Simon Pawson’s research in sustainable tourism

Simon Pawson | Torrens University Researcher

My name is Simon Pawson and I am the Program Director for Postgraduate Studies at Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School.  

From a very early age, I have been involved with the tourism industry. My formative years were spent helping my parents on our zoo, Kingfisher Park at Port Macquarie, I then spent seventeen years in the hotel industry and had the opportunity to work in Southeast Asia. My first trip to Cambodia in 1999 and coming face to face with extreme poverty and substantive inequality for the first time was the catalyst for me to apply my experience, knowledge, and skills toward utilizing tourism as a mechanism for poverty reduction and community development, chiefly in rural areas. I have now been an active observer, researcher and social/environmental advocate in Cambodia since 2002. My previous research projects concerning Cambodia include investigating social and environmental consequences of tourism development in Siem Reap, antiquities theft, orphanage tourism, pro-poor tourism, conservation through tourism, responsible tourism, and voluntourism.

As a Torrens University researcher, I am currently interested in ethnographic studies that contribute toward advancing sustainable tourism development, particularly as it relates to Cambodia. My current focus is toward addressing effective community development in rural Cambodia that is delivered through sustainable tourism opportunities.

The ‘Here for Good’ Torrens University Australia movement was the driving force behind establishing the Cambodian Sustainable Tourism Development Collaborative Project in 2018. The project is a partnership between Torrens University Australia and the University of the Sunshine Coast’s (USC) Sustainability Research Centre. Myself and Professor Bill Carter from USC are currently the lead researchers for the project.

The project has already made a valued contribution toward the Royal Cambodian Government’s sustainable tourism development objectives, particularly rural development and community-based tourism. The project’s primary aims are to (1) provide technical advice and expertise to the RCG’s development agenda through its Ministries (initially the Ministry of Tourism), tertiary training institutions, aid agencies, international and Cambodian NGOs, (2) provide experts and trainers to support funded conferences, workshops and associated field schools, and (3) foster the publication of disciplined studies that contribute to enhancing Cambodia’s sustainable development agenda.

“We have, as a young university, so much opportunity to advance creative research. Research that is very much grounded in social and environmental justice across all of our faculties.”

In 2019 the project’s primary aim is to undertake and publish two research outputs. Firstly, to document and publish a perspective article that reviews the importance and benefits of public/private partnerships that have the objective of building capacity for sustainable tourism development in Cambodia, particularly our current collaborative project with USC. Secondly, to commence original research that will investigate the drivers of success for community-based tourism in Cambodia.

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