Published: 21 May 2024

Surrey PhD students contribute to international travel and tourism research

The 2024 Travel and Tourism Development Index, the most important global benchmark of tourism development, often used by Ministries of Tourism worldwide as part of their KPIs, was published on 21 May.

This report has been published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in collaboration with University of Surrey, marking a significant international milestone for us.

Three of our Hospitality, Tourism, Transport and Events PhD students, Gabrielle Lin, Allen Liu and Gilang Majid, were selected to work as research assistants on this flagship index of the Forum.

Head of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (SHTM), Professor Iis Tussyadiah, said: “Our partnership with the Forum presented a unique opportunity for our PhD students to engage directly with a global project, significantly enhancing their academic and professional development through such exposure”.

We asked Gabrielle, Allen and Gilang about their experiences….

How did you get involved and what was your role on the TTDI research?

Each of them answered a call from SHTM asking for candidates with strong quantitative and analytical skills to support the TTDI research project. Allen recognised “the opportunity to work on a prestigious initiative, I volunteered and was selected for the role”.

Gabrielle, Allen and Gilang’s primary tasks were to collect and analyse data to develop the indicators that make up the index, perform statistical tests to ensure the accuracy and reliability of these indicators and the robustness of the index’s construction. They also contributed to the actual TTDI report, Allen focused on data mining to explore insight illustrations for particular index pattern and Gabrielle wrote part of the TTDI report which described regional results.

Why is the TTDI important?

Gilang says: “The launch of this index every two years is eagerly anticipated by leaders of tourism organisations worldwide. It serves as a crucial tool for evaluating and benchmarking their country's performance against competitors, as well as staying informed about the latest trends.”

The insights from TTDI serve as a critical resource for policymakers, investors, and business leaders to understand and enhance their region's tourism potential. Allen, “it offers rich datasets and visual tools that researchers can utilize to explore various aspects of tourism development. By addressing both current and future challenges, the TTDI helps shape strategies that promote inclusive and sustainable growth in the tourism sector​​.”

Surrey PhD student, Gabrielle Lin
Gabrielle Lin

How has your involvement had an impact on your career/your own PhD research?

"My understanding of tourism and destination management has been greatly enhanced by analysing data, identifying trends, and discussing tourism issues with many experts. The professional knowledge, teamwork skills, and network that I’ve built up throughout this process are invaluable for my career as a tourism researcher and will continuously nurture my development in academia in the long run. 

I’m proud to be part of the TTDI team and appreciate the School’s trust in offering me this opportunity, which means a lot to me as a PhD student."

Surrey PhD student, Allen Xinyang Liu
Allen Liu

“My participation in the TTDI project has profoundly influenced my career and academic pursuits. Collaborating with the World Economic Forum has provided me with an unparalleled opportunity to deepen my understanding of tourism and destination management. 

This experience has honed my skills in data analysis and statistical testing, and enhanced my ability to identify and interpret key trends in the tourism industry. The professional relationships and networks I have built through this project are invaluable, offering ongoing benefits for my research and career development. 

This opportunity has been a cornerstone of my PhD research, enriching it with practical insights and robust data analysis techniques, and has significantly contributed to my growth as an academic and researcher in the field of tourism analytics​​."

Surrey PhD student, Gilang Majid
Gilang Majid

"My involvement in the project has significantly bolstered my self-confidence, particularly as I approach graduation from the PhD programme. 

I believe that participating in such a significant project on a global scale positions me for future success and will facilitate my job search after completing my PhD. Furthermore, the knowledge gained, exposure to the latest trends in the travel and tourism sector, and firsthand experience in meetings with leaders from global organisations such as UNWTO and Mastercard have deepened my understanding of the sector. I utilised this information to strengthen my thesis and feel inspired to achieve great things in the future."


This project has been made possible through the hard work of our team at SHTM, led by Dr Marion Karl. The PhD students’ supervisors were:

  • Professor Iis Tussyadiah
  • Dr Jason Chen 
  • Professor Gang Li