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Tourism, Hospitality and Events Research


The Tourism, Hospitality and Events (THE) group reflects the multi-disciplinary nature of these subjects. The core group members consist of researchers with a range of specialisms that encompass a range of professional and academic experience, methodological approaches and subject expertise. Research is important for the consistent and continuous development of a sustainable and value added tourism activity.  The aim of THE will be to create a bridge between the practitioner and the academic in providing an informed basis for the decision-making process concerning tourism policy and strategy.

Research themes

  • Pilgrimage and memorial tourism 
  • Tourism development 
  • Community tourism 
  • Heritage tourism 
  • Events and tourism in island cultures 

Methodologically the research group has expertise in a range of approaches, both qualitative and quantitative, in the areas of;

  • Ethnography 
  • Thematic analysis 
  • Case study research 
  • Project analysis 
  • Document analysis
  • Content analysis 

Subject experience within the group encompasses the tourism, hospitality and events sectors as well as the niche sub-disciplines within the subject area.

Impact and contribution

The tourism, hospitality and events sectors have been at the forefront of the news during the recent COVID-19 pandemic and it is the aim of the group to act as a conduit between policy makers, academics and practitioners to examine the ways in which the broader sector can regroup, re-establish and sustainably move forward. 

The research group aspires to work with local, regional and national THE organisations to mobilise expertise to consider the mechanisms for survival, growth and economic, cultural and environmental direction. The research group draws upon experience in developing, implementing and delivering research projects for a range of organisations in the THE sector. 

Lourdes, France Business Tourism Research GettyImages-1200350254.jpgReligious tourism is explored in Lourdes, France

Selected research projects

Dr Simon Thomas is currently working on a research project that aims to better understand the intersection between traditional forms of pilgrimage and the more contemporary aspects of memorial and shrine culture. Memorial and shrine culture has seen a significant growth pattern in the last twenty years evolving from the 1990s shift away from more traditional religious pilgrimage to the quasi-religious shrines that characterise both secular and memorial shrine culture. The research project aims to bring together a number of noted academics to contribute to an international edited textbook dealing with the theoretical transformations and applied re-positioning of the pilgrimage phenomenon. The project is on-going so if you would like to become involved please contact Dr Thomas.

Research Team: Dr Simon Thomas

To pray and to play: Post-postmodern pilgrimage at Lourdes published in Tourism Management examines the factors that religious pilgrims draw upon when constructing a personal meaning of their visit to Lourdes. Through an ethnographic examination of twenty-five individuals it finds that their experiences may be characterized by the common themes that comprise ‘lived connections’, unexpected ‘encounters’, ‘visual’ and ‘curative’ content. These themes parallel those that feature in the seminal account of Bernadette Soubirous' vision of the Virgin Mary in 1858, which we collectively term ‘Echoes of Bernadette’. Those who successfully navigate the apparently contested spaces and interact in meaningful encounters are partaking of a pilgrimage that is rooted in the religious and the historic. The study provides a contribution to the theory of pilgrimage by declaring that it may be enacted in a post-postmodern duality that accepts the freedom of the individual but recognizes their need for experiences that are grounded in a sociohistorical ‘truth’.

Research team: Dr Simon Thomas, Dr Brychan Thomas and Lisa Powell. 

Recent publication: An Investigation into Cultural Events and Tourism on the Isle of Man

This paper investigates the significance of cultural events for the development of tourism on the Isle of Man. Historically the Isle of Man captured tourists from areas around the Irish Sea including England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. This was especially the case with working-class tourists from the industrial North of England, North Wales, Dublin and Belfast. These tourism markets were prominent in the late 19th, and early and mid 20th centuries. Recent tourist data shows a fall in visitor numbers to the Isle of Man which has taken effect in post war years. In order to explore this decline, and the significance of cultural events for the development of tourism in recent years, a number of research methods have been deployed involving secondary data to assess tourism development and tourism sector growth determinants. 

As a consequence an investigation was undertaken involving sequential parts. Part one considered trends in the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries drawing primarily on secondary data, existing research and archival material. Part two investigated cultural events to provide findings and analysis for the tourism industry on the Island. Lastly, part three assessed the nature and importance of events according to the modern evolution of the sector. External (international) and internal (island) influences on development were considered. From the findings conclusions showing prominent issues from the trends observed have enabled consideration of the importance of cultural events for tourism development.

Research team: Dr Julian Zarb

The research project to introduce the concept of Community-Based Tourism to the Maltese Islands has been running for the past ten years, first through the Ministry for Tourism, Culture and the Environment (2009-2013), then as a research project in collaboration with the Institute for Travel, Tourism and Culture at the University of Malta (from 2014). This project is managed through the Malta Tourism Society.

Tourism is essentially a socio-cultural activity that brings people together as a learning process, primarily to share knowledge. Yet tourism also offers all the key stakeholders – the local authority, the local business and the local community – an opportunity to profit from the social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits.

The research team have been developing a booklet: Guidelines to the setting up and managing of community-based tours, which brings together the results of more than eight years of research and experience working with local councils in Malta and Gozo to study the process for introducing a new concept that adds value to the visitor experience, the community-based tour.


Study with us

We welcome UK and international applications from suitably qualified graduates interested in joining us for postgraduate research. We particularly welcome applications from self-funded research students who wish to pursue studies in Tourism (Pilgrimage and Tourism; Memorial Tourism; Tourism Development; Community Tourism; Heritage Tourism); and Events (Event Impacts; Risk Management for Events; Crowd Science; Event Legacy; Event Strategy). 

Also see Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) | MBA | Business and Management courses


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