North-West University: The expertise apple does not fall far from the TREES

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When we think about tourism, our mind’s eye is filled with images of long safari drives through the African bush, sunbathing on the white sands of pristine beaches and gazing up at architectural feats both foreign and unique. But tourism is a complex industry that is subject to the whims and fancies of an almost unimaginable number of variables.

There is plenty to sift through, to research and to recommend to keep the industry healthy, as it is not only a major job creator, but an integral part of South Africa’s economy as an income generator.

That is why the research unit Tourism Research in Economics, Environs and Society (TREES) at the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences of the North-West University (NWU) plays a pivotal role in ensuring that this sector of our economy continues to thrive.

The amount of research produced by the research unit is vast and there are many researchers who contribute to the success of the unit. To exclude anyone would be unfair, and the subjects of this article will be the first to say so, but for now our focus will be on three remarkable women who are leaders in their field.

First up is Professor Martinette Kruger, who has a C3 research rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF). In 2019, Prof Kruger received the Distinguished Young Woman Researcher Award for Humanities and Social Sciences at the prestigious South African Women in Science Awards (SAWiSA) of the Department of Science and Technology. Her research focus is firmly rooted in market segmentation, which she applies to various tourism sectors, and she devotes her career to understanding the needs of the tourism market better, and to understanding how tourism can be facilitated in a developing country and in the context of a multicultural society. To date, she has published more than 120 articles, of which more than 70% are published in international peer-reviewed journals.

Then there is Professor Lindie du Plessis, the director of the School of Tourism Management and a senior researcher at TREES. She specialises in tourism competitiveness and management issues in the tourism industry. She has been dynamically involved in the industry by assisting in various tourism projects and received a C3 rating as an established researcher from the NRF in 2018. She has been responsible for eight chapters in various tourism textbooks, has published 46 accredited articles and has acted on the editorial board of the Journal of Revenue and Pricing. Currently, she is a member of the Southern African Institute for Management Scientists and acts on the board of Tourism Educators of South Africa.

Completing the trio is Professor Andrea Saayman, who lectures in Macroeconomics, Econometrics and Research Methods. She is a visiting professor in Tourism Macroeconomics for the master’s-degree course offered by the University of Bologna, Italy, as well as an extraordinary professor at the Kore University of Enna, Italy. She is currently a C1-rated researcher. Together with colleagues at TREES, she has completed more than 100 project reports for the private sector. She has served as an executive member of the International Association for Tourism Economics since 2005 and is currently the president of this association for the term 2019–2022. She is also the vice-chair of the Tourism and Hospitality Section of the International Institute of Forecasters (IFF).

It is thanks to the efforts of researchers such as these that TREES and the NWU are held in such high regard by South Africa’s tourism industry.

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