The University of Johannesburg’s School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH) recently joined forces with the University of Oulu in Finland to host the inaugural International Conference from Recovery to Resilience in Tourism. This groundbreaking two-day event brought together a diverse group of local and international tourism and hospitality scholars, emerging researchers, and PhD-level postgraduate students. The central focus of the conference was to explore sustainable strategies for transforming the tourism industry, with a particular emphasis on recovery and resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Interdisciplinary Perspectives: The Need of the Hour
One of the key highlights of the conference was a compelling address delivered by Professor Robin Nunkoo from the University of Mauritius. He underscored the imperative need for interdisciplinary perspectives in tourism research. Professor Nunkoo emphasized that the tourism industry is no longer confined to the realms of economics and hospitality management alone. It demands a holistic approach that draws from fields such as environmental science, sociology, and even psychology to navigate the complexities it faces.
Community-Centric Sustainable Tourism
Judy Kepher-Gona, the Founder and Principal Consultant of Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda, also made a significant contribution with her address titled ‘Communities and the future of Sustainable Tourism.’ Her insights shed light on the pivotal role that communities play in the sustainability of the tourism sector. Kepher-Gona stressed the importance of empowering local communities and ensuring that tourism benefits are equitably distributed among them. This approach not only fosters resilience but also enhances the overall tourist experience.
The Changing Face of Tourism
Professor Tembi Tichaawa, the Academic Head for Tourism at STH and one of the Conference Co-Chairs, aptly summarized the conference’s overarching theme. She highlighted the transformation of the tourism industry in recent times, driven by external pressures such as the COVID-19 pandemic. She pointed out that while tourism was traditionally seen as a highly resilient growth-driven industry, it is now confronted with unprecedented vulnerabilities. This shift necessitates a reevaluation of strategies to ensure the sector’s survival.
Adaptation and Sustainability
Professor Jarkko Saarinen from Oulu University reinforced the idea that economic and geopolitical changes have shaken the tourism sector to its core. He stressed the urgent need for adaptation, recovery, and the cultivation of better resilience to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry. The tourism sector, he noted, cannot operate in isolation; it must respond to the evolving global landscape.
Alignment with South Africa’s Vision
Professor Diane Abrahams highlighted the conference’s alignment with the recent leadership conference hosted by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa. At this event, resilience and sustainability emerged as central themes in discussions involving both the private and public sectors. The research presented at the International Conference from Recovery to Resilience in Tourism promises to provide valuable academic insights into the key challenges and opportunities faced by the tourism sector not only in South Africa but also globally.
The International Conference from Recovery to Resilience in Tourism served as a beacon of hope and knowledge-sharing in a sector facing unprecedented challenges. The collaborative efforts of academia from different corners of the globe emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary research, community-centric approaches, and adaptability in shaping the future of tourism. As the industry navigates the path from recovery to resilience, it is evident that it must continue to evolve, learn, and collaborate to overcome the hurdles it faces and emerge stronger and more sustainable than ever before.
This conference, along with South Africa’s growing commitment to resilience and sustainability in tourism, offers a ray of optimism for an industry poised for transformation. By embracing these principles and learning from the insights shared at such gatherings, the tourism sector can indeed carve a path towards a brighter and more resilient future.