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Robertico Croes, Professor, Department of Tourism, Events and Attractions, and Editor of the Rosen Research Review, Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Griffith Parks, Associate Dean for Research, Director, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, and Professor, College of Medicine

Amount Awarded

Funding: $1.5 million recurring; $3 million non-recurring

Matching Funds

Matching: $525,000 recurring; $4.2 million non-recurring

Colleges Represented

College of Medicine, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Project Summary

Pandemics can have devastating consequences for regions where tourism is the economic lifeblood. Take Central Florida, for example, which welcomes more than 72 million tourists each year and has a tourism industry that employs about 460,000 residents. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of the tourism industry to sudden health and safety threats, as travel restrictions and consumer hesitancy caused historically low travel rates. It’s estimated the local economy took a $40 billion hit from lower rates of travel.

To help recover from those vulnerabilities and prepare for the potential of another pandemic, a team led by the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, College of Medicine and College of Engineering and Computer Science will develop programs with industry and government partners to help the community’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and prepare for, prevent and respond to the viruses that may initiate the next pandemic. Small to medium-sized businesses that lack the resources of the larger companies are expected to benefit most.

This project will strengthen research in studying, preventing and responding to health and safety threats to travel and tourism. Specifically, the researchers will:

  • establish an Infectious Disease and Travel Health Initiative that unites faculty and staff with common research and community interests, with plans to grow the initiative into a research center that partners with government agencies;
  • hire additional faculty who will apply for and secure research dollars from federal agencies, state economic interest groups and the travel industry to research applicable areas;
  • establish new courses and a Travel & Health track within the Master of Public Health degree program;
  • and partner with industry to build related internship programs and a pipeline of talent to meet workforce needs.


Griffith Parks, Kenneth Alexander, Eric Schrimshaw, Edward Ross, Jane Gibson, Taj Azarian, Alan Fyall, Sudipta Seal, Youcheng Wang, Deborah German, Michael Georgiopoulos