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Research Case studies

Tourism and Cultural Change: Working in the Middle East and North Africa Region

Research in tourism and cultural change at Leeds Beckett is world-leading and explores the relationship between tourism and culture. The group has long-standing research interests in the Middle East and North Africa region and is working to help build research and education capacities in the region.

Professor Mike Robinson, who leads the group, has been working on the relationships between tourism and archaeology which will result in a book on this subject with fellow Leeds Beckett scholar, Lina Tahan. The work is funded by a grant from the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL).

At present two of the groups PhD researchers are working on two projects in the region. Sonia Buchberger is being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Austrian Academy of Sciences to look at the phenomenon of ‘couch surfing’ in North Africa. While Suleiman Farajat is working on the World Heritage Site of Petra in Jordan and the role it plays in the shaping of national identity. Both have also been awarded CBRL Travel Grants to support their fieldwork.

Traditions and Transformations Conference

In April 2009 the research group, working with the CBRL, organised the international conference ‘Traditions and Transformations: Tourism, Heritage and Culture in the Middle East and North Africa Region’. The event was held in down town Amman in Jordan and was designed to critically explore the issues facing the region with regard to the development of tourism and its shifting relationships with heritage and culture.

The conference was supported by the municipality of Amman as well as ministries, government departments and tourist boards in the region.

Around 280 delegates attended the conference representing some 37 countries and an extensive range of disciplines. Ministries of Tourism, Culture and Education as well as non-governmental organisations were also represented. Keynote speakers included professionals and academics from around the world, and the event was featured on television and in newspapers throughout the region.

The conference was the largest academic event on this theme to be held in the region and demonstrated the substantive interest in the ways in which tourism permeates policy and practice.

Professor Mike Robinson concludes: “It is clear that the conference marked the beginning of an on-going programme of engagement and academic dialogue with researchers and professionals throughout the region. The event has stimulated a range of further research initiatives and partnerships for our research group at Leeds Beckett, and we look forward to expanding on our work in this area.”

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