Researcher in Profile: Tom Griffin
Where are you from and where/what did you study? I grew up in Exeter, a city in the South West of England. I studied International Development at the University of East London, then an MA in Tourism and Sustainability at the University of the West of England, and a Ph.D in Recreation and Leisure Studies from the University of Waterloo here in Ontario .
Why did you choose tourism and hospitality? I had several summer jobs that involved hospitality and travel when I was young, and really enjoyed learning about new cultures, meeting new people, but also hosting them in my home town. When I was studying international development I became intrigued in tourism as an extension of historical travel patterns. We were studying the history and impacts of colonialism, and tourism kept coming up in discussions because of how it followed similar patterns. I found it interesting that tourism is viewed as a very neutral and positive experience in our society, but that there are lots of ways that much tourism needs to be improved if the benefits for communities and individuals are to be improved and received more equitably.
How did you become a researcher? I really started becoming interested in research in my undergrad studies. I was on an exchange in Cairo, and had to write a thesis. I studied the cultural role and symbolism of five star hotels in the city, making links between Egypt’s colonial past and the contemporary tourism industry. My research interests were developed during my MA, and I also found work asking people surveys at tourism sites, and enjoyed learning about how people were experiencing different places !
Why is research in hospitality and tourism important? Research is important in our industry for many reasons. Tourism is often underestimated, so research can help demonstrate its impacts and how it can be improved. Tourism is a growing and powerful industry, and the more we understand it the better it will be for everyone involved.
What are you researching right now? I’m continuing to study visiting friends and relatives travel, particularly looking at immigrants in Toronto who host people, from both a business and community development viewpoint. I’m also researching the impact of Virtual Reality in tourism marketing, and have conducted an initial study, and planning more in the near future. It’s an exciting technology that can provide opportunities and challenges to destinations and travellers.
What do you think is the most controversial topic in hospitality and tourism right now? Right now, for me, it’s the political changes that are happening in Europe and the U.S. Tourism relies on people being able to travel, and feel welcome in different destinations. Tourism is connected to migration, and the impacts of the recent political shifts may have substantial impacts on global tourism flows, among other important aspects for our global society.
What does the Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Research mean to you? The Research Institute is a hub, a place where research can be shared, and where students who are interested in research related topics can connect. It is also a springboard for those students, and can demonstrate new career ideas, and provide experience for people who go on to graduate studies and research related jobs .
How can you get students engaged in hospitality and tourism research? I think demonstrating the value of research in making decisions and becoming informed on a topic is important. Showing students how their assumptions on how to market an experience are flawed, or asking them what they think their peers think about a topic and then demonstrating through a survey that they are wrong are both valuable lessons. Not everyone will conduct primary research in their future careers, but everyone will consume it and should be critical of how the knowledge a report provides was produced and interpreted .
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a career in research, what would it be? Initially, just get involved- take opportunities that arise, take that job doing surveys at a festival, read tourism news and studies with a critical mind, and explore what topics interest you. If you’re interested in further studies it’s important to find opportunities where you can research topics that are both interesting to you, and have an impact. Not all research topics are exciting to everyone, but you also need to find topics that will be of interest to someone!
What are your major interests outside of HTMResearch? Spending time with my family. Reading the gossip on English soccer. Eating too much good food.
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