This theme encompasses many different facets of research across STEMM, the social sciences and humanities, including the sustainability of natural and modified ecosystems in the face of societal development and climate change, climate change science, adaptation and mitigation, mining and its corresponding global environmental challenges, sustainability and the circular economy.

Available PhD projects

4. Hazard and disaster planning in tourism: an integrative approach

UQ academic leads

Professor Brent Ritchie, Tourism Discipline, UQ Business School

Dr Jie Wang, UQ Business School

Exeter academic leads

Professor Tim Coles, University of Exeter Business School 

Dr Donna Poade, University of Exeter Business School

Project description

Global environmental change is creating more extreme weather events (i.e. Queensland’s Cyclone Debbie in 2017 and the storms which severely affected Europe and England in March 2018). Both events had widespread impacts on travel and tourism industries. Smaller more frequent events such as heavy rain and flooding can also disrupt business activities. Tourism businesses are more vulnerable and susceptible to natural disasters and the effects of climate change than many other sectors (Cioccio & Michael, 2007; Henderson, 2002), primarily because of their location and reliance on the natural environment.

Research on business risk planning tends to focus on large-scale industries with significant infrastructure exposure such as manufacturing (Kay & Goldspink 2012), rather than small or micro service businesses, which are very common in tourism. Past research has highlighted that risk planning in tourism is low (Hystad & Keller, 2008; Ritchie et al., 2011), while research on tourism business resilience to disasters is lacking (Jiang, Ritchie and Benchendorff, 2018).

Little is known about the level of risk planning among tourism businesses nor the nature of their risk planning (i.e. activities, processes, horizons systems). Yet planning can help build preparedness and build resilience to hazards and disasters. A number of factors can influence disaster planning including individual factors (staff attitudes, willingness, skills, ability), organisational factors (risk culture and risk appetite, size and age of organisation, past experience with hazards, innovative risk business models), and contextual factors (country, industry sector, climate, weather, geography, ecology).

The proposed PhD thesis aims to:

  1. develop a cross-disciplinary and multi-level framework for understanding tourism business planning for extreme weather events and natural disasters
  2. empirically test the framework in two major visitor economies with quite different contextual factors to understand the nature of planning and what influences it. Case studies will be chosen from localities with Queensland, Australia and South West England, UK.

Tourism researchers tend to confine themselves to certain disciplines (Coles et al., 2006) restricting the generation of new knowledge and insights. Studies also only explore a small number of factors that contribute to disaster planning (Wang & Ritchie, 2012). This project is cross-disciplinary, synthesising concepts from a number of fields and disciplines. Understanding the factors that influence risk planning can help design new interventions to encourage tourism business preparedness and resilience - safeguarding important industries for England and Australia. The findings may have implications for other micro and small service businesses.


Submit UQ expression of interest form by 26 May 2018