Competitiveness in the Visitor Economy

This research group is one of our most established, with strong funding, staffing, partnerships and impacts.

Labour is a key part of competitiveness in hospitality, tourism and events, so it is a central focus of this research group.

We aim to address equality and diversity in employment and conduct studies of future labour markets, productivity, career mobilities, skills, flexible employment and entrepreneurial migration, while examining other aspects of competitiveness at both firm and destination levels, such as advances in destination branding, visitor satisfaction, innovation, revenue management, and risk and disaster impacts.

We also aim to maintain our world-leading position in demand-forecasting research, which provides a scientific foundation to support businesses’ and governments’ decision making to improve their competitiveness.

Our partners

This research group has strong collaborations with world-leading institutions in tourism research, such as The Hong Kong Polytechnic Universitythe University of Queensland, and Sun Yat-Sen University.

We also collaborate with governments, businesses and tourism organisations nationally and globally, including:

We would like to collaborate with other leading research institutions and build strong links with national and international organisations and industry partners to generate wider research impact beyond academia.

Current projects

We’ve recently been awarded grants to conduct research, including:

  • Entrepreneurs’ innovation pathways (funded by Marie Curie Fellowships)
  • Youth mobility (funded by EU Horizon 2020)
  • Competitiveness in small firms (funded by Marie Curie Fellowships)
  • Cross-border innovation (funded by Marie Curie Fellowships)
  • Productivity, flexible working and migrant labour in hotels (funded by ESRC)
  • Social entrepreneurship (funded by the British Academy and The Leverhulme Trust).

International research and consultancy projects include visitor forecasting for Shanghai Disney Resort and destination branding, funded by the Norwegian Research Council.


    • Start date: 1 June 2016
    • End date: 31 May 2018


    The main aim of the project is to deepen understanding of the different stages of the innovation journey followed by entrepreneurs in tourism. It will examine not only the classic startup process, involving opportunity recognition, development and early implementation of innovation in the market, but also the subsequent stages of business performance (discontinuance, growth, further innovation, etc.). This understanding will contribute to the design of more effective innovation policies.

    Download the summary information brochure.


    1. Understand the innovation journey initiated by entrepreneurs in tourism, analysing the process and how this differ in the contrasting economic, tourism and institutional environments of Spain and the UK. This involves mainly a qualitative approach and the narratives of innovative entrepreneurs will be gathered through in-depth semi-structure interviews. Secondary data analysis and a first period of secondments with policy partners (SEGITTUR) dealing with tourism and innovation will contribute to set the specific contexts influencing the innovation process in each country.
    2. Analyse the development and performance patterns of a sample of young innovative entrepreneurs in tourism through a longitudinal study in Spain, specifically focussing on the determinants of innovation success or failure. Building on an initial previous contact, this will be accomplished through follow up interviews.
    3. Inform policy guidelines and business practices through co-production of applied knowledge with entrepreneurs and policy partner organizations in the UK and Spain. Key policy aspects identified during the previous stage will be transformed in collaboration with policy partner organisations (SEGITTUR in Spain and the Institute of Hospitality and the World Travel and Tourism Council in the UK) in an online survey targeting entrepreneurs to create validated policy guidelines. In summary, this contribution aims to bring more coherence and effectiveness to tourism innovation policy-practice.


    This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the MarieSkłodowska-Curiegrant agreement Nº 700893.


    Originality and innovative aspects

    This project represents the first attempt to provide a systematic, and theoretically informed analysis of the stages of the innovation process in tourism. Such studies are still relatively scarce in most economic sectors, but are virtually non-existent in tourism. Two other original, dimensions are: a) a comparative analysis of the innovation process in different national economic and institutional environments; and b) a focus on the multiple stages of the innovation journey of startups, and the challenges of subsequent innovation and growth. In short, this research incorporates both the temporal and the spatial or contextual dimension. In contrast, most existing research focuses on only part of the innovation journey.

    This is one of the first attempts to study the links between innovation and entrepreneurship in the tourism sector, rather than researching these concepts as separate entities. This is particularly important because innovation is central to the challenge of becoming a (successful) entrepreneur, while entrepreneurship is the essential vehicle between ideas and innovation.

    This is the first attempt to use a mixed method research design, in tourism innovation policy studies, involving both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Particularly original are: a) the longitudinal study of the innovation process through follow-up interviews with entrepreneurs; and b) a quantitative survey to validate the policy recommendations.

    Policy and practice partner organisations

    • Sociedad Estatal para la Gestión de la Innovación y las Tecnologías Turísticas (SEGITTUR)
    • Institute of Hospitality (IOH)
    • World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).



    Further reading

    Rodriguez-Sanchez, I., Williams, A.M., & Brotons, M. (2017). The innovation journey of new-to-tourism entrepreneurs, Current Issues in Tourism, DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2017.1334763

    Our publications

    Altinay, L., Song, H., Madanoglu, M. and Wang, X.L. (2019). The influence of customer-to-customer interactions on elderly consumers’ satisfaction and social well-being, International Journal of Hospitality Management. Vol. 78, p223-233.

    Corbet, S., O’Connell, John F., Efthymiou, M., Guiomard, C., Lucey, B. (2019). The Impact of terrorism on European tourism, Annals of Tourism Research, 75, 1-17

    Dayour F., Park, S. & Kimbu A.N. (2019). Backpackers’ perceived risks towards smartphone usage and risk reduction strategies: A mixed methods study. Tourism Management, 62, pp 52-68.

    Kimbu A.N., Ngoasong, M.Z., Adeola, O. & Afenyo-Agbe, E. (2019). Collaborative Networks for sustainable human capital management in women’s tourism entrepreneurship: The role of tourism policy. Tourism Planning & Development, 16 (2) pp. 161-178

    Li, G., D.C. Wu, M. Zhou & A. Liu (2019). The combination of interval forecasts in tourism, Annals of Tourism Research, 75, 363-378. DOI: 10.1016/j.annals.2019.01.010.  

    Li, S., A. Liu & H. Song (2019). Does tourism support supply-side structural reform in China?, Tourism Management, 71, 305-314.

    Ngoasong M. Z. & Kimbu A.N. (2019). Why Hurry? The Slow Process of High Growth in Women‐Owned Businesses in a Resource‐Scarce Context. Journal of Small Business Management, 57(1), pp. 40-58.

    Rodriguez Sanchez Isabel, Williams Allan M., Andreu Hugo García (2019) Customer resistance to tourism innovations: entrepreneurs? understanding and management strategies, Journal of Travel Research SAGE Publications (in press).

    Rodriguez, I., Makkonen, T., & Williams A. M. (2019). Originality peer review assessment in tourism journals, Annals of Tourism Research (in press).

    Stienmetz, J. L., A. Liu & I.P. Tussyadiah (2019). UK Residents’ Opinions of Peer-to-Peer Accommodation Impact on Quality of Life, In: Pesonen J., Neidhardt J. (eds.),    Inf ormation and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2019, 80-91

    Segovia-Pérez Mónica, Figueroa-Domecq Cristina, Fuentes-Moraleda Laura, Muñoz-Mazón Ana (2019). Incorporating a gender approach in the hospitality industry: Female executives’ perceptions. International Journal of Hospitality Management76, pp. 184-193.

    Tichaawa, M.T.  & Kimbu A.N. (2019) Unlocking Policy Impediments for Service Delivery in Tourism Firms: Evidence from Small and Medium Sized Hotels in Sub-Saharan Africa. Tourism Planning & Development, 6 (2) pp. 179-196

    Xu, S., & Cao, Z. (2019). Antecedents and outcomes of work-nonwork conflict in hospitality: A meta-analysisInternational Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. (Accepted).

    Xu, S. & Wang, J. (2019). Still waters stay put: Uncovering the effects of emotional variability using experience sampling methodologyScandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism. (Accepted).

    Verreynne Martie-Louise, Williams A, Brent, R, Sarel, G., & Kim, B. (2019) Innovation diversity and uncertainty in small and medium sized tourism firms, Tourism Management, 72, 257-269.

    Assaf A, Li G, Song H, Tsionas M (2018) Modeling and Forecasting Regional Tourism Demand Using the Bayesian Global Vector Autoregressive (BGVAR) Model, Journal of Travel Research. DOI: 10.1177/0047287518759226.

    Fan, D.X.F., A. Liu & R.T.R. Qiu (2018). Revisiting the relationship between host attitudes and tourism development: A utility maximization approach, Tourism Economics, DOI: 10.1177/1354816618794088.

    Ji M, Eves A & Wong A (2018). A Multilevel Investigation of China’s Intra-Regional Economic Condition on Experience Co-Creation and Dining Outcomes. IJCHM 30 (4) 2132 - 2152

    Kim, B., L. Zhou & A. Liu (2018). Culture and Service Quality: Case of Hong Kong, In: Cai, L.& Alaedini, P. (eds), Quality Services and Experiences in Hospitality and Tourism, 59-74, Emerald Publishing Limited.

    Lin Vera Shanshan, Yang Yang, Li G (2018) Where can tourism-led growth and economy-driven tourism growth occur?, Journal of Travel Research, DOI: 10.1177/0047287518773919.

    A. Liu., H. Song & A. Blake (2018). Modelling productivity shocks and economic growth using the Bayesian dynamic stochastic general equilibrium approach, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management,

    A. Liu., V.S. Lin & H. Song (2018). Analysing and Forecasting Tourism Demand, In: Cooper C., Volo, S., Gartner W., and Scott N. (eds), The SAGE Handbook of Tourism Management, pp. 202-221, SAGE Publishing.

    Liu, A., Wang, X.L., Liu, F. Yao, C. and Deng, Z. (2018) Soundscape and its influence on tourist satisfaction. The Service Industries Journal, Vol. 38, p164-181.

    Makkonen Teemu, Williams Allan, Habersetzer Antoine (2018) Foreign board members and firm innovativeness: An exploratory analysis for setting a research agenda, Corporate Governance 18 (6) pp. 1057-1073.

    Makkonen Teemu, Williams Allan, Mitze Timo, Weidenfeld Adi (2018) Science and Technology Cooperation in Cross-border Regions: A Proximity Approach with Evidence for Northern Europe, European Planning Studies 26 (10) pp. 1961-1979 Taylor & Francis.

    Manyiwa, S., Piporas, C. and Wang, X.L (2018) Influence of perceived city brand image on emotional attachment to the city. Journal of Place Management and Development. Vol.11, No.1, p66-77.

    Martinez, L. R., Xu, S., & Hebl, M. (2018). Utilizing education and perspective taking to remediate the stigma of taking antidepressants. Community Mental Health Journal, 54, 450-459.

    Nadine Meichsner, N.A., O’Connell, John F., Warnock-Smith, D. (2018). The future for African air transport: Learning from Ethiopian Airlines, Journal of Transport Geography, 71, 182-197.

    Qiu, R. T., Fan, D. X., & A. Liu. (2018). Exploring the booking determinants of the Airbnb properties: an example of the listings of London. In: Stangl B. and Pesonen, J. (eds), Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2018 pp. 44-51. Springer, Cham.

    Saayman Melville, Li G, Uysal Muzaffer, Song Haiyan (2018) Tourist satisfaction and subjective well-being: An index approach, International Journal of Tourism Research 20 (3) pp. 388-399. DOI: 10.1002/jtr.2190.

    Song, H., Altinay, L., Sun, T. and Wang, X.L. (2018). The influence of social interactions on senior customers’ experience and loneliness, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol.30, No.8, p2773-2790.

    Van der Rest, J.P., Roper, A. and Wang, X.L. (2018) Why is a Change of Room Rate Pricing Policy so Hard to Implement? International Journal of Hospitality Management, Vol. 69, p30-40.

    Vijaykumaran R, Eves A & Lumbers M (2018) Understanding Patients’ Meal Experiences through Staff’s Role: Study on Malaysian Public Hospitals.  Hospital Practices and Research 3 (2) 50 - 58.

    Vladimirov Zhelyu, Williams Allan (2018) Hotel innovations and performance? the mediating role of staff related innovations, Tourism Management Perspectives Elsevier.

    Volchek, K., A. Liu, H. Song & D. Buhalis (2018). Forecasting tourist arrivals at attractions: Search engine empowered methodologies, Tourism Economics, DOI:10.1177/1354816618811558.

    Wang C, Xu H, Li G (2018) The corporate philanthropy and legitimacy strategy of tourism firms: a community perspective, Journal of Sustainable Tourism pp. 1-18 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/09669582.2018.1428334.

    Wang Caiping, Xu Honggang, Li G, Chen Jason Li (2018) Community social responsibility and the performance of small tourism enterprises: Moderating effects of entrepreneurs' demographics, International Journal of Tourism Research 20 (6) pp. 685-697.DOI: 10.1002/jtr.2216.

    Wang Caiping, Li G, Xu Honggang (2018) Impact of lifestyle-oriented motivation on small tourism enterprises? social responsibility and performance in historic towns, Journal of Travel Research.

    Weidenfeld Adi, Björk Peter, Williams Allan (2018) Identifying Cultural and Cognitive Proximity Between Managers and Customers in Tornio and Haparanda Cross-Border Region, Journal of Borderlands Studies Taylor & Francis.

    Wu, D. C., Liu, J., Song, H., A. Liu., & Fu, H. (2018). Developing a Web-based regional tourism satellite account (TSA) information system. Tourism Economics, DOI: 10.1177/1354816618792446.

    Xavier Font, Rosa English & Alkmini Gkritzali (2018) Mainstreaming sustainable tourism with user-centred design, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 26 (10), 1651-1667, DOI: 10.1080/09669582.2018.1491981.

    Xu, S. & Martinez, L. R. (2018). Applications of latent growth curve modelling: A research agenda for hospitality management. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 30, 3268-3286.

    Xu, S., Martinez, L. R., Van Hoof, H., Estrella, M., Maldonado, G., & Gavilanes, J. (2018). Emotional exhaustion among hotel employees: The interactive effects of affect dispositions and positive work reflection. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 59(3), 285-295.

    Xu, S., Martinez, L. R., & Van Hoof, H. (2018). The Use of Latent Growth Curve Modeling in Measuring Student Perceptions about Mandatory Work Experiences. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 30(4), 241-249.

    Xu, S., Van Hoof, H., & Nyheim, P. (2018). The Effect of Online Scheduling on Employees’ Quality of Life. Journal of Foodservice Business Research, 21, 172-186.

    Xu, S., Martinez, L. R., Van Hoof, H., Tews, M. J., Torres, L., & Farfan, K. (2018). The impact of abusive supervision and coworker support on hospitality and tourism student employees’ turnover intentions in Ecuador. Current Issues in Tourism, 21, 775-790.

    Postgraduate research students

    Contact us

    • Phone: +44 (0)1483 686300
    • Fax: +44 (0)1483 686346

    Find us

    School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
    Austin Pearce Building (AP)
    University of Surrey
    GU2 7XH