our
Backstory

What is our backstory?

One of the assumptions we face at the Tourism CoLab is that we are all about tourism! As complex creative thinkers, interdisciplinarians, and boundary spanners, we see tourism and the visitor economy as a lens to understand the complex world we live in. Travel and mobility are part of a resilient social-ecological-economic system.

Travel and tourism have powerful transformational effects. We all love to travel because it delivers benefits including connecting and learning about ourselves, deepening connections with friends and family, with special places, and with this magical planet. Travel can transform lives and make us see and value things differently. The Tourism CoLab wants to ensure we never lose this magic by seeing tourism fall into that "dirty industry" category. We want to secure tourism's social contract, its licence to operate and to contribute.

We see tourism through the lens of opportunity to make this world a better place, to share it and learn. To achieve this we need new institutional spaces, and we need to acknowledge that addressing tourism well is more complex than marketing and stimulus measures.

We do come across those who dismiss tourism like it's a dirty word, superficial, marketing spin, or lacking in substance. Before you judge, dig a little deeper and take a peek into the boundary-spanning work we are involved in. It's the complexity, the interdisciplinarity, the stretching across scales and policy dimensions that define our innovative approach.

New skills and ways of thinking, new mindsets and embracing the paradigm shift is much easier than trying to resist what is already happening... Our founder's backstory provides a window into how deeply engrained are our approach and thinking.

The journey

Our purpose and direction are often defined by our journey and how those experiences have shaped us. The Tourism CoLab's founder's story is an international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary journey.

DESTINATION DESIGN, AUSTRALIA

TOURISM, DESIGN AND REGIONAL STRATEGY 

 

Working in Queensland in the late 1980s and early 1990s, tourism was on a massive growth trajectory. The role that tourism played in the transformation of urban, rural and natural landscapes and communities in places like The Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforests became a core focus of my work. The need to ensure land use planning and policy was designed to protect the very essence of special places and communities led to working with stakeholders to integrate tourism into planning schemes, tourism and place design, environmental management and policy.

The principles of Design with Nature, and deep community engagement took centre stage in our work.

TOURISM-RECREATION LANDSCAPES, CANADA

MASTERS RESEARCH & LIFE-WIDE LEARNING

With a thirst to see how the rest of the world was coping with tourism growth, I enrolled in a Masters degree at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Continuing my interest in the way tourism transforms landscapes and communities, my research focused on muti-use landscapes, place identity and attachment. I count myself lucky to have worked with amazing scholars examining competitive advantage in Niagara Falls, the scoping of environmental impact assessments.

ECOLOGIES OF PLACE, XALAPA, MEXICO

COMMUNITY EDUCATOR, JARDÍN BOTÁNICO CLAVIJERO

I found myself in Xalapa, Mexico in 1991 where I worked for 5 years in community education at one of the most important botanical garden and seed banks in Latin America. Examining the role of regional biodiversity, urban regeneration and socio-cultural drivers of deforestation took me on an intercultural journey that profoundly shaped my understanding of place ecologies. It's a perspective informed by culture, politics, ecology, economics and social dynamics of place.

PLACE IDENTITY, BRANDING & POLICY, AUSTRALIA

PhD RESEARCHER/CONSULTANT

Embarking on a PhD, I was eager to explore the connections between place identity, regional development and the role of business-government networks. I helped establish a local government-led tourism network after the closure of the steelworks in Newcastle. I designed and implemented tourism professional development seminars which kept me grounded and connected to the pragmatic perspectives of business, governments and communities.

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION & DESIGN

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY

Being told to 'not worry my pretty little head' (true story!) about research, my first academic position was an intensive teaching role. I decided to make the most of it by developing an approach to experiential transformational learning. Several teaching awards resulted including a National Citation for Teaching Excellence. Drawing from experience in Mexico, it was clear that learning, in various forms, was the key to understanding our environmental footprint and to changing attitudes, behaviour and connection to Nature. Educational journeys consolidated as a cornerstone of my work.

POLICY INNOVATION & ORGANISATIONAL DESIGN

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, SOUTHERN CROSS UNIVERSITY

Consolidating thinking around tourism and its role in regional change, community well-being, place-making and policy, I authored a book highlighting the value of storytelling in learning and professional development. I also continued my commitment to tourism education by leading the largest national study of tourism and hospitality education examining the future of tourism education.

 

I contributed to OECD research and thought leadership by examining policy complementarities in tourism and recommending changes for national governments.

TOURISM EDUCATION FUTURES

CHAIR, TOURISM EDUCATION FUTURES INITIATIVE

Invited to Chair the Tourism Education Futures Initiative, a global network of innovative tourism educators. Based on a commitment that education should be values-based (not only focused on economic outcomes), I embraced a global leadership and mentoring role. Between 2012 and 2018, I we broke new ground by exploring conferences themes in co-creation, values-based education, tourism and social enterprise, stories as tools for learning, transformational learning, and the ethics of care. 

39 chapters on the future of tourism, hospitality and events education and curriculum spaces in a complex, interdisciplinary world with David Airey and Michael J Gross.

An important theme during this time was a commitment to unlocking the link between social enterprise and tourism. This produced a partnership with the amazing Roberto Daniele (Changemaker's Lab), several walking workshops in Nepal and conference and book on the topic.

ELECTED MEMBER, INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY FOR THE STUDY OF TOURISM

COLLABORATION, CO-DESIGN & INNOVATION 

PROFESSOR, AALBORG UNIVERSITY

Ever curious to learn and experience new ways of thinking, I headed to Europe in 2014 to extend my thinking. With collaborations across Europe, the OECD and the European Commission, I delivered policy advice, research and presentations to European Tourism Ministers.These included:

Digitalisation and tourism SMEs  policy supports

Collaborative economy tourist accommodation policy responses

Policy supports for the blue economy

Diverse economies, innovative business models and the platform economy

There is no way to sugarcoat it. Just chalk it up to life experience. Competition, bullying and mobbing at Aalborg University became a health risk. I'm not the only one who has been subject to bullying in higher education. Walking away from an international career and global networks provided the opportunity to renew, regenerate and rethink. Every experience has its intelligence. It made me reflect more deeply on why some people fear the way others think. How social regulation and performance measures stymie creative thinking and shape what is acceptable knowledge. Ironically, the key emerged from his inner work. Sharing new ways of thinking, understanding and working in tourism would be the essence of the CoLab!

THE TOURISM COLAB, AUSTRALIA

FOUNDER/DIRECTOR

Founding The Tourism CoLab in 2019 has allowed the opportunity to return to create a place to share, inspire, provoke thought and new ways of working in tourism. Combining consulting, higher education research, activism, thought leadership, award-winning teaching and community engagement, The Tourism CoLab was created to help guide the change that is needed in tourism.

 

My story is simply the pathway to here, to the hopes and dreams for the future of better, kinder tourism and visitor economies that nourish the communities and environments on which it is based.

As a boundary spanner, complex creative thinker and activist, it's all about the ideas, the inspiration and the joy of exploring a change-making pathway together.

Afterall, we can't change the system from within. We need the boundary spanners and edge walkers!

DESIGNING TOURISM, AUSTRALIA

CO-FOUNDER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Designing Tourism was founded in 2021 to experiment with new ways of working in tourism. It's an experimental lab on Flinders Island Tasmania, where we are exploring, testing and building new ways of working in tourism.. 

Flinders Island Regenerative Tourism Living Lab