 euros. This prize would then allow me to apply for the "FNEGE Prize for the best theses in Management - My Thesis in 180 seconds" whose prize amounts to 3000 euros.

I will also apply for the Thesis Prize of the AFMAT (Association Francophone de Management du Tourisme) because I have a strong attachment to this association and its annual conference. This is where I did my first doctoral workshop, my first communications and I loved the atmosphere.



What are you going to do now that you have obtained your PhD?

My objective is to obtain the qualification to become a Lecturer (MCF) and I sincerely hope to be recruited as a lecturer-researcher at the University of French Polynesia, for which I also have a strong attachment to the heart.

 I was born in Polynesia, I did all my studies between the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti and it was finally at the UPF that I obtained my Bachelor of Economics and Management (I am a purely local product). 

I left for Metropolitan France for my Master's and Doctorate and came back to at the end of the Doctorate. I am one of those Polynesian students who are making the effort to move abroad to return home better, in the hope of working in here, with relevant new diplomas. But I know that it is not always easy to find a job when, and I thank the UPF for giving me this extraordinary opportunity to teach Polynesian students. I feel like I was seeing myself again a few years ago, when I was on their side and not behind the desk.

I am currently on fixed-term contract, and the qualification would allow me to be recruited on permanent contracts.

I would obviously like to contribute to management research at the UPF, particularly in the field of tourism, but not only. There is much to be done to increase our understanding of Polynesian businesses, which,mix people from different cultures (mainly Polynesian, Chinese and French). This is an area where there is more work to be done. The ethnographic approach, in particular, has generated  interest in me, and I hope to be able to continue along this path.

Another more personal problem is added: I will very soon be the father of a little child half Marquesan half paumotu. I hope I can make sure that like me, he grows up here. All those who have known life elsewhere (who have left for school or other reasons) know particularly well how much our Fenua is a small paradise. It's our little paradise.



What advice would you give to students who, like you, would like to pursue a PhD?

I think the most important thing is to work on a subject that is particularly meaningful to the student. It is this passion for the subject that will keep him motivated, and allow him to complete the colossal personal work that graduation requires. Passion turns work into an adventure!

How do you see the future of family-run guest houses in French Polynesia?

I think it will be brilliant! With the arrival of new airlines and lower airfare prices, the destination will attract more and more low-budget tourists, who tend to favour accommodation in family-run guest houses. Thanks also to the various local institutions (Ministry of Tourism and Labour, Tahiti Tourism or family boarding associations) which nowadays make the family boarding house offer a major feature of Polynesian tourism, the sector should be developed more and more.



Do you have any last words? 

Thank you infinitely... Thank you. Thank you to the UPF, thank you to the professors of the Law-Economy-Management Department for welcoming me among them and giving me this opportunity. Special thanks to Mr. Rival and Mrs. Clergeau, my thesis co-supervisors, for their tremendous support, and if I was able to go all the way through the doctoral adventure and give a thesis of quality, it is because of them.

Mauruuru roa.



Interview of Yannis BELLE by Hiriata BROTHERSON for the CETOP

February 2019