Although a major contributor to life at BU, the study of Tourism is often wrongly maligned as being a niche subject on the periphery of more established areas of study such as Business & Management and Geography. Well, in the UK alone over 100 institutions offer HE courses at undergraduate level including “top tier” universities such as Exeter, Surrey, Strathclyde and Stirling with many more competing for students and staff across Europe and beyond with major concentrations of activity in North America, the Middle East, South East Asia and Australia and New Zealand where tourism is not only a significant area of academic interest but also of valuable income, foreign exchange earnings and employment.
Returning to the UK one of the most significant “coming of age” moments has been the explicit inclusion of Tourism for the very first time in a Unit of Assessment in the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework. Unit 26, Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism is one of only a few new units in the REF, a fact which clearly reflects its growing maturity as an area of academic investigation and the widespread positive recognition with which it is now held across the sector. This recognition really took hold 2 to 3 years ago when the ESRC awarded colleagues at the University of Exeter £1.5 million to set up its research cluster in Sport, Leisure and Tourism, an award which would have been unthinkable only a few years before. Since then, staff from the School of Tourism at BU have been attracting funds from the ESRC, the European Union and the United Nations World Tourism Organization and others while the significant award recently won by colleagues from the School from the EPSRC on sustainable patterns of travel demonstrates the collaborative and inter-disciplinary opportunities offered by Tourism. This latter point was again highlighted recently with the inclusion in the RCUK publication Big Ideas for the Future of a project looking at the fusion between public health and tourism policies at the local level. This was BU’s only entry in this prestigious publication, testament if it were ever needed that the industry that is widely acclaimed as the world’s largest has now also come of age in the academic arena!