Sustainability and Wellbeing in the Visitor Economy

This research group develops critical evidence to inform public and private governance of the visitor economy, in the UK and globally.

We strive to deliver research and teaching which drives inspiration for an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable society with a particular focus on the transport, tourism, hospitality and events industries. With a truly interdisciplinary group of academics, we work with intergovernmental organisations, industry and NGOs. We focus on the following key areas:

  • Sustainability evidence-based policy making
  • Industry’s acceptance of responsibility for sustainable development
  • Sustainable development and entrepreneurship
  • Sustainable and efficient transportation
  • Sustainability marketing, product design and communication

Research projects

Sustainability evidence-based policy making

Our team was behind the creation of the European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS), and we continue to engage with governments to use sustainability evidence to take more informed policy decisions. In 2018, we are writing a manual to transfer best practices on sustainable tourism policy making, part of the Interreg Mitomed+ project. In 2017, we advised the Catalan Tourist Board on their 2017 marketing plans, centred around repositioning Catalonia as a sustainable tourist destination. We were also commissioned to develop a white paper for the city of Barcelona on how its Tourist Board could redesign its marketing strategy to achieve more sustainable development. These projects are undertaken by Professor Graham MillerProfessor Xavier Font, and PhD candidate Gloria Crabolu.

Industry’s acceptance of responsibility for sustainable development

We analyse and promote methods for travel trade associations, industry and certification bodies to take more responsibility to be sustainable. In 2018 we are studying the responsibility that travel trade associations acknowledge to promote animal welfare amongst their members, in partnership with World Animal Protection. The Association of Independent Tour Operators has commissioned us to develop and deliver a sustainability pledge system for its members, from 2017 to 2021. We previously researched the corporate social responsibility policies and practices of cruise lines, international hotel groups and small hospitality firms. This research is conducted during by Professor Xavier Font and PhD candidates Mireia Guix and Christy Hehir.

Sustainable development and entrepreneurship

We conduct research on how to achieve more sustainable forms of tourism development. This includes getting a better understanding regarding the role of within communities and how to promote sustainable entrepreneurship, particularly for marginalised communities, including promoting gender empowerment. We analyse how stakeholder collaborations can generate positive change. This research is conducted by Dr Albert KimbuDr Anna de JongDr Alector Ribeiro, Dr Cristina Figueroa-Domeq and PhD candidates Yingying Jin, Minhee JungClaudia Eckardt and Anke Winchenbach.

Sustainable and efficient transportation

Our research focuses on sustainable aspects of mobility, hypermobility, promotion of slower and more environmentally friendly travel. In 2016-17, we were awarded €135,000 to assess the socio-economic and environmental impact of Clean Sky 1, the EU’s largest ever aeronautics research programme, for its ability to meet the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe’s 2020 objectives for emissions abatement, noise reduction, and lifecycle design. This research is conducted by Dr Scott Cohen and Dr Andrew Hares.

Sustainability marketing, product design and communication

We analyse what sustainability means to travellers, and we provide tailor-made consultancy to in user-centred design of sustainable experiences, including the power of storytelling in branding, in partnership with staff at the Digital Economy Group. Over the years we have conducted over 140 courses for more than 2500 businesses on how to market and communicate sustainability, including training in 2018 for members of FarmStayUK, funded the University’s Innovation vouchers. During 2017, we used a user-centred design approach to deliver sustainability content that is market relevant in the online systems that Lufthansa City Center travel agencies use in Germany. This research is conducted by Professor Xavier FontProfessor Caroline ScarlesDr Candice HowarthDr Alector RibeiroDr Stella Tian, and PhD candidates Pablo Pereira and Christy Hehir.

Contact us

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

Find us

School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
University of Surrey