Skip to main content

New tourism research center to focus on global societal needs

November 29, 2007

Can tourism improve life as we know it? How do rapidly growing areas rich in natural and manmade tourism and recreational amenities sustain their resources for tourists, residents and continued industry profits? What role does the global tourism industry play in human and community development, particularly in urban areas?

These types of socio-economic issues are the impetus behind the new Megapolitan Tourism Research Center (MTRC) at Arizona State University’s School of Community Resources and Development, launched today in downtown Phoenix. This approach is reflected in comments from the World Tourism Organization earlier this year stating that the tourism sector can and should effectively contribute to the twin global challenges of climate change and extreme poverty.

Although there are nearly 40 tourism research centers globally, most emphasize regional or local concerns, internet tourism, development, and tourism economics. In contrast, the ASU center will examine tourism’s role in quality of life issues on a global scale and not focus solely on industry gains. The center’s location in Arizona’ Sun Corridor megapolitan region is a model for global areas with hyper-growth, desert environments, borderlands, and significant indigenous and immigrant populations, where many of quality of life issues are exacerbated.

Timothy Tyrrell, a tourism economist, is the visionary behind this interdisciplinary center, along with Debra Friedman, dean of the ASU College of Public Programs. In addition to becoming a magnet for global tourism experts to convene around solving global problems, the center will involve industry leaders in initiating research projects. The center has hosted two statewide conferences on tourism safety and security, bringing public safety and industry decision-makers together around the topics of pandemics, terrorism and identity theft.

“The College of Public Programs has mobilized a critical mass of faculty, students and community partners rallying around the edgiest issues in tourism, quality of life studies, governance, social service delivery and community development,” notes Friedman. “Arizona Board of Regents’ approval of this new ASU center and the investment by the College of Public Programs are natural next steps to examine the power that tourism may have as a force for public good.”

“Our work parallels a new way of thinking emerging in the tourism industry,” says Tyrrell. “Tourism industry leaders and governments are struggling for solutions to the large scale issues affecting tourism at its intersection with society – security, migration, mobility, and competition for scarce resources, to name a few. We will raise the level of global dialogue on these issues.”

Tyrrell, director of the Megapolitan Tourism Research Center, has earned international recognition for his 30-year career in tourism research across the U.S. and overseas, particularly for his work on tourism sustainability. He envisions the new center as a “center of centers” and an “axis for global well-being driven by the engine of tourism.”

Tyrrell's academic colleagues around the world are anticipating collaborative work with the Center.

Peter W. Williams, director of the Simon Fraser University Centre for Tourism Policy and Research in Canada, and member of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism notes, “I commend ASU for building a collaborative research enterprise with the potential to catapult international tourism research into new realms of discovery for global good.”

MTRC’s inaugural community leadership council includes Joe Cole, director, National Investor Relations Institution Arizona Chapter; Pam Del Duca, president and CEO, DELSTAR Companies, Inc.; Ted A. Ferris, president and CEO, Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority; Barbara Garganta, regional manager, Anthropologie; AnnDee Johnson, director of research and strategic planning, Arizona Office of Tourism; Dan Postal, president, Wentworth Webb and Postal, LLC; and David Rauch, partner, Snell & Wilmer, LLP.

Other council members are Judy Reinke, marketing manager, Regional Marketing Office, Southwest Airlines; Rachel Sacco, president and CEO, Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau; Lauren Simons, marketing director, Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau; Michael A. Uehara, president and managing director, King Pacific Lodge; and Cady Wolf, vice president of partner marketing for the Western U.S., Canada and Hawaii, Travelocity.

Arizona State University programs affiliated with the Megapolitan Tourism Research Center’s research include the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, the Decision Theatre, the School of Public Affairs, the economics department in the W.P. Carey School of Business and the School of Global Studies. The Chase Economic Outlook Center is an affiliate partner.

For more information see