Research spotlight: TIM School professor links quality of life and tourism

Adiyukh presenting a slide titled Quality of Life and Public Policy Development for Tourism Destinations

There’s more to the state’s number one industry than just economic benefits 
By Dani Douglass

When School of Travel Industry Management (TIM School) assistant professor Adiyukh Berbekova arrived in Honolulu after earning her doctorate in hospitality and tourism management from the University of Massachusetts (UMass), she knew she’d landed in the perfect location for her academic interests. Berbekova’s research focuses on quality of life (QoL) and well-being as it relates to policies that can improve the tourism experience for all stakeholders.

Berbekova recently published a research article as the lead author titled, “Quality of Life and Public Policy Development for Tourism Destinations,” in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. It emphasizes the significance of incorporating Quality of Life (QoL) indicators into the formulation and implementation of public policies within the tourism sector. The article identifies a gap in existing research, which has extensively explored the effects of tourism on main stakeholders, including tourists, residents and employees in the industry, but lacks an incorporation of QoL into policy. QoL is seldom examined in a way that can help to inform public policy and the topic is still new.

“Every destination is unique so this framework that we offer in the article should be viewed as a template as each one will have specific issues and challenges to address while implementing QoL indicators.”

“We’ve seen a shift in recent years about understanding what constitutes a tourism value. Instead of just focusing on economic benefits of tourism, we need to better understand how tourism development can enhance the well-being and QoL of destination communities and residents,” she said. “Every destination is unique so this framework that we offer in the article should be viewed as a template as each one will have specific issues and challenges to address while implementing QoL indicators.”

The article asserts that policies should be more reflective of the multidimensional impacts of tourism, beyond the economic contributions, to ensure sustainable tourism development that benefits communities and improves overall QoL. It calls for future research to assess the effectiveness of such policies through a case study approach and emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary collaboration among tourism stakeholders to successfully implement QoL indicators in tourism policy making.

The study proposes a framework which outlines a comprehensive approach to integrate subjective and objective QoL indicators into tourism policy development to enhance stakeholders' well-being and destination attractiveness. The framework is directed at destination manager organizations (DMO) and policy makers, who are instrumental in coordinating tourism development.

Headshot of assistant professor Adiyukh BerbekovaThe framework is organized into five stages, and each is underpinned by research propositions aimed at guiding empirical studies. The stages are:

  • Goal-setting
  • Development of tourism benchmarks
  • Policy implementation
  • Monitoring
  • Assessment of policy impacts

The importance of interaction

In another study, Berbekova and colleagues explore how tourism development levels and the interactions between tourists and residents can impact residents’ well-being. Understanding what factors led to improved well-being and residents’ support for tourism is critical and there are several studies that focus on those. Berbekova’s study found that positive social connections formed between visitors and residents can improve the “emotional solidarity” – an emotional bond between two groups – and that the higher the level, the greater the emotional well-being of the residents, and subsequential, their support for tourism.

“The positive interactions that residents have with tourists can increase their support for tourism,” Berbekova said. “Such findings can be used by DMOs to inform their planning and create shared spaces where tourists and visitors can interact and share some behavior that we know will lead to a high emotional support for tourism development. It’s important to note that the level and intensity of tourism development also moderates that relationship so if there is too much tourism, these relationships would be weakened.”

Looking to the future, Berbekova is involved in research that looks at implementation of QoL in performance measurements and how tourism success can be measured through QoL indicators. She is also interested in understanding what promotes residents’ pro-environmental behavior. Her and TIM School colleague and lead author Lenna Shulga also recently presented a paper focusing on understanding sustainable behaviors of residents, titled “Effects of Green HRM Practices on Employee Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Role of Ethical Climate and New Environmental Paradigm,” which won a research award at the West Federation Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (WFCHRIE) annual conference in Denver in February.

Berbekova’s research has come full circle being that it was an interest sparked in her during her own time as a student working with her mentors, professors Muzaffer (Muzzo) Uysal and Albert G. Assaf, at UMass. These days, she shares her findings in her classes. “I report and show students the results from the studies to highlight the benefits of focusing on improving communities’ QoL and residents’ well-being through tourism, because they are the future leaders in the industry,” she said. “I think my job as an educator is to translate everything we do and see.”