Skip to main content

Discussion series ponders tourism for public good

March 21, 2008

Taking tourism industry research past the point of sheer profiteering is the goal of the Megapolitan Tourism Research Center and its founder-director Tim Tyrrell, who recently spoke at Tom’s Restaurant & Tavern as part of the ongoing Phoenix AM Breakfast Discussion Series.

For Tyrrell, an ASU professor and tourism economist, getting past the initial “mega-what?” reaction to his academic focus is only one of many challenges lined up for the newest unit at the College of Public Programs, which was launched in late November as part of the School of Community Resources and Development.

What prompts the “mega-what?” reaction is the word “megapolitan,” better defined as a region that combines several metropolitan areas. For example, the Sun Corridor megapolitan region is one that stretches from Flagstaff to Tucson, encompasses the greater Phoenix metropolitan area and extends beyond the U.S. border into Mexico. This region provides a case study area for the Megapolitan Tourism Research Center, because discoveries can serve as a model for other places where quality-of-life issues are exacerbated by extreme growth, indigenous and immigrant populations, a desert environment and close proximity to international borders.

By contrast, most of the 40 tourism research centers around the globe emphasize regional and local concerns, development and tourism economics. Rather than focus on industry gains, Tyrrell wants to study tourism’s role in quality-of-life issues on a global scale – what could be called a form of “socio-tourism.” In a brief presentation March 11, he spoke briefly on the responsibility of tourism in community development and how the industry can meet global societal needs, then spent 45 minutes answering questions.

Among them was one asking if the contributions of the restaurant industry to tourism and its social impact would be part of the center’s research.

“Definitely,” Tyrrell says. “The food and beverage industry appears to be highly undervalued for its contribution to tourism and residential qualities of life. I know, for example, that the Arizona food industry served as effectively as a food relief organization for devastated regions of New England after Hurricane Bob in 1991. I also recently discovered the large contribution that the restaurant industry makes in serving the poor in Arizona through donations of food and volunteer food service instructors.”

Another query tackled the hot-button issue of immigration, asking if the center would study migration and immigration issues related to tourism.

“We hope to,” Tyrrell says. “This is a politically charged issue, but serious objective research is needed – perhaps an academic team of researchers. One approach would be a collaboration of tourism research centers around the world on a study of the global problems of migration and immigration, with an attempt to learn from comparisons of a large number of international cases.”

To learn more about the Megapolitan Tourism Research Center, visit the Web site

College of Public Programs
(602) 496-1035