Today, people from all corners of the globe join to celebrate World Tourism Day with a collective message of fostering unity through the exploration of diverse cultures and promoting sustainable travel practices. Designated by the United Nations (U.N.) World Tourism Organization and observed annually on Sept. 27, World Tourism Day serves as an essential platform to underscore the profound significance of tourism and its far-reaching impacts on society, culture, and economies worldwide.

Each year, World Tourism Day focuses on a specific theme that reflects current trends and challenges in the tourism industry. The goal is to encourage dialogue and cooperation among governments, organizations, and individuals to address critical aspects of the industry and promote tourism that benefits communities and the environment. In 2023, the theme emphasizes the crucial nexus between tourism and green investments, underlining the imperative of adopting sustainable and eco-conscious practices within the industry that promotes equitable prosperity.

Researchers at the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management, ranked as the premier hospitality and tourism program in the nation and renowned for its groundbreaking research contributions to the industry, are pioneering research in sustainable practices and responsible tourism.

Resetting Coastal and Marine Tourism in a Post-COVID World

A team of researchers from the Rosen College, including Professor Alan Fyall, Assistant Professor Sergio Alvarez, Professor Robertico Croes, Assistant Professor Jorge Ridderstaat and researcher Maksim Godovykh, presented a groundbreaking report on the future of coastal and marine tourism in a post-COVID-19 world at the U.N. Ocean Conference. Hosted by the governments of Kenya and Portugal, the conference aimed to explore science-based solutions to safeguard the world’s oceans.

Coastal and marine tourism — which generate approximately 50% of global tourism revenue, equivalent to about $ 4.6 trillion annually, and attracts half of all global tourists — faces mounting challenges. Unsustainable practices, environmental damage and social inequalities have marred the industry’s growth. Moreover, tourism contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions and infrastructure development damages natural habitats.

To address these issues, Rosen College researchers proposed a comprehensive blueprint for the future of coastal and marine tourism. This transformative approach calls for new, sustainable practices and business models, increased accountability, and social and environmental justice.

The proposed framework has three key objectives: to reduce impact, regenerate, and build resilience across environmental, economic, and socio-cultural dimensions. Environmentally, initiatives include carbon-neutral efforts, energy- and water-efficient infrastructure, and reduced single-use plastics. Economic improvements encompass support for local businesses, enhanced working conditions, and greater local employment. Sociocultural enhancements involve clear cultural guidelines for visitors and the protection of human rights.

Ultimately, reshaping global tourism offers substantial opportunities to contribute to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, such as gender equality, marine ecosystem preservation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Indirectly, it leads to poverty reduction, improved health, education, clean energy and clean water access for coastal communities.

Tourism Specialization’s Impact on Transition Economies: Insights from Poland

In a study published in the journal Tourism Management, Croes and Ridderstaat examine the relationship between tourism specialization (TS), economic growth and human development in transition economies, using Poland as a compelling case study.

Transition economies in Eastern Europe have undergone significant changes since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, with many countries aligning their economies more closely with the West and aspiring to join the European Union. This transition has opened opportunities for international tourism to become a powerful development strategy, accelerating convergence between these nations and the Western world.

Croes and Ridderstaat conceptualize tourism specialization as an economic model and process that involve tourists engaging in consumption activities based on attractive physical, natural and human capital. This process, directly linked to economic growth, results in profits for businesses, wages for household and taxes for the government. It can also lead to indirect economic benefits, such as the attraction of international businesses, bringing new skills and ideas to the local economy.

Using Poland as a case study, Croes and Ridderstaat found that tourism played a significant role in the country’s transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy. Tourism represented a substantial part of Poland’s economy, creating jobs and contributing to gross domestic product growth.

The study found the relationship between human capital and economic growth showed a U-shaped pattern, with an upturn following a decline in economic growth. A similar pattern was seen in the relationship between human capital and human development.

In light of these findings, the researchers propose two practical options for Poland’s development policy: a strong focus on tourism development and improved hospitality education. Both options aim to extend capabilities in Poland, with tourism development potentially leading to increased international tourism and economic growth, and hospitality education addressing labor market gaps created by the emigration of highly educated workers.

The study’s implications extend beyond Poland, offering insights for other transition economies and various categories of countries.

Unravelling the Tourism-Poverty Nexus: A New Framework and Honduras Case Study

The global tourism industry — contributing a staggering 10.4% to the global GDP (approximately $9,170 billion) and employing around 334 million people — holds immense potential for economic growth and poverty alleviation. However, the intricate relationship between tourism and poverty has been underexplored in academic literature, leading to disjointed insights.

In response to this gap, Ridderstaat and Xiaoxiao Fu from the Rosen College have introduced the tourism-poverty interdependence diamond (TPID) framework. This innovative approach examines the direct and indirect links between tourism development and poverty.

To test the TPID framework, researchers applied it to Honduras, a Central American nation facing substantial poverty despite tourism contributing significantly to its economy. Results show that the relationship between tourism and poverty is market-specific. For example, tourism development directly alleviates poverty in the U.S. market, but not vice versa, highlighting missed opportunities for grassroots poverty alleviation.

External shocks, such as Hurricane Mitch and the 9/11 attacks, significantly affected tourism in Honduras, emphasizing the need for diversified tourism markets.

The study also uncovered interesting correlations. Increased participation in education was associated with higher poverty, likely due to decreased economic activity, while improved human development positively correlated with tourism development. However, the benefits of tourism were unevenly distributed, with the poor benefiting the least.

Practically, the TPID model offers a tool for governments to integrate tourism development and poverty alleviation effectively. Tailoring policies to specific markets and considering variables at national and local levels can create a more holistic approach to developing the tourism industry and alleviating poverty.

In summary, the TPID framework sheds light on the complex interplay between tourism and poverty, providing valuable insights for policymakers striving to harness tourism’s potential for poverty reduction.

Moving Forward: Celebrating World Tourism Day Through Excellence in Research

The Rosen College has established itself as a leader in research-driven innovation and sustainability within the hospitality and tourism sector. The college’s faculty and researchers have consistently pushed the boundaries, contributing invaluable insights into eco-friendly practices and promoting responsible tourism.

“Colleagues at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management are deeply engaged with the search for more sustainable and resilient forms of tourism development with these recent studies, evidence of collaboration with industry and government stakeholders,” Fyall, associate dean and the Visit Orlando Endowed Chair of Tourism Marketing says. “As with many coastal and marine destinations around the world, COVID-19 has served as a timely reminder to the industry in Florida to reflect on its existing economic model and to rebuild for the future in a manner that respects the environmental sensitivity of much of its coastline and waterways.”

On this World Tourism Day, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management invites all stakeholders, including students, faculty, industry partners, and the community, to celebrate its excellence in research and join the dialogue on “Tourism and Green Investments.” Together, we can continue to  propel the industry forward, armed with research-driven knowledge and a commitment to sustainability.

For more information about the Rosen College of Hospitality Management’s research contributions and its involvement in World Tourism Day 2023, visit this page.