UniSA researchers look to strengthen SA’s tourism sector

The Tourism Research Network at the University of South Australia (SATRN) was launched at the start of March at the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery. COMMUNITY
The Tourism Research Network at the University of South Australia (SATRN) was launched at the start of March at the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery.

Academics from across the University of South Australia have formed a new network with organisations and specialists working in tourism with the aim of boosting the sector.

UniSA is bringing together more than 40 scholars from a diverse range of fields, alongside a mix of people and organisations from the private and public tourism sectors in South Australia, to form the South Australia Tourism Research Network (SATRN).

Network co-convenor, Associate Professor Brad West, says the participants share a desire to use different disciplines to boost tourism’s role in the social and economic life of the State.

“Tourism is a major export earner for Australia but the economic relevance of tourism is not limited to the sector. It encompasses broader perceptions of the state, flowing into everything from migration to the export of South Australia’s wine,” Assoc Prof West says.

“Tourism is also one of the principal ways we celebrate South Australian heritage and tell stories about our past and who we are as South Australians today.

“While there is a myriad of tourism research groupings throughout Australia, none can offer the range of expertise in SATRN, which is able to move beyond identifying the impacts of tourism and actually enhance the experience of tourists.

“This will strengthen the sector by providing expertise in areas such as virtual reality, the sharing economy and the promotion of travel writing.”

The network not only joins up researchers in established fields such as tourism, leisure management and cultural industries, but covers areas such as environmental science, health, Indigenous studies, information technology, media, sociology and languages.

SATRN aims to become a platform empowering UniSA researchers to foster multi-disciplinary research in tourism, as well as to better promote their work and capabilities in South Australia and with industry partners.

The diversity of the network not only reflects the nature of tourism today but the type of engaged research being undertaken at UniSA through partnerships.

One example of the innovative research by members of the new network is Dr Tina Du’s research about how the theory of collaborative information seeking relates to Chinese tourists.

Dr Du, a Senior Lecturer of Information Studies and Mathematical Sciences, is involved in an Australian Research Council funded study examining how Chinese tourists make sense of, use, and share information for their leisure travel to Australia. The scope of the research covers their initial planning right through to the actual visit and will provide insights that can guide tourism promotion.

Assoc Prof West says the global tourism market is growing but highly competitive.

“Tourism has been identified as one of the growth sectors that will drive new jobs and economic prosperity over the next decade,” he says.

“It’s important for South Australia to remember that such an expansion is not automatic but is reliant upon our abilities to sell South Australia to the world.

“As a consequence we might also come to a stronger appreciation of own backyard.”