Covid-19 caused an unexpected shock to the higher education system around the world.  In particular, those delivering tourism education were impacted with immediate effect due to lockdowns and other restrictions on movements but there are likely to be follow-on effects for tourism education into 2020 and beyond in terms of students applying for tourism programmes, how we deliver those tourism programmes and the type of tourism graduates that we develop.  In essence, there is the opportunity for Covid-19 to change tourism higher education.  We are looking to address these issues in our Annual Conference in December and are delighted to announce three Keynote speakers: Professor Richard Butler, Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon and Professor Stefan Gössling, who will reflect on the opportunities and different approaches for tourism and tourism education.

The Association for Tourism in Higher Education (ATHE) is the subject association for tourism in higher education in the UK.  Its objectives include promoting the development and recognition of tourism as a subject of study in the UK at foundation degree, undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels, and encouraging high standards in learning, teaching and research. To this end, it works with other bodies concerned with higher education in the UK such as the Quality Assurance Agency and Advance HE.  Whilst we are all at individual institutions and very concerned with our own local contexts, we’re also all part of something much bigger and there’s a need to express a collective voice through ATHE even more than ever now.   To this end, we are offering TWO free places per ATHE member institution (for academics or research students).  We see this as a way of supporting one another in difficult times.  There will be a fee per participant for ATHE member institutions wishing to register more than two delegates and for non-members – who are, of course, encouraged to join as members (UK) or associates (outside UK).

Covid-19 will change our world. It will reinforce growing scepticism about globalisation, marketisation and the possibility and desirability of endless economic growth. And by highlighting our world’s fragility it will emphasise the theme of our 2019 conference, Tourism Education for an Uninhabitable Earth, which focused on the critical issue of climate change, the fragility of tourism and what that means for the tourism curriculum. In 2020, the global fragility of tourism has never been more apparent, as impacts of the epidemic have emphasised both the industry’s importance, and its vulnerability as people and ‘planes are immobilised, whilst borders and controls are re-erected. We should expect a different tourism to emerge, shaped by falling disposable incomes, increased social solidarity, travellers’ greater desire for safety and peace of mind, disrupted supply chains, stronger regulatory states, increased use of technology – and awareness of economic, social and environmental vulnerability. Tourism education is fragile too and must respond – which makes this year’s conference even more important – and has led us to the decision to hold it on-line for the first time.   There will be two free places for each ATHE member institution.

Tourism has consistently been touted as an income generator, employment creator and international growth sector; as such, tourism education is often rooted in conventional business and management subjects.   So why has it taken a global pandemic to create wider awareness of the fragility of the industry and the tidal effect this causes for destinations, local communities, tourism businesses, education and tourists?  We ask whether this is the end of a ‘golden era’ and what does post-COVID-19 tourism education need to consider?  So, this year our pedagogic and research themes, as well as our Doctoral Colloquium, focus on tourism education in a fragile world. 

Could tourism bounce back and re-emerge in something like its old form when economic recovery of some sort begins, or will the pandemic foster something different?  As tourism educators and researchers what is our role? Can we lead the development of a new tourism, more sensitive to its impacts, more resilient, perhaps smaller in its extent and more local – or should we simply try to reinstate business as usual? How will we respond to technology that is being driven at pace by the pandemic? Will enforced familiarity with virtual meetings mean less business tourism and fewer visits to friends and relations? How will curricula reflect these changes? Will course delivery change substantially? How do we encourage a collaborative approach between education and industry to help graduates prepare for, adapt to and manage a more resilient tourism?  What are the implications for tourism education itself – which grew as an optimistic subject in optimistic times?

Questions like these frame our 2020 conference on Tourism Education in Fragile World and so we are seeking pedagogic, research and doctoral colloquium abstract submissions covering but not limited to:

  • Curriculum Development
  • The Learning Experience
  • Assessment Strategies
  • Collaboration with Industry, Government Partners and/or Local Communities
  • Professional Development


We are delighted to announce our three Keynote Speakers:

Richard Butler is Emeritus Professor at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, and has taught at universities in the UK, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and Italy. A geographer by training, his research interests include destination development, sustainability, insular and remote regions, and links between tourism and political change and religion. A past president of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism and the Canadian Association for Leisure Studies, he has published over twenty books and a hundred papers on tourism. He has been an advisor to and conducted research for UNWTO and governments in Canada, UK, and Australia. In 2016 he was awarded the Ulysses Medal by UNWTO for excellence in the creation and dissemination of knowledge.  Professor Butler will present a Keynote on Covid-19 & TALC and what this might mean for the tourism industry and tourism education.

Elena Rodriguez-Falcon joined The University of Sheffield in 2001 where she was the founder of the University of Sheffield Enterprise (USE); Institutional Director of Learning Inclusive Learning and Teaching; Director of Enterprise Education and Director of Women in Engineering, going on to become Director of Communications and External Relations of Engineering, whilst holding a Chair in Enterprise and Engineering Education.  In 2012 Elena was one of the first ten in the UK to be awarded the status of Principal Fellow at the Higher Education Academy. Elena is also Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and of the Chartered Management Institute.  In 2018 Elena became President & CEO of NMITE (New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering https://nmite.ac.uk/about-us) – the most ambitious and radical disruptor in engineering higher education in the UK.  Professor Rodriguez-Falcon will present a Keynote on the new approach to engineering education, their student-centric learning methodology and a curriculum fuelled by real-world challenges.

Stefan Gössling is a Professor at the Department of Service Management, Lund University, and the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University, Sweden. He is also the research co-ordinator at the Western Norway Research Institute’s Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism. His main research interest is the sustainability of tourism and transport.  Professor Gössling will present a Keynote on Pandemics, tourism and global change in relation to the tourism industry and tourism education.


Tourism Education in a Fragile World is a broad theme and we welcome delegates’ perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that teaching Tourism offers in all realms of Higher Education. We encourage 150-word abstracts that cover any aspect related to the overall conference theme, for example:

  • Accelerated use of technology in the tourism industry
  • Accelerated use of technology in tourism education
  • Accessibility
  • Brexit
  • Climate change
  • Community regeneration
  • Fairer tourism
  • Globetrotting .v. Staycation
  • Greater regulation in tourism
  • Greater technology focus in tourism curriculum
  • Health .v. Wealth
  • Industry and destination resilience
  • Mobility
  • Political crises
  • Poverty .v. Luxury
  • (Re)Distribution of wealth
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Social tourism
  • The impacts of COVID-19
  • Tourism supply chains


The doctoral colloquium will continue to run, aiming to encourage doctoral students to present at an established conference and get constructive feedback in a friendly, supportive (virtual) environment.  Doctoral students are invited to submit a 150-word poster abstract based on the main theme of the conference.  During the conference, there will be a virtual poster session for doctoral students to present their work in 3-5 minute presentation (for further poster guidelines click here).


We know that universities will continue to face disruption, with pressure on incomes and budgets. Therefore, we want to minimise uncertainty in these difficult times, so we have decided that this year’s conference will be virtual. That provides an exciting opportunity to experiment with new ways of meeting and interacting together. One advantage is that we can introduce a stronger international element without increasing costs and carbon emissions.

We have chosen a virtual conference partly as we can offer it as a subscription benefit to ATHE members, with a total of TWO free places per ATHE member institution (for academics or research students).  We see this as a way of supporting one another in difficult times.

There will be a fee per participant for ATHE member institutions wishing to register more than 2 delegates and for non-members – who are, of course, encouraged to join as members (UK) or associates (outside UK).

Fee for Non-members & ATHE members registering more than 2 delegates:

  • £50 for 1 academic; £95 for 2 academics from the same institute
  • £25 for 1 research student; £45 for 2 research students from the same institute
  • £70 for a combined option of 1 Academic and 1 research student from the same institute

Please send abstracts using the form attached (click here) to conference@athe.org.uk by 30th October 2020