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My Surrey experience - Christy Hehir, Tourism and Environmental Psychology PhD

"Antarctica heightened my awareness of the serious fragility of upcoming travel destinations and was the impetus towards my passion into conversation through tourism."

Tell us a little bit about your background

I graduated with an MSc in Tourism Management and Planning in 2009 and have since held positions at Bournemouth Tourism, The Tourism Society, VisitEngland and most recently at VisitBritain – where I had roles within the Research, Evaluation and Analytics team.

Alongside my career in British Tourism, I am a fellow for the EU’s Arctic Forum and in 2012 published my first photography and quote book, Arctic Reflections, which aims to act as a reminder that our planet is at great environmental risk and highlights positive examples of young people taking action.

What is your PhD topic?

My PhD is in the field of tourism and environmental psychology. It aims to understand how travel experiences within nature can act as a stimulus to influence tourist lasting behaviours, so that we can continue to enjoy tourism while still protecting our planet.

In 2007, I became the UK’s student representative of International Polar Years 2007-2008, and as such was invited on a journey of a lifetime inside the Antarctic Circle. Antarctica heightened my awareness of the serious fragility of upcoming travel destinations and was the impetus towards my passion into conversation through tourism.

Why did you decide to do your PhD in Surrey?

I applied for Surrey’s tourism studentship this year, as the UNWTO has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism and Development. 

My PhD’s objectives also fit seamlessly to particular areas of interest of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, these including: Sustainability and well-being in the visitor economy and pro-environmental behaviour change, best practice and the creation of indicators of sustainability.

What is the potential future impact of your PhD work?

This research hopes to contribute practice in terms of understanding ways to promote conservation behaviour through the enjoyment of the travel experience, and to contribute to the understanding of psychological aspects of tourism theory.

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