Canadian students travel to UF, Disney to complete Disney International Academic Exchange Program  July 10, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     From June 28th to July 9th, 17 students from various Canadian universities spent the week in Gainesville before traveling down to Orlando to complete the Disney International Program. These students are all prart of the Disney International Academic Exchange Program at UF. This program consists taking UF online courses at the beginning of the summer and then traveling to Florida to complete the Disney International Program for six months. The students spend over a week in Gainesville for an Orientation Week in which they stay in on-campus dorms and are shown what it is like to be a UF student.   During their time here in Gainesville, they took trips to Lake Wauberg and Ichetucknee Springs to experience the weather and nature that north Florida has to offer. They received presentations about professionalism from Alison Noonan from the UF Career Resource Center and about sports marketing and collegiate athletics from James Slagle from the University Athletic Association. They received tours and participated in professional interactions with Laura Shiver from AC Hotels Downtown Gainesville, Kate Eames and the rest of the staff from The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, Jerica Manzi from The Amelia Island Club, and Matt Borocz from TPC Sawgrass.  Now in Orlando, the students will spend the next six months working for Disney in various roles from such as merchandise, attractions, and food and beverage. They will come back to Gainesville for homecoming weekend and then will begin two more courses in the Fall while working.  More information about the program:  ufdex.org

Canadian students travel to UF, Disney to complete Disney International Academic Exchange Program

From June 28th to July 9th, 17 students from various Canadian universities spent the week in Gainesville before traveling down to Orlando to complete the Disney International Program. These students are all prart of the Disney International Academic Exchange Program at UF.

      EFTI to co-host Future of Tourism conference in Petra, Jordan  June 19, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     The Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute will be co-hosting a conference titled “Future of Tourism in the Golden Triangle, Jordan: Destination Competitiveness, Connectivity, and Sustainability” from August 8-9, 2018 with the University of Jordan and the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority. Located in Petra, Jordan, this conference will discuss strategies, best practices, and future of tourism in the golden triangle region as well as in Jordan among various stakeholders from the country as well as international tourism specialists.  “As aptly themed – Future of Tourism in the Golden Triangle, Jordan, the two-day conference is a celebration of past accomplishments along with a targeted vision towards the future. The conference provides a forum to exchange ideas, discuss best practices, engage in expert dialogues, and identify a roadmap for the future with a priority on tourism destination competitiveness and sustainability.”  This conference will feature a series of experienced speakers such as the chairman from the UN World Tourism Organization, the EVP of Guest Experience and Product Development at Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd, the former Secretary-General from the UN World Tourism Organization and many more. Some of the sessions will be moderated by EFTI’s Drs. Brijesh Thapa and Lori Pennington-Gray. One of EFTI’s newest Advisory Board members, Chris Thompson- CEO of Brand USA, will also be a panelist on one of the sessions covering destination competitiveness.  “The future of tourism in [Jordan] presents new prospects to further leverage and cultivate demand in existing, regional, and emerging international markets, as global tourism and mobility has demonstrated significant growth. While future growth is predicted, tourism will be dependent on several aspects such as, transportation accessibility and connectivity, investment in hard and soft infrastructure, regulatory reforms, new product development, integrated marketing, and safety of visitors.”

EFTI to co-host Future of Tourism conference in Petra, Jordan

The Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute will be co-hosting a conference titled “Future of Tourism in the Golden Triangle, Jordan: Destination Competitiveness, Connectivity, and Sustainability” from August 8-9, 2018 with the University of Jordan and the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority.

      EFTI presents at Alachua County Hospitality Council  June 6, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     On June 6th, 2018, Dr. Craig Schmitt spoke in front of the Alachua County Hospitality Council at their monthly meeting held at Backstreet Blues Chop House & Oyster Bar.  “The Alachua County Hospitality Council is a non-profit organization that was formed as a way for dedicated professionals in the Hospitality and Tourism industries to exchange ideas, promote events in our area and network; to provide unique and memorable experiences to those who visit or reside in Alachua County. The Council Members includes individuals from restaurants, hotels, attractions, event coordinators and allied businesses.” (Retrieved from http://www.hospitalitycouncil.com/about/)  Dr. Schmitt spoke about the research that the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute has been producing and how it might be helpful to local tourism & hospitality professionals. With three diverse research groups, EFTI is able to provide precise research on a large amount of topics in the tourism industry spanning from technology to sustainability.  EFTI has partnered with industry leaders to provide insightful research in the form of faculty interactions, class projects, and graduate student sponsorship.  “EFTI faculty and staff recognize how critical it is to collaborate with industry, to not only stay current with trends and challenges, but also to identify opportunities to provide research driven insights that could help with industry decision-making.” Dr. Schmitt said. “We are, and will always remain, incredibly grateful to our industry partners!”

EFTI presents at Alachua County Hospitality Council

On June 6th, 2018, Dr. Craig Schmitt spoke in front of the Alachua County Hospitality Council at their monthly meeting held at Backstreet Blues Chop House & Oyster Bar.

      Chris Thompson awarded the first-ever National Tourism Leadership Award  May 9, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA and one of EFTI’s newest board members, received the first-ever National Tourism Leadership Award presented by Skal International- USA.  This award was created to annually recognize major contributions by an individual who has grown tourism to and within the United States. On hand for the award presentation were Susanna Saari, Skal International president from Turku, Finland, and Daniela Otero, Skal International CEO, from Torremolinos, Spain.  "It's an honor to have my peers recognize me in this way," Thompson said. "The members of the North American Skal club have supported me and guided me in so many ways throughout my career, and to be the first recipient of the National Tourism Leadership Award is humbling."  Thompson has led the expansion of Brand USA in its role as the as the force behind the marketing of the United States as a premiere travel destinations in the global marketplace.  "I am proud of the work we are doing at Brand USA to promote the United States as a premier travel destination," Thompson added. "The USA remains as aspirational as ever.”  To learn more, please see this article:  https://www.travelpulse.com/news/destinations/brand-usa-s-chris-thompson-receives-leadership-award.html

Chris Thompson awarded the first-ever National Tourism Leadership Award

Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA and one of EFTI’s newest board members, received the first-ever National Tourism Leadership Award presented by Skal International- USA.

       Dr. Pennington-Gray featured in Newsweek Japan   May 7, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray recently wrote an article featured in Newsweek Japan about how to safely travel abroad in the age of terror. Dr. Pennington-Gray highlighted the work that the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative has been conducting to help the tourist to be responsible and engage in safe tourism practices and to help the industry to be prepared for terrorism attacks.  In this article, Dr. Pennington-Gray talked about how safety is the cornerstone of an attractive destination. In this technological age, tourist are research more and more about their potential destination, and according to Dr. Pennington-Gray, the industry has been forced to be more responsive than ever.  Another point that Dr. Pennington-Gray addressed was how destinations react to terrorism. In time of crisis, tourist require direct information from the governing bodies of destinations. Dr. Pennington-Gray explained that during the Boston Marathon bombing, the Police Department Commissioner started using social media within 10 minutes to explain to people what was happening to avoid miscommunication. According to Dr. Pennington-Gray’s research, more communication will lead to greater response to actions when crises occur.  Dr. Pennington-Gray closed out the article by providing several tips for tourists to take responsibility for their own safety. The tips include:   Monitoring the threat level of the destination where you are going to travel ( https://www.riskmaps.aon.co.uk )  Follow the destination’s social media accounts prior to travel and check posts during travel  Use FireChat- an app where users can communication on their smartphones within a 200-foot radius without internet or cellular connection  Check-in on Facebook’s Safety Check to notify friends and family that you are safe

Dr. Pennington-Gray featured in Newsweek Japan

Dr. Pennington-Gray highlighted the work that the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative has been conducting to help the tourist to be responsible and engage in safe tourism practices and to help the industry to be prepared for terrorism attacks.

      Drs. Kim and Thapa travel to Maryland for NERR Symposium  April 26, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     From April 8th to April 10th, 2018, Dr. Jin-Won Kim, Dr. Brijesh Thapa, and graduate student Eunjung Yang traveled to Annapolis, Maryland to participate in the 2018 National Environment and Recreation Research Symposium (NERR).  In the first session, “Resource Management,” they presented a study titled “Exploring the Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Visitor Flows in a National Park With a GPS-Based Mobile Application.” Dr. Brijesh Thapa acted as a facilitator in this session between the study they conducted and a series of other research presentations. In this study, they explore the spatio-temporal patterns of visitor flows at Seoraksan National Park in South Korea. GIS mapping in combination with spatial data analysis were employed to explore the spatial and temporal patterns of visitor flows within the park.  The next study presented was the “Measuring the Impact of Green Space Access on Public Health: A Case Study of Florida.” This study measured the level of green space access for each county; analyzed the relationship between level of green space access and level of public health; and explored spatially varying relationships between level of green space access and level of public health across the state of Florida.  The final study presented at the conference was titled “ Measuring the Recreation Equity of Beach Access for People with Ambulatory Difficulty in Duval County, Florida.” The purpose of this study was to measure the beach access and equity for people with ambulatory difficulty in Duval County, Florida.

Drs. Kim and Thapa travel to Maryland for NERR Symposium

Dr. Jin-Won Kim, Dr. Brijesh Thapa, and graduate student Eunjung Yang traveled to Annapolis, Maryland to participate in the 2018 National Environment and Recreation Research Symposium (NERR).

      Drs. Fesenmaier and Schmitt joined by advisory board members to present research at FADMO  April 23, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     From April 18th to April 20, 2018, Dr. Craig Schmitt and Dr. Dan Fesenmaier traveled to Palm Coast, Florida to present in the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations’ 2018 Marketing Summit. The FADMO 2018 Marketing Summit is a program of education designed for tourism specialties to share information and help destination marketers attract more customers to their communities.  Joined by Advisory Board members, Patrick Harrison and Howard Tietjen, the group presented their collaboration on “The Science Behind the Art of Storytelling.” EFTI has been collaborating with Madden Media and Visit Tampa Bay to analyze the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and how storytelling can increase interactivity.  Through the utilization of eye tracking devices, EFTI has been able to determine what type of stories garner more attention than others. This presentation is the first of many collaboration presentations EFTI plans to complete.  This conference, which addressed the trends and technologies that will disrupt destination marketing in the next five years, aligned with EFTI’s vision to become the leading voice in the future of tourism in Florida and the United States.

Drs. Fesenmaier and Schmitt joined by advisory board members to present research at FADMO

Dr. Craig Schmitt and Dr. Dan Fesenmaier traveled to Palm Coast, Florida to present in the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations’ 2018 Marketing Summit.

      Faculty and graduate students travel to AAG Annual Meeting for research presentations  April 20, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     From April 10-14, 2018, six graduate students and three faculty members traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana for the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting. Drs. Andrei Kirilenko, Svetlana Stepchenkova, and Jin-Won Kim presented on a variety of topics spanning a series of sessions.  The first session was presented by Dr. Kirilenko and graduate students, Shihan Ma and Jihee Park. They spoke about their research on the multi-platform social media analysis conducted of the visitors to Lake Texoma, located at the Oklahoma–Texas border. They discussed the differences in data streams collected from four popular SNS: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr.  The next session, titled “Exploring the Spatio-Temporal Patterns of Visitor Flows in Seoraksan National Park using GPS-based Smart Phone Application,” was presented by Dr. Jin-Won Kim, Dr. Brijesh Thapa, and graduate student Eunjun Yang. In this study, they explore the spatio-temporal patterns of visitor flows at Seoraksan National Park in South Korea. GIS mapping in combination with spatial data analysis were employed to explore the spatial and temporal patterns of visitor flows within the park.  The next presentation in this session, titled “Moderating Role of Geospatial Proximity on Public Crisis Involvement: A Case Study of “Women Attacked in Yitel” on Sina Weibo,” was from Dr. Svetlana Stepchenkova and graduate student Lijuan Su. In this study, they aimed to examine the spatial variations between public’s involvement and socio-economic variables on the city scale. The study sampled 10,245 messages with the hashtag “woman attacked in Yitel hotel” from Sina Weibo. The findings indicated geographic proximity affected spatial distribution patterns of involvement.  The next presentation in the session was from Luyu Wang with support from Dr. Angélica Almeyda Zambrano (did not attend). This study examined one of the most popular and most reviewed natural protected areas in the United States, the Grand Canyon National Park. This study investigates the sentiment changing pattern over months, comparing sentiment scores with the number of tweets.  The next day, the faculty and students participated in a session titled “Revisiting Tourism in Sustainable Development.” In this session, graduate student Pamela Montero-Alvarez presented her results from her analysis of a community-based tourism association located in the buffer zone of the Tamshiyacu - Tahuayo Communal Regional Conservation Area, in the Peruvian Amazon. The research aimed to analyze the role of communal rural sustainable tourism in Protected Area conservation.

Faculty and graduate students travel to AAG Annual Meeting for research presentations

From April 10-14, 2018, six graduate students and three faculty members traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana for the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting.

      Advisory board previews FADMO presentations and interacts with students at Industry Insights  April 16, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     After the morning research presentations and the business meeting in the early afternoon of April 13th, 2018, the advisory board participated in an Industry Insights session where they shared their knowledge and expertise to a group of 40+ students, faculty, staff, and the rest of the advisory board.  During the first presentation, the science behind Visit Tampa Bay’s Storytelling Campaign is explained. Led by Patrick Harrison, VP of Marketing with Visit Tampa bay, Howard Tietjen, SVP of research and Strategy with Madden Media, and Dr. Dan Fesenmaier, Director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute, this session previewed a unique presentation that described how advertisers are tracking the effectiveness of their campaigns and how storytelling can increase interactivity.  The second session was a panel from the newest advisory board members on career advice and how research can provide the cornerstone for successful tourism campaigns and education. This session included seasoned tourism executives such as Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, Bill Siegel, Founder/CEO of Longwoods International, and Joe Duggan, VP of Corporate Relations- Emeritus of Pheasants Forever.  One of the notable pieces of advice that Chris Thompson gave to students was to “stay curious- in your career and in your personal life.”  After the session, the advisory board, faculty, and students joined together for an informal reception and networking session.

Advisory board previews FADMO presentations and interacts with students at Industry Insights

After the morning research presentations and the business meeting in the early afternoon of April 13th, 2018, the advisory board participated in an Industry Insights session where they shared their knowledge and expertise to a group of 40+ students, faculty, staff, and the rest of the advisory board.

      Advisory Board participates in research presentations, GatorEye Demonstration  April 16, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     In addition to the general business meeting joined by the Dean’s Leadership Council, the EFTI Advisory Board participated in research presentations and student interactions on their visit to Gainesville on April 13th.  In the morning activities, the advisory board members had the chance to interact with faculty and graduate students about current research projects.  The first presentation, The Science of Online Tourism Advertising – Emotions & Tourism Stories, the advisory board got to see what it was like to be a participant in an experience where what you see and hear and how you react are emotionally measured. Through the use of GSR sensors and eye-tracking devices, they learned how the researchers discover emotions in real-time while reading travel stories or tourism videos.  In the second presentation, VR Saftey Video Demonstration, the advisory board was able to experience a 360 video, shot in Finland, with a voice over safety message through a VR headset. This presentation, given from Drs. Lori Pennington-Gray and Ashley Schroeder from TCMI, showed the advisory board that TCMI is dedicated to preparing the tourism industry to effectively manage crises.  In the third presentation, the advisory board was driven down to the University of Florida’s Natural Area Teaching Laboratory for a GatorEye Demo Flight. Facilitated by TES Group faculty member Dr. Angelica Almeyda-Zambrano, the advisory board watched the launch of an unmanned “flying laboratory.”

Advisory Board participates in research presentations, GatorEye Demonstration

In addition to the general business meeting joined by the Dean’s Leadership Council, the EFTI Advisory Board participated in research presentations and student interactions on their visit to Gainesville on April 13th.

      Dr. Hernández-Guerra discusses growing network model in EFTI seminar  April 9, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     On April 6th, 2018, the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute hosted visiting scholar, Dr. Juan M. Hernández-Guerra, for a seminar on understanding the links between hotels and activities in a tourism destination using a growing network model.  Visiting from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain, Dr. Hernández-Guerra has been visiting with Dr. Andrei Kirilenko to discuss the application of social network analysis to tourism, from the theoretical and empirical point of view.  Dr. Hernández-Guerra’s main line of research has been the application of dynamical models to represent complex systems in nature-based industries, such as tourism and fisheries.

Dr. Hernández-Guerra discusses growing network model in EFTI seminar

On April 6th, 2018, the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute hosted visiting scholar, Dr. Juan M. Hernández-Guerra, for a seminar on understanding the links between hotels and activities in a tourism destination using a growing network model.

      Dr. Kirilenko travels to Singapore for United Nations GEO-6 Meeting  April 9, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Dr. Andrei Kirilenko traveled to Singapore to participate in the authors’ meeting of the United Nations Global Environmental Outlook, GEO-6. GEO is a regular report focused on the ongoing changes in environment, impacts of these changes on people and economics, and policies, aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Dr. Kirilenko has become a leading author on climate change in the United Nations Environmental Program Global Environmental Outlook assessment.  Geo meetings gather the scientists and government officials from the countries represented in the UN with the goal of bridging the gap between the science and policymaking and interpreting the scientific knowledge into the policy-relevant information.  Each GEO report is targeting a specific main theme; the topic of the current assessment is “Healthy planet – healthy people”. The Singapore meeting was showcasing creation a sustainable urban environment.  “Singapore is one of the most safe and comfortable, large cities in the world, boasting well-integrated public transportation,” Dr. Kirilenko said. “I had the chance to visit Singapore garden, which is the only tropical garden in the UNESCO World Heritage list.”

Dr. Kirilenko travels to Singapore for United Nations GEO-6 Meeting

GEO is a regular report focused on the ongoing changes in environment, impacts of these changes on people and economics, and policies, aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

      Drs. Pennington Gray and Schroeder travel to Finland for research presentation on crisis management  March 26th, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     From March 16th to 23rd, Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray and Dr. Ashley Schroeder visited Lapland, Finland to present in a one day workshop held at Lapland University of Applied Sciences, Multidimensional Tourism Institute (LUC). Dr. Pennington-Gray presented information on crisis management planning, while Dr. Schroeder presented information on tourism crisis management’s best practices.  During their trip to Finland, they interacted with the Rector and Vice-Rector of Lapland University of Applied Sciences as well as met with the University of Lapland: Artic Center. They created a collaboration plan on safety cultures in Lapland and on how to increase personal protective behavior of tourists.  Dr. Pennington-Gray and Dr. Schroeder were also able to visit an ice hotel, take a husky safari, and take a reindeer safari.  “The trip to Lapland was a great success,” Dr. Pennington-Gray stated. “In Roveniemi, Finland we visited the main campus of Lapland University of Applied Sciences, Multidimensional Tourism Institute and Ashley and I both presented in a one day workshop. The trip was very exciting.”

Drs. Pennington Gray and Schroeder travel to Finland for research presentation on crisis management

Dr. Pennington-Gray presented information on crisis management planning, while Dr. Schroeder presented information on tourism crisis management’s best practices.

      Dr. Almeyda Zambrano travels to South America and develops new study abroad program  March 26, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     From March 18th to 24th, Dr. Angélica Almeyda Zambrano traveled to South America and interacted with new colleagues, developed a study abroad program focused on sustainable tourism for UF students in the Galapagos, and started discussions on a potential study abroad program on anthropology and tourism in the Galapagos.  Through various meetings with colleagues at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Dr. Almeyda Zambrano contributed in discussions focused on developing strategies to define and measure sustainable tourism in the Galapagos with a long term aim to support a sustainable tourism certification process and analyze alternative tourism approaches that will allow for greater benefits for local populations.  “The trip to Ecuador was a great success,” Dr. Almeyda Zambrano stated. “Specifically, the visit to Galapagos was truly amazing. In Quito, we visited the main campus of Universidad San Francisco de Quito and had productive meetings as a group with the chancellor, the rector and others. I personally met with the Dean of Hospitality and gave a colloquium presentation at a movie theater, which was a first for me.”  More information on the *NEW* sustainable tourism study abroad program:  http://www.usfq.edu.ec/opi/international-students/Paginas/galapagos-semester.aspx   More information on the coursework from the sustainable tourism track:  http://www.usfq.edu.ec/opi/international-students/Paginas/galapagos-semester.aspx#demoTab2

Dr. Almeyda Zambrano travels to South America and develops new study abroad program

From March 18th to 24th, Dr. Angélica Almeyda Zambrano traveled to South America and interacted with new colleagues, developed a study abroad program focused on sustainable tourism for UF students in the Galapagos, and started discussions on a potential study abroad program on anthropology and tourism in the Galapagos.

      Dr. Fesenmaier discusses global tourism industry in CGTN America interview  February 21, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Interviewed by news anchor Rachel Akuffo, Dr. Dan Fesenmaier spoke about the recent trend in the global travel tourism industry in a brief “Global Business” segment on CGTN America. As part of this segment, Dr. Fesenmaier covered topics such as the drives in international tourism, the revitalization of terror-stricken countries’ tourism industry, the challenges that come with tourism influx, and how technology has changed the tourism industry.  During the segment, Dr. Fesenmaier spoke about the global tourism industry and the fluctuations it has had over the years. He touched on the drive in international travel is attributed to the increasing economic development of developing countries. He also spoke about how European cities with the top tourist destinations, such as Spain or France, are battling to show tourist the authenticities of their counties, as opposed to becoming solely a tourist hotspot.  Another topic Dr. Fesenmaier elaborated upon was the challenges that countries face due to tourist influx. Increases in crime, tension between locals and tourists, and inflation are all challenges that come with an increase in tourism.  “Now because of Facebook and really all of mobile technology, people bring this technology with them wherever they are going,” Dr. Fesenmaier stated during his interview. “Tourism now is not just about getting away from your responsibilities because you can take a lot of different parts of home with you and be connected every day.

Dr. Fesenmaier discusses global tourism industry in CGTN America interview

Interviewed by news anchor Rachel Akuffo, Dr. Dan Fesenmaier spoke about the recent trend in the global travel tourism industry in a brief “Global Business” segment on CGTN America.

      Dr. Gibson and her graduate students present research at TALS Conference in Indianapolis  February 20, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     In Mid-Febraury, Dr. Heather Gibson and her PhD students traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to present and participate in a workshop at The Academy of Leisure Sciences Conference. This conference included keynote speakers, research poster presentations, teaching seminars, and panel discussions.  “The conference was the first for the Academy of Leisure Sciences (TALS) to host both the research and the teaching institutes at one time,” Dr. Heather Gibson stated. “I think it worked well. The sessions were workshop style of an hour each which gave presenters more time to talk about their work and for the audience to ask questions and share their experiences especially in the teaching sessions. It was also good to catch up with colleagues from different universities and find out what is happening in their programs as well as to meet the new generation of scholars both new PhDs and current PhD students.”  PhD students Yu Niu and Mona Sadat Mirehie presented their research poster that focused on highlighting the concepts in leisure studies and to explore the future directors for studying leisure and well-being. They presented two original case studies, one focusing on female snow skiers and snowboarders represented Seligman’s (2011) five domains of well-being that form the PERMA framework, and the second case study focusing on the positive effects of promoting leisure participation, social connection and attitudes toward life in the well-being of older adults.  "I love the scientific spirit and the warm and friendly environment in this conference," PhD student Mona Sadat Mirehie said. "This year it was even more enjoyable since we had a significant number of attendees in our presentation. Nothing feels better when you have a big room packed with attendees and then others join and care to listen so much that they sit on the floor for one hour. There were also great networking opportunities, after our presentation I had numerous people telling me how much they enjoyed the content and composure in our session. I also received an invitation to review papers for the next conference."  The second poster presented by PhD students Hongping Zhang, and her University of Illinois colleagues, focused on the role of leisure engagements in the establishment of bonding and bridging social capital among Chinese international students. For their research, they conducted two rounds of in-depth interviews with 15 Chinese graduate students at a large Midwestern university in the U.S. The findings helped to expand the functional model of friendship networks by indicating that connections with co-nationals facilitate the development of both bonding and bridging social capital. Second, although international students expressed willingness to interact with their domestic counterparts, they were concerned about the possible rejection by their co-national group of those who “stepped outside” of their social circles. Third, international students’ leisure preferences were shaped by their plans for the future and the perceived availability of social capital.

Dr. Gibson and her graduate students present research at TALS Conference in Indianapolis

In Mid-Febraury, Dr. Heather Gibson and her PhD students traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to present and participate in a workshop at The Academy of Leisure Sciences Conference.

      PhD students present their findings from TripAdvisor reviews to the analytics team at Universal  February 2, 2018     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     After almost a year of research, graduate students Wenqui Wei and Shaorui Zhou presented their analysis and findings from TripAdvisor reviews to Justin Gressel, Channel Analytics Manager, and his team at Universal Studios.  “It’s great practice for me to apply the knowledge I get from class and acquire new ideas from the discussions with the Universal team,” Master’s student Shaorui Zhou said. “It also gave me an opportunity to think about Universal’s demands and how I can better present my results.”  Led by Dr. Daniel Fesenmaier, the students analyzed a year’s worth of data from TripAdvisor to determine the effect of positive and negative reviews and to see how that correlates to ticket sales. The students also compared the park’s performance to other theme parks in the area, such as Disney and SeaWorld.  “Universal can better understand their customer in the statistical point of view from our analysis,” Zhou stated. “Some important findings such as the seasonality, the preference of different trip types and the change of rating could help Universal understand how their visitors perceive the park and how they should adapt in the future.”  After the research was presented, Justin led Dr. Craig Schmitt and the visiting group of graduate students around part of Universal Studios for lunch.  “The Universal Project is critical in my master's study,” Master’s student Wenqi Wei. “It was so exciting to take over the project and see it through to completion. The project was an interesting, analytics-focused project. The spatial analysis enabled me to observe theme park visitors' satisfaction globally and the content analysis provided an in-depth look into the guest experience. It was a wonderful trip as we had the chance to understand how one of the best tourism companies operate and how they deal with the challenges from the big data era.”

PhD students present their findings from TripAdvisor reviews to the analytics team at Universal

After almost a year of research, graduate students Wenqui Wei and Shaorui Zhou presented their analysis and findings from TripAdvisor reviews to Justin Gressel, Channel Analytics Manager, and his team at Universal Studios.