Professor Catheryn Khoo in Stanford's World Top 2% Scientists list

Stanford's World Top 2% Scientists list

Professor Catheryn Khoo, a respected member of Torrens University Australia, has been recognised by Stanford University as one of the world's top 2% scientists. Her research in cross-cultural consumer behavior, tourism, and women's issues has had a significant impact, influencing policy-making and industry practices.

This week at Torrens University Australia, we are celebrating the achievements of Professor Catheryn Khoo - an invaluable member of the university community who has just had her achievements recognised by Stanford University.

Dr Catheryn Khoo is a Fulbright Scholar with a PhD in Marketing, a multiple-award-winning consultant, trainer, speaker and researcher, whose work is focused around cross-cultural consumer behaviour, tourism, women and inclusion. In between her diverse consulting and speaking activities, she researches and mentors at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS), part of Torrens University.

Late last year, Stanford University released the 2023 Stanford Elsevier List representing the top 2 percent of the most-cited researchers worldwide across various disciplines covering outputs published between 1996 and 2022.

Six academics from Torrens University, one of Australia’s most innovative universities, made it into the Stanford top 2% across a number of disciplines. Dr Khoo is one of these six accomplished individuals and is named in the top 1% of researchers in Sport, Leisure and Tourism

Dr Khoo has published two books, co-edited an additional five books and has published over 100 research papers across her career, including publications covering the largely undocumented intersection of gender, marginalised voices in travel and Asian cultural identity. She has written a number of reports for the tourism industry, including the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)’s Regional Report on Women in Tourism for Asia and the Pacific. She also co-wrote the UNWTO Global Report on Women in Tourism, and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council’s Digital Workforce Report.

We recently caught up with Dr Khoo to discuss her research, future projects, and why it’s important for research to have a social impact.

Dr Catherine Khoo joined BMIHMS and Torrens University in 2022

She has enjoyed the flexibility and community spirit she’s found there so far.

“I love the fact that people come first at Torrens,” Dr Khoo explained, “That it is the fastest growing university, and that it’s an industry university. I love how agile it is, and I love the scholarly freedom and creativity that researchers are given to pursue knowledge.”

At Torrens University, Dr Khoo conducts her research within the Tourism and Hospitality Research and Practice (THRP) Cluster, a research division within the Centre for Organisational Change and Agility (COCA). But, far from being isolated in an ivory tower, Dr Khoo’s research has a real-world impact on people’s lives, shaping government policy and influencing industry bodies.

Dr Khoo explains how academic tourism research can directly influence social and political discourse in a meaningful way.

“Through the research and consultancy I’ve done for the UNWTO, the reports have become a go-to guide for governments and tourism businesses to better cater to the women in tourism,” she explained.

“The reports put pressure on tourism stakeholders to advance gender equality in tourism.

For example, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture in Malaysia hosted the first UNWTO Regional Conference on the Empowerment of Women in Tourism in Asia and the Pacific, and I was commissioned to curate the conference. This is a big step forward for Malaysia, where gender equality has long taken a back seat. The conference sets a tone and commitment.

Further, four Member States of the United Nations, as an indirect result of the reports, have funded the development of the UNWTO Gender Equality course. I was instrumental in the design and development of this course, which is now available online for free for all tourism stakeholders.”

The same humanist worldview that drew Dr Khoo to research such a people-focused industry in the beginning also fuels her mission to continue her research.

“It’s always people that drive me to conduct research,” expressed Dr Khoo. “I want my research to impact people and the community in positive ways.

Elevating travel experiences for women through academic research

I want my research to translate into actions that count, for the long run.

For example, my research on women in tourism is about how we can elevate travel experiences for women, but it is also about how we can elevate the lives of women who provide the experiences for travellers.”

Over the course of her career, Dr Khoo has published extensively and conducted a variety of research projects, but her favourite projects are ones where she gets to work directly with communities on the ground.

One paper that stands out in her memory is “Khoo, C., Yang, E. C. L., Tan, R. Y. Y., Alonso-Vazquez, M., Ricaurte-Quijano, C., Pécot, M., & Barahona-Canales, D. (2023). Opportunities and challenges of digital competencies for women tourism entrepreneurs in Latin America: a gendered perspective. (Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 1-21.)”

“I loved this project for so many reasons,” Dr Khoo explained. “This project was funded by the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the money made it easier to make an impact for women in rural areas in two LATAM countries; the deliveries were impactful because we were able to bring together 111 women in Mexico and Ecuador to not only co-design the digital competency training programme from start to finish, but to do so from a gendered lens, so that the programme was sensitive to local culture, and sensitive to the local women’s needs.

I also loved this project because my team here in Australia, Mexico and Ecuador were great people to work with. I grew as a researcher from this project, and learnt a lot.”

Dr Khoo is a person on a mission to improve the lives of women as tourism workers and tourism consumers; and by doing so, to deliver a better and more sustainable industry all around.

“This research matters because women form more than 50% of the global tourism workforce.” Dr Khoo clarified. “Understanding the role of women in tourism is crucial for promoting their economic empowerment.”

“My research highlights the opportunities and challenges women face in the industry, contributing to the development of policies and programs that foster their economic independence. Also, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals include objectives related to gender equality, decent work, and economic growth. Research on women in tourism aligns with these goals and contributes to the overall global agenda for sustainable development.”

Her research is a huge step forward for women in the Asia Pacific. Her topic area fills an important gap in existing gender tourism reports, which currently marginalise the experiences of non-white women in tourism.

Dr Khoo plays an important role in discourse, drawing attention to the issues faced by women in Asia and the Pacific, whose work and leadership opportunities have too frequently come second.

For all of these reasons, it is thrilling to be able to celebrate today Dr Khoo’s recently awarded place on the 2023 Stanford Elsevier List of top 2% of the most-cited researchers worldwide; and recently the recipient of the 2023 Travel Weekly’s Women in Travel Awards.

Dr Catheryn Khoo's next research project

“I have started bringing together a team of global researchers for a project called, Contested HERitage,” Dr Khoo said.

“We know that HIStory has long privileged men’s ambitions and interests. In many parts of the world, history has been the record of men’s public work of nation-building through commerce, politics, and war.

Mainstream history tends to focus on political and military history, which largely minimises the history of women and Indigenous heritage.

In tourism spaces and places, the current statues, and names of parks, streets and buildings overwhelmingly celebrate (white) men’s achievements, movements, and experiences. This alienates 'Others', promotes racism, sexism and contributes to people's fear and anxiety when using these spaces.

My project, Contested HERitage will instigate change by making current historical markers more inclusive and representative of contemporary, multicultural users of urban spaces.

Through this project, I hope to develop HERitage tourism trail master plans for state governments and local councils; and new products of HERitage for destinations and public spaces.”

You can follow Dr Khoo here and keep up to date on the progress of this inspiring new project or read an interview about her important work here.

Find out more about Centre for Organisational Change and Agility
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