ASU, Clark U join to improve world tourism industry

September 3, 2009

WORCESTER, MA—The tourism industry is the world’s largest employer, and a new collaboration between Arizona State University (ASU) and Clark University is devoted to making it more responsible to communities.

ASU’s Megapolitan Tourism Research Center and Clark’s George Perkins Marsh Institute are developing several international and national projects focusing on the role of travel and tourism in the social, economic and environmental prosperity of small and large communities.

With support from Southwest Airlines and other industry partners, the first project to be launched is a Social Responsibility Program for the hospitality industries of Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz. Set to begin this fall, the program will highlight ways in which participating organizations can better serve their communities.

The program will culminate with a workshop in which organizations can earn a Social Responsibility Seal, designating them as valued community partners who work toward improving the quality of life for local residents. The workshop will feature customized social responsibility reports for each participating business, pinpointing areas of highest return on investments among environmental protection, job creation and charitable giving.  

“The tourism industry can do a much better job of using its huge economic engine to improve the quality of communities and the lives of their residents,” says Dr. Timothy Tyrrell, professor and director of the Megapolitan Tourism Research Center. “The university collaboration will help the industry better align its activities with the needs and values of the public.”

Tourism contributes to communities in many ways, such as generating tax revenues and jobs, and supporting cultural, environmental and entertainment opportunities for residents in communities that could not otherwise justify them.

But there are many other advantages which aren’t being fully explored, Tyrrell says. The ASU-Clark collaboration involves creating programs that could be used on a large-scale level to make additional improvements like reducing poverty, preserving historical and ecological sites, reducing traveling risks, and increasing the benefits from leisure activities.

Future projects will include further development of the social responsibility measurement toolkit, and applications to new and renewed tourism development projects in Europe and Asia.

“This initiative complements prior work on the environmental sustainability of tourism with a more holistic perspective on the many ways that tourism can benefit the public,” says Dr. Robert Johnston, professor of economics and director of the George Perkins Marsh Institute. 

The Megapolitan Tourism Research Center is devoted to studying the role of tourism in community development in order to strengthen its contribution to viable economic, social and environmental systems, especially in megapolitan regions around the world. The center is part of the School of Community Resources & Development, located in the College of Public Programs at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. For information, visit:

The George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University provides national and international leadership in studying the relationship between society, human behavior, and the environment. This includes interdisciplinary and collaborative research, education and public information on the human dimensions of global change. For information, visit:



Tim Tyrrell
Professor, School of Community Resources & Development
Director, Megapolitan Tourism Research Center

Arizona State University



Robert J. Johnston

Director, George Perkins Marsh Institute

Professor, Department of Economics

Clark University




Corey Schubert
Manager of Media Communications, ASU College of Public Programs
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602-370-6128 cell


Jane Salerno
Senior Associate Director, Clark University media relations
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