By John Kaarsberg

Griffith University will lead and shape the Australian tourism landscape into the future through “vital” research conducted under the banner of its all-new Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT).

Unveiled today (Mar 27) at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus by Queensland Tourism and Major Events Minister Jann Stuckey, GIFT will have relevance and outcomes effective at both academic and industry levels.

“The importance of tourism to the national economy can never be understated and it’s extremely satisfying to see a Queensland institution become a vital conduit between government, industry and marketing organisations within the sector,” Minister Stuckey said.

“As an international knowledge provider, the Griffith Institute for Tourism is well positioned to bring about positive, sustainable change within an industry worth more than $22 billion to the Queensland economy.”

Susanne presentInaugural Director of GIFT, Professor Susanne Becken, (left) will lead a research team with a dedicated focus on sustainable tourism.

“The Griffith Institute for Tourism is engaged with local, national and international industry organisations, academic institutions and other organisations which share our commitment to making a difference for a sustainable tourism sector,” she said.

Minister Stuckey also highlighted the new institute’s appropriate location. “Australia’s tourism capital attracts more than 11 million visitors annually, forming a large proportion of Queensland’s collective tally from interstate and overseas each year.”

Industry Headway

Established to undertake and disseminate world-leading research in tourism, GIFT is also making major operational headway.

Strategic alignments are being formed with United Nations World Tourism Organisations, plus a memorandum of understanding is already at an advanced stage with Gold Coast City Council, Gold Coast Tourism, as well as international tourism and environmental management and advisory group, EC3 Global.

The charter of GIFT’s strategic purpose will be determined by an advisory board chaired by tourism industry heavyweight and Griffith University lecturer, Don Morris AO.

“The initial focus of research at GIFT will be the customer experience, China tourism, water and energy efficiency in tourism, indigenous tourism attractions and education, and tourism in natural areas,” Professor Becken added.

“Excellence draws excellence and already GIFT is attracting world-class academics keen to advance and share their expertise under the banner of GIFT for the benefit of the entire tourism industry.”

Reinforcing the research epicentre status of GIFT, a second white paper on water, that was supported by the EarthCheck Research Institute (ERI), together with Ecolab (ECL), was last week presented by Professor Susanne Becken during a lecture in Hong Kong to mark World Water Day 2014.

The paper titled, “From Challenges to Solutions: Providing the Business Case,” shows that water and its combined effect with energy use could become the most contested resource of the future, calling on the tourism industry — a heavy user of water – to act fast.

Tourism industry insights:

Leo Jago — Tourism Research Australia, Chief Economist and General Manager

“Without the knowledge that solid academic research can provide, Australia’s tourism industry will not realise its true potential. It is critical that government policy and industry activity in the tourism sector are informed by the depth of research expertise that only institutions like GIFT can provide. There are few research institutions in Australia with a focus on tourism and so the launch of GIFT will be invaluable for delivering on Australia’s national tourism research agenda that was recently updated to focus research activity for the benefit of industry and government. GIFT has brought together a group of researchers and research affiliates that will ensure that its outputs are truly world class.”

Paul Donovan — Gold Coast International Airport, Chief Operating Officer, Chairman Gold Coast Tourism

“I’ve no doubt GIFT will do wonderful things for our industry. The calibre of research leaders is world-class, and their knowledge and insights as to how we can continue to foster tourism growth into the future will be of significant benefit. I’d like to congratulate Griffith University on taking this step and urge our industry to get behind the initiative and take advantage of the knowledge that will be on offer.”