Professor Jafar Jafari on Sustainable Tourism Research

Published 05/05/2016
Sustainable tourism academic leader Jafar Jafari

Sustainable tourism academic leader Jafar Jafari

It is a true honor to be able to share with you this short interview with Professor Jafar Jafari, whose pioneering work has been crucial for establishing tourism as respected academic discipline in its own right.

Jafar Jafari is Professor of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, founder of the academic journal Annals of Tourism Research of which he was the Editor-in-Chief for 35 years and the International Academy for the Study of Tourism. He is also the recipient of the 2005 UNWTO Ulysses Award.

Learn about:

  • How Jafar Jafari first got in touch with the sustainable tourism topic;
  • His main insights from a long career focused on sustainability and tourism;
  • His thoughts on the future of academic tourism research, and the main challenges;
  • The current state of sustainable tourism development in Iran;
  • What he’d to differently, given the chance to start his career all over again.

Jafar, when did your sustainable tourism journey begin?

When I was an undergraduate student in Isfahan, Iran, I acted as a tour guide for three years. This job opened my eyes to the study of tourism, which at the time had not been solidified as a study major on university campuses.

For me, sustainability began with cultural sustainability: that the host and guest populations need to be compatible and that tourism should not dominate life at the destination, instead tourism should be subordinated to the socio-economic fabric of the host community. My autobiography appears in this book.

Reflecting on your distinguished academic career, which are your main insights linked to tourism and sustainability?

That it is the culture which adds meaning (and interpretation) to other aspects of sustainability, including nature, use of resources, priorities, etc.

You are a highly respected academic leader in the tourism field. What do you think about the future of academic research in tourism? Which are the main challenges?

Tourism research is going in every which way. In a sense, this is good, as it leads to new insights. But some students and researchers, as they zoom on their research topics, lose sight of the essence of tourism, which is inherently a sociocultural phenomenon and that this must be kept in mind no matter how afield research take them.

The findings must be brought back to the mother text and context which in the first place gave birth to the research question. Unfortunately, some degree programs in tourism do not even cover/teach the sociocultural roots of tourism.

Today, a common core of knowledge is missing among recent undergraduate and postgraduate students, especially the latter. In most cases, competencies are not comprehensively treated and framed.

Encyclopaedia of Tourism Jafar JafariJafar, you are the co-editor of the Encyclopaedia of Tourism. Why is this book important for tourism professionals? What is its contribution?

The Encyclopaedia of Tourism (in two volumes, published by Springer, 2016) is meant as a one-stop “shopping” for nuggets of knowledge in tourism, especially when one wants to quickly learn about a given aspect of tourism. The read can be an end in itself (that is all he/she wanted to know) or it opens a window to the reader to pursue the subject beyond the entry.

You were the scientific secretary and keynote speaker of the “First International Tourism Brand Conference” in Isfahan (Iran), January 3-4 2016. What was the goal of this conference?

The main goal of the conference was to introduce and discuss the subject of destination branding, not to come up with a brand for a city or country.

Your thoughts on sustainable tourism development in Iran?

Everything is possible. Often it depends on, among other things, whether a country wants more tourism (growth) or prefers sociocultural/ecological sustainable tourism (development). Usually, the distinction between growth and development is misunderstood.

If you had to start your professional journey all over again, knowing what you know now about sustainability and tourism, what would you do differently?

To gain broader and deeper multidisciplinary perspectives on tourism.

Thank you, Jafar.

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