In this interview, we hear from Geoffrey Wall, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Professor Wall shares unique insights into the realities of the world of tourism academia: what is working and what is holding the field back.
He also discusses the people who have influenced him most over the past 40 years, the biggest obstacle to truly sustainable tourism, the future of tourism in China, and what makes a sustainability leader. A wealth of information and some genuine food for thought.
- His key insights from a long career in tourism studies;
- Which organizations and persons have served him as inspiration;
- What characterizes a sustainability leader;
- How taking a long-term perspective can help to move tourism in the direction of sustainability;
- Why the travel phase of tourism needs more scrutiny regarding its sustainability;
- Which aspects in tourism planning require more attention;
- The main shortcomings of tourism education and research, and the priorities;
- Why tourism development in China (still) fails on the sustainability front.
Geoffrey, looking back at your distinguished career in tourism studies, which have been your main professional insights/lessons learned?
My early work on the impacts of tourism predates the wave of interest in sustainable development, although I think it prepared me well to engage with the latter topic. The same is true of climate change.
Although primarily an academic, I have always thought it important to ask the ‘so what?’ question, and I have had a variety of opportunities to be involved in planning exercises at a variety of scales, from multi-national to local. Thus, I have spent my career trying to understand the implications of different types of tourism for destinations with different characteristics in the belief that the resulting insights can be used to inform tourism planning.
I have generally adopted a broad perspective, involving economic, environmental and socio-cultural dimensions.
Much of my work has been conducted in the developing world, particularly Indonesia and China, where residents are often disadvantaged by so-called development. I acknowledge that tourism is a business but, accepting this, I have tried to argue and illustrate that it is necessary to take a long-term perspective and address environmental and cultural dimensions to move the system in the direction of sustainability.