University of Central Florida

05/24/2024 | Press release | Archived content

UCF Professor Shares Tourism Insight with United Nations

In a remarkable acknowledgment of its global influence, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management was spotlighted at the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly. Personally invited by the president of the General Assembly, Professor of Tourism Economics and Management Robertico Croes presented during the High-level Thematic Event on Tourism.

"Very few people receive a personal letter from the president of the General Assembly to speak at the U.N., and I am honored to be one of them," Croes says.

Over the past 20 years, Rosen College has grown significantly in its research prowess, establishing itself as a global leader in hospitality and tourism studies. This growth is evident in the college's extensive contributions to research, international collaborations and its impact on global tourism policy. Rosen College's reputation is further bolstered by its magazine, the Rosen Research Review, which Croes is the editor of and reaches over 150 countries and has more than 1 million readers across these nations.

"This global recognition of Rosen College is a testament to the collective knowledge and research prowess we have developed," Croes says.

Advancing Global Sustainability Through Tourism

The U.N. event included a fireside chat about the future of tourism. During the conversation, Croes discussed the intricate relationship between tourism, sustainability and the U.N.'s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. He emphasized that the event was one of the first times in decades that the U.N. has focused so intensely on tourism, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"COVID-19 has increased poverty and highlighted healthcare inequalities, particularly in developing countries," he says. "Addressing these issues in the context of sustainability and the SDGs is crucial."

During this year's National Travel and Tourism Week, celebrated May 19-25, Croes' insights resonate even more. This annual celebration, established in 1983, underscores travel's essential role in stimulating economic growth, cultivating vibrant communities and enriching lives. This year's theme highlights how travel and tourism are vital to our nation's economy and the well-being of its citizens.

During the presentation, Croes further emphasized how thoughtful tourism and sustainability management can improve lives.

"For me, it was particularly emotional because I had the opportunity to stand on the podium where heads of state speak and share our research about the future of global tourism, the role of sustainability and well-being, how these two mesh, and how tourism can be a critical vehicle to help people move up the ladder and improve their lives."

Croes shared an interesting example from the Netherlands.

"If the Dutch had only considered environmental sustainability in the 1950s, significant parts of the country would be underwater today," he says. "Their creativity in building dikes reclaimed land and pushed the boundaries of what's possible."

He emphasized that focusing too narrowly on environmental concerns can limit human ingenuity and solutions that benefit both people and the planet.

"We should nurture creativity and provide opportunities for innovative solutions that benefit everyone," he says.

Croes also stressed that residents of tourist destinations should decide how tourism affects them.

"It's not for scholars to dictate; we can outline principles, but the people should decide what's best for their well-being," he says.

This democratic approach, he argued, is crucial for fostering creativity and ensuring tourism benefits everyone.

From Diplomacy to Academia

Croes' recent presentation at the U.N. isn't his first visit to the General Assembly. In the early '80s he visited the U.N. General Assembly when he was working as a junior diplomat in the foreign affairs department of the Netherlands Antilles. He sat in the Dutch Kingdom delegation, listening to heads of state discuss global challenges and requests for international support.

"It was a formative moment of my career," Croes says.

After starting his career in diplomacy, Croes transitioned into academia, where he has become a leading voice in tourism economics and management. His expertise spans tourism economics, human development, poverty alleviation and tourism management, particularly in small and developing economies. Croes has made significant contributions to the field, authoring six books, including Small Island and Small Destination Tourism and A Modern Guide to Tourism Economics, and publishing over 100 works. Notably, he co-authored a report with other Rosen College faculty that was presented at the U.N.'s Ocean Conference in 2022. Croes also leads the Infectious Disease and Travel Health Project at UCF, funded by a $4.5 million university grant.

At Rosen College, Croes is a strong advocate for integrating broader perspectives into tourism education. He believes future leaders should focus not only on profit but also on creating opportunities for individuals and communities.

"Our research should help nurture creativity and provide opportunities for others, ensuring a holistic view of resources beyond just material wealth," he says.

Croes envisions a program that includes experiences from non-government organizations, corporations, politicians and religious leaders, preparing students to lead with a comprehensive understanding of their impact on society.

"A leader's decisions can have far-reaching consequences, affecting families, communities and even national economies," he says. "It's not about small administrative details; it's about making an impact on society. We need to focus on what's relevant, impactful and useful."

As National Travel and Tourism Week comes to a close, Croes' journey from diplomat to advocate serves as a timely reminder of tourism's potential to drive positive change.

Reflecting on Rosen College's role in global discussions, Croes concluded, "The collective knowledge at Rosen College stands as a beacon on the global stage. Our commitment to research and education in tourism not only drives academic excellence but also contributes significantly to international policy and community well-being."

Croes' insights offer a compelling vision for the future of tourism, one that resonates far beyond the walls of the U.N.

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