Driving Innovation: Academic Research & Shaping Future of Tourism

The tourism and travel industry is always changing, influenced by shifts in consumer habits, technology developments, and economic factors. Research plays a vital role in understanding and adapting to these changes, but often, the findings are not put to practical use.

Working closely with universities could bring great benefits to the tourism industry, as well as the students studying it. The knowledge and insights gained from academic studies could bring in millions of pounds if used effectively. However, only a small amount of this research is actually applied in the industry. This is not due to poor quality research, but more a disconnect between what is studied and what the industry needs. There have been successful collaborations with well-known universities such as Surrey (great case study here) Cornell, Oxford Brookes, and Applied Sciences Salzburg, raising the question of whether this could be duplicated elsewhere.

The need for collaboration is clear in the ever-changing landscape of tourism, especially with rapidly evolving customer needs, unused data, and tech innovations. Universities also have their struggles, such as funding cuts and ensuring their research makes a real impact. So, industry-specific research could be useful for both parties.

If hotel schools and universities work in line with industry needs, they could become more relevant, grasp new sources of income, and benefit all involved.

This collaboration could provide universities with a steady income from their research, boost their image, and strengthen connections with the industry. It could also increase the chances of students getting jobs by lining up academic programmes with what the tourism sector needs. The industry, on the other hand, could gain access to the latest research and insights, promoting innovation and staying competitive.

There are many ways to make money from these research opportunities, like paid membership sites for research access, Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs), paid research for companies, and patenting intellectual property. Other platforms, such as the Tourism Data for Africa Portal which provides relevant data, could also prove useful for academics and industry professionals alike.

As they begin this journey, hotel schools and universities should start by understanding the industry’s issues, checking the market demand for research products, and specialising in sought-after areas.

They should also pursue market-ready products where they can and have a strong online presence to promote their work.

To sum up, there is a need for greater collaboration and alignment between the tourism sector and academic research. While some may worry about universities becoming too business-focused, we should aim to use academic insights more in real-world scenarios, enhancing both the educational and industry landscapes.

This method could make academic research more relevant and provide the tourism industry with the intellectual tools needed to adapt and prosper in a continuously changing world.