Media Releases
Bernie Goldie
31/01/2011

University of Wollongong tops nation in tourism research

Tourism researchers at the University of Wollongong today officially found out that their research is rated as the best in Australia.

When the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) results were announced, UOW was the only university in the country to achieve the top rating of 5, or ‘well above world standard’ within the tourism research discipline. Tourism research has emerged as doing extremely well overall within Australia’s higher education institutions, proving to be truly competitive on an international level, with UOW at the forefront.

“Receiving this result is a fantastic achievement for us, especially in light of the university not having a School of Tourism,” Director of the Institute for Innovation in Business and Social Research (IIBSoR) at the Faculty of Commerce, Professor Sara Dolnicar said.

“We have a number of excellent individual researchers from a range of disciplines that have made this possible through their contributions and international collaborations within the tourism field over the past decade.”

A few of these contributions include advances in market segmentation methodology for tourism, the introduction of a novel paradigm into sustainable environmental tourism without sacrificing profitability, and insights into perceptions and use of social media by travellers.

According to Associate Professor Gordon Waitt at the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER), the ERA process has identified excellence in a field that would otherwise remain invisible within the current research divisions at the university.

“It illustrates not only the quality of tourism research conducted at UOW, but also the key contributions from academics in different faculties,” he said.

“This points to the huge potential for new collaborative research ventures between faculties and staff members.”

Interdisciplinary research is a key strength at UOW, and the outstanding ERA result achieved by its tourism researchers within the Marketing, Human Geography and Communication Sciences disciplines is evidence of the success of this strategy.

“Tourism studies often goes unnoticed because it doesn’t fit traditional discipline categories, but today’s result shows how important tourism research can be, both at the theoretical level, where UOW researchers are leading the world, and for practical problems such as sustainability, cultural diversity, economic development and community vitality,” according to Professor in Human Geography, Chris Gibson at AUSCCER .

“At UOW we have pursued a range of research projects on topics such as innovation in sustainable tourism, the contributions of festivals to the social and economic life of country towns, and new niche markets such as gay tourism and nature tourism. We’re delighted that this hard work has been recognised by the ARC.”

Bringing to light a strength that had been partly hidden due to UOW’s organisational structure, the positive ERA result will lead to tourism research becoming more of a strategic focus going forward, Professor Dolnicar said.

“The first step in this direction has already been taken with the recent appointment of Dr Ulrike Gretzel, a leading international tourism researcher and expert in the area of tourism and social media.”

UOW researchers are actively involved with the tourism industry. Professor Dolnicar is serving her second term on the Tourism Wollongong Board of Directors.   Her strong international reputation as the leading expert in tourism market segmentation methodology also sees her regularly invited to give presentations and keynote speeches on the topic and help organisations with their own segmentation studies.

 Professor Gibson has led Australia's largest ever study of festivals in rural Australian communities, which included the participation of 480 festivals and resulted in policy impact and large media interest. The first ever comprehensive book on music tourism, “Music and Tourism”, was co-written by Professor Gibson, a book which has been described as a "pioneering text … with a breadth of real life, international and up-to-date examples”.

Profesor Waitt is acknowledged for breaking new ground in the first critical analysis of gay tourism which he co-authored, a work seen as a major contribution to tourism. His work is regularly used by community groups, overseas consultants, and independent non-governmental research institutes.

Given the social, economic and cultural importance of tourism in regional Australia, the University of Wollongong is uniquely positioned to contribute to the industry through its tourism research strength.

See the University of Wollongong’s Tourism Research site for further information at here

For further information contact Professor Sara Dolnicar on phone (02) 4221 4210 or email: sarad@uow.edu.au

UOW IN THE NEWS