Reflections on 35 years of industry collaboration in hospitality and tourism publishing: Does it make a difference?

Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

Richard Teare

I am about to stand down as an Emerald journal editor after 35 years in this fascinating and privileged role. What have I learnt about the possibilities for collaborative academic and practitioner publishing? The aim here is to share some reflections and outcomes and to thank those who have helped me along the way.

Hospitality and tourism publishing – past and present

Prior to establishing Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes 15 years ago, I was the founding editor of what was initially called the Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management (established in 1988) and later, the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management (IJCHM) – a role that I held for 20 years. At that time, Emerald (formerly known as MCB University Press (MCB-UP)) had a relatively small portfolio of management journals and I had written to them with an idea for a new journal that would aim to facilitate an interchange between industry and academia. I met one of MCB-UP’s directors, Barrie Pettman at a conference in Brighton and over a long lunch-time conversation, he concluded by saying: ‘Go ahead!’

I’d assumed that obtaining copy for the new journal wouldn’t be difficult as there were only a handful of journals in the field at that time and I’d had to wait 18 months after acceptance, for my first topical article to be published in one of the established journals and by then, it was out-of-date! However, I quickly found that we’d have to work hard to stimulate interest in collaborative publishing with industry. In response to this challenge, we ran a series of annual conferences that were designed to encourage industry and academic collaboration via joint authorship of conference papers and/or other forms of industry participation. These were fascinating events because practitioners typically speak very directly about industry challenges and many of the attendees from academia said that they found this insightful. The conference series also helped to facilitate fruitful collaborative research partnerships based on mutual respect of industry-academic expertise. The support and assistance I received from MCB-UP during this formative period was invaluable and I’m especially grateful to the late Barrie Pettman, Gordon Wills, the late Keith Howard, my first publisher, Abby Day and an excellent back of house team that later included Jenny Chester, with whom I worked for many years. I should also like to acknowledge the fantastic support and contribution of academic colleagues Andrew Boer and David Litteljohn who played a key role in those early years.

Although IJCHM’s initial positioning was novel and relevant, I found it increasingly difficult to sustain a collaborative approach because academics are encouraged by their institutions to submit papers to top tier academic journals. Although I tried to reinforce our applied research agenda, the volume of empirical research papers steadily increased and I knew that I would need to start a different kind of journal to build on the early work. I discussed my dilemma with a former Emerald director, John Peters and he agreed that a journal based on a form of action learning – using questions to find and apply solutions to industry challenges - might be the best way forward. John later became Emerald’s chief executive and I’d like to thank him for his visionary contribution to the format of the new journal. First though, I had to find a new editor for IJCHM with the enthusiasm to embrace an array of opportunities for the journal’s development. For me, enthusiasm is vital – without it I felt that there was a risk that the journal might stagnate. After much thought, I approached Fevzi Okumus, a personable young academic who had completed a beautifully written Doctor of Philosophy thesis in the UK prior to accepting a job in the USA. Fevzi was initially concerned that it might be too early in his career to assume the role of editor of IJCHM. In response, I told him that journal editing is a privileged role and that it offers a unique opportunity to help others. I clearly remember meeting Fevzi for lunch at a Thai restaurant in Orlando, Florida. We had a great conversation about IJCHM and I knew then that he was the best possible person to assume the editorship and fortunately, he agreed to take over. I also remember ordering the spiciest dish on the menu but the head waiter tactfully informed me that it was almost certainly too hot for me to eat, so I accepted his recommendation, which was perfect!

Fevzi and his team have accomplished so much since that restaurant meeting around 16 years ago. Thank you Fevzi – you have done a stellar job in building IJCHM into one of the world’s leading hospitality and tourism journals.

Why was Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes established and how is it different?

I have worked with many journals over a period of 25 years in academia and I have concluded that WHATT is one of the best (if not the best) applied journal. It is one of the few journals that industry is able to relate to as it blends academic analysis with practical action. I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and I am looking forward to working on more theme issues in the future. (Vikneswaran Nair, Theme Editor, v7 n5, 2015)

Why establish a different type of journal? Today’s reality is that the majority of articles published in hospitality and tourism journals comply with academic research criteria but relevance to industry is often lacking. Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (WHATT) was established to help address the imbalance and to re-connect with industry. In essence, WHATT aims to make a practical and theoretical contribution to hospitality and tourism development by focusing on key industry issues. Every theme issue consists of an interrelated collection of articles that taken together, address a strategic industry challenge. In 2014-15, two theme issues were launched at industry events and in 2016, we built on this by introducing an annual hospitality and tourism trends issue as an outcome of industry-led analysis and review.

Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (WHATT) re-visits and re-conceptualizes an industry-education collaborative approach to applied research. It is my view that pressure to publish in the highest ranking journals has contributed to a gap between the issues and challenges that Industry faces and the body of knowledge as reflected in the academic hospitality and tourism literature. WHATT seeks to explore ways of bridging the gap and re-connecting academics and practitioners via a question-based publishing format that encourages innovation, exploration and the creation of interesting, engaging articles that provide an integrated, step-by-step response to a key strategic question. WHATT’s aim and approach is outlined in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (WHATT) editorial objectives

WHATT provides thematic reviews of the major challenges for sustainable hospitality and tourism development. This is facilitated by dialogue and applied research with industry combined with secondary research and the views of practitioners in the field. This helps to ensure that every issue provides practical solutions to industry challenges.

Every theme is directed by a strategic question that guides applied and collaborative research, literature review, idea generation, discussion and the formation of practical, implementable solutions. WHATT uses questions to find and apply solutions to industry challenges and every issue:

  • Provides theme-based reviews of real industry issues.
  • Draws on analysis, applied research and dialogue with industry.
  • Offers practical solutions (to industry challenges) in concise, accessible articles.
  • Develops industry-based frameworks that can be used.

What do stakeholders think about the format?

Hospitality research creates value when the questions researchers are investigating are the same ones industry is asking. (John T Bowen, Theme Editor, v7 n3, 2015)

WHATT’s editorial objectives are designed to encourage a flexible and creative response to a key strategic question that is of concern to both practitioners and academics. As we have been using and developing this format for fifteen years, what have we learnt so far? First, our theme editors really enjoy the process of forming a team of writers, researchers and practitioners to explore a key issue. Second, theme editors say that by involving practitioners in their research they have found that the exploration and writing process is enriched by practical insight and enhanced by the dialogue about the generation of solutions. To illustrate, here are two feedback comments from theme editors early in the development of the journal:

[On the value of collaborative research]: I drew on expertise from government, academia and industry to investigate, analyse and test the possible solutions - we found that WHATT’s objectives and format provide an ideal vehicle to fully explore the nature of the food safety challenge and then present workable solutions based on dialogue and collaboration with many different interest groups. One significant outcome of the collaborative effort is the first set of codes of practice for each industry sub-sector we studied. This is a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge and it will strengthen industry best practice. (Eunice Taylor, Theme Editor, v7 n1, 2015)

[On the role of the theme issue in developing the outcomes from a conference]: The opportunity to extend, shape and disseminate time-limited discussions between academics and practitioners at a conference event is truly invaluable. The effort needed to bring stakeholders together and to facilitate a meaningful interchange about the issues that need to be addressed is significant and without a forum to extend and capture the dialogue, it is difficult to establish a foundation on which to build. In this context, the journal’s flexible yet rigorous planning format has really challenged the contributing team to think deeply about our theme issue question – not only ‘why’ improvements are needed but ‘how’ they can be made. (Angela M Benson, Theme Editor, v7 n2, 2015)

Third, our readers like the format! The number of article downloads from WHATT increases year-on-year. In 2009 (our first year) there were 2,988 article downloads, increasing to 10,806 in 2010 – and rapidly since then:

  • 53,325 article downloads in 2014
  • 64,461 article downloads in 2015
  • 81,359 article downloads in 2016
  • 98,851 article downloads in 2017
  • 100,000+ article downloads annually since 2018

In part, I think that this is because students undertaking dissertations and other projects discover that each theme issue is an integrated and sequential set of articles and so the entire theme issue is helpful to their study.

What is involved in planning and editing a WHATT theme issue?

To begin, we encourage academics with a passion for their subject and a commitment to industry dialogue and applied research to submit their outline idea for a theme issue. Initially, we check to ensure that the prospective theme editor is enthusiastic about the opportunity and willing to put in the work necessary to fully plan a theme issue and assemble a balanced team of participants. After this, we work through the following steps:

(1) Agreeing the theme – we use a theme issue planning format with eight questions to assist prospective theme editors as they develop a brief for their theme issue. The prospective theme editor must reflect on why their question is important – especially to practitioners - and how the theme issue will engage with an international readership. At this early stage, we also consider how the theme issue is likely to fit together. To facilitate this, we request a draft editorial (in 750-1,000 words) that explains how each article will integrate with the rest of the collection and in so doing, progressively address their question. This requires careful thought because WHATT articles and viewpoints need to be self-contained. We hope though that readers will be sufficiently intrigued by the first article that they download that they will return to download the rest of the theme issue! My role at this stage is to work with the prospective theme editor(s) until I think that WHATT’s editorial objectives are likely to be met by the proposal and at that point, we accept and schedule the theme issue. I have found that this initial stage is a self-selecting process – we never reject an idea but if the proposer isn’t able to align their proposal with the editorial objectives, it is generally reflected in their level of enthusiasm for the project and for the WHATT concept. We know from experience that enthusiasm is the key criterion! 

(2) Briefing the writing team – Unlike special issues, theme editors must select their own writing team and provide them with a specific brief and timetable for the preparation of their article, which normally includes some form of practitioner involvement. This is because the over-arching challenge is to explore a strategic question via a series of free-standing articles that together, form the basis of an integrated theme issue with fresh insights and solutions. All too often, journal special issues offer an eclectic mix of articles that are loosely related to a topic or subject. Special issues sometimes come together as an integrated collection of work but more often, a scatter effect fails to explore the topic in a systematic way.

Our aim is to ensure that every WHATT theme issue is: 

  • Authoritative, compelling (concise, interesting, engaging) and authenticated (not by the presentation of data per se, but via the citations in support of analysis).
  • Active and progressive in demonstrating how each article contributes to addressing the So what? questions and the How can we? issues relating to managerial action.
  • Collaborative (e.g., theme editor(s), authors, practitioners, round table participants) with at least one round of peer review feedback (and other forms of incremental improvement as needed) prior to publication.

All the above points require careful planning, coupled with a structured peer review procedure and timely feedback.

(3) Engaging with stakeholders - Every theme issue has its own stakeholder network in the form of sources of credible, expert opinion that can play a role in validating the review, analysis, recommendations and action. Other sources include: evidence (verified from secondary sources wherever possible); relevant literature on the theme (example formats and approaches are made available to theme editors); discussion within the writing team and with practitioners and outcomes that have been verified as workable by practitioners. In this context, the editorial role is to listen to suggestions and provide examples that might help to bring the theme issue to life. Above all, we aim to encourage innovation in collaborative writing and research – more on this later.

(4) Establishing a peer review process - WHATT encourages creativity within the context of its editorial objectives and so we actively discourage standard academic format writing as this typically yields long, often dense and complex articles focused on the presentation and interpretation of empirical data. It is for these reasons that academic format submissions necessarily require a double-blind review procedure. WHATT affirms the importance of rigorous, independent review but we encourage a different approach to applied research and analysis. In essence, WHATT theme editors must establish their own peer review panel of experienced researchers, writers, practitioners and others (as appropriate) to help shape and finalize their theme issue. As a minimum, the peer review process (from draft to final and accepted article versions) includes: 

  • A review of every draft article by at least one independent peer reviewer. Thereafter, the theme editor provides lead authors with feedback so that they can improve, refine and finalize their article.
  • A cross-check of every final article version by the theme editor to ensure that all feedback points have been addressed.

To illustrate, here is an example of a peer reviewing format that meets WHATT’s quality test of ‘fitness for purpose’: The normal academic review process was augmented by the use of practitioners, who were asked to comment on how helpful the article was to them in their work. These practitioners included the licensees of public houses - one actually read every article - as well as the owner of a company supplying security to pubs and clubs, a night club manager and several policemen. This proved to be a very effective approach, with contributors saying how useful they found the comments of these practitioners. (John Pratten, Theme Editor, v1 n2, 2009)

The differences between a special issue and WHATT’s thematic approach really do demand a different approach to reviewing and refining each article. As theme editors assemble their own team to research, write and provide a cogent response to the theme issue question, the peer reviewing process aims to secure this objective by incremental improvement. As the theme editors are the only people with a complete overview of the process, they use feedback from independent reviewers to assist their authors to refine and finalize each article. It is this sense of co-creation that WHATT theme editors, authors and peer reviewers especially appreciate.

How is WHATT encouraging innovation in applied research and publishing?

WHATT’s approach offers considerable scope for innovative, inclusive and participatory approaches to applied research and this is a relatively unique, inimitable and satisfying experience in the world of academic journal publishing. This approach is both engaging and motivating because the entire team (theme editors and contributors) have a stake in developing potential solutions to industry issues. (Vinnie Jauhari and Sandeep Munjal, Theme Editors, v7 n4, 2015)

There are a number of starting points for a WHATT theme issue:

Research-based – a WHATT theme issue can provide a forum for academics and practitioners with common interests to review and develop or update an agenda for applied research.

Project-based – WHATT can underpin and report on collaborative work with Industry.

Problem-based – Industry faces numerous challenges: WHATT’s question-based approach encourages academics to assist  practitioners via breakthroughs (e.g., new techniques) and analysis (e.g., what works elsewhere?) to develop practical and implementable solutions.

Conference or event-based – WHATT provides a customizable format to capture developmental dialogue between academia and industry at conferences, forums and via round table discussions, interviews and via collaborative writing. All these starting points have been used as the basis of a WHATT theme issue and to shape, develop and refine collaborative work that offers excellent potential for theoretical development.

What did we accomplish in the first five years? To illustrate the different approaches used, I profiled one theme issue from each of volumes 1-5 inclusive. The two examples below illustrate aspects of applied research and publishing that are difficult to develop using a standard academic journal format with double-blind review procedures and occasional special issues.


Example 1:

What are the possible solutions to the problem of excessive alcohol consumption?


Examines the problem of alcohol abuse and the phenomenon of ‘binge drinking’ in the UK with reference to patterns of alcohol consumption in several European countries and in the USA.


Provides analysis and a review of statistics and trends about alcohol consumption and draws insights from practitioners with frontline roles in responding to the problems caused by binge drinking.


Augments academic analysis with practitioner experience and perspectives to better define the problems arising and to formulate practical solutions. The outcomes of this theme issue were also reported in the UK national press.


Example 2:

Can evolving methods of food safety management provide global solutions for the food service sector?


Examines the ways in which food safety management and in particular the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system could be more effectively implemented in food service operations.


Drew on a longitudinal study in the UK, small in-depth studies in Barbados, Dubai, Oman and Nigeria and on strategies of three Emirates in the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai).


Involved a writing team of more than twenty specialists on aspects of food safety, drawn from academia, government and industry.

These examples illustrate the level of interaction and the breadth and depth of discussion that characterize a WHATT theme issue. Conferences and other events can be used as a vehicle to maximize opportunities for engagement with practitioners and the involvement of other specialists such as policy advisers, government representatives and specialists from other agencies. Here, the concept of a WHATT round table discussion forum helps to ensure that all aspects of the theme issue question can be explored in a neutral and informal environment. It also illustrates the flexibility of the WHATT format and the different ways in which theme editors and their teams are using their theme issue to make a contribution to professional practice and/or to the body of knowledge. I should add that these two examples are indicative of the potential value of the WHATT format - each and every theme issue produces comparable outcomes.

To conclude, WHATT’s theme editors are asked to write a summary article in which they reflect back on their initial strategic question, review the respective contributions made by the authors of each article in the collection and finally consider the implications and outcomes with reference to management action and further investigation and enquiry. In drawing together the individual contributions in this way, we have found that the WHATT format facilitates a detailed response to the ‘So what?’ question that is so often missing from standard academic form writing. The nature of WHATT’s collaborative approach to applied research and publishing makes this possible and helps to ensure that WHATT’s contribution is grounded in both theory and practice.

Reflections on the theme issue outcomes

In 2014, we developed a post-editorial format to highlight the learning outcomes based on theme editor responses to a theme issue questionnaire:

  1. Why in your view, is your theme issue strategic question important?
  2. Thinking about your theme issue plan and approach, what worked well?
  3. How did you engage with different stakeholder groups (e.g., practitioners, policy makers)?
  4. What were the highlights from stakeholder group interactions? (e.g., round table discussions, collaborative writing, collaborative peer reviewing)?
  5. Thinking about your peer review process: What went well and why? What didn’t go well and why? What would you do differently and why?
  6. What are the most significant outcomes of your theme issue in terms of the contributions to knowledge and/or professional practice?
  7. What are the implications for management action and applied research arising from your theme issue outcomes?
  8. Having served as a WHATT theme editor, what did you enjoy about the experience? 

Initially conceived as a promotional piece, this review is now included as a post-editorial set of reflections in standard theme issues. It highlights: findings; practical implications: originality/value; and a summary theme editor comment.

WHATT theme issue launch events and annual trends

I mentioned earlier that WHATT’s mission is to facilitate industry-education collaboration and in 2014-15, two theme issues were formally launched at industry events:

Porto, Portugal, 12 February 2015
WHATT Volume 6 Number 5, 2014 investigated the question: Did the context of economic crisis affect the image of Portugal as a tourist destination? WHATT theme editors Jorge Costa, João Gomes and Monica Montenegro linked publication of this issue to an annual International Forum attended by some 300 industry representatives.

United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi, 17 March, 2015
WHATT theme editor Eunice Taylor worked as a Policy Specialist at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) for a number of years and as an outcome of this work, Eunice and her colleagues were able to provide a comprehensive response to the question: What action can government take to improve food safety in a diverse and multi-cultural hospitality industry? (WHATT Volume 7, Number 1, 2015). The writing team drew on a four year strategic initiative dedicated to assessing and improving food safety management in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Taken together, the articles in this collection form an essential resource for anyone with an interest in how to secure sustainable improvements in food safety management. 

We have continued to ‘launch’ theme issues as a catalyst for discussion and action by the widest possible group of stakeholders and our highest profile theme issue launch to-date, took place at the National Arena, Kingston, Jamaica. This was a launch to an audience of more than 5,000 guests, faculty and students of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) – the occasion on which CMU became Jamaica’s second national university and the Caribbean’s first specialized public university. The President and Deputy President of CMU were theme editors of WHATT v9 n1, 2017 (Tourism business development and logistics in the Caribbean: will there be a symbiotic relationship?). They and their team had sought to address an economic development issue that is of national and regional significance and key outcomes were presented at the event which was attended by the Governor General of Jamaica, two Prime Ministers (Barbados, Jamaica) and Jamaican Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament and Heads of Public Services.

Since 2016: our annual Global Trends theme issue

During the period 2010-2015, WHATT was published five times a year and in 2016, we moved to six issues. The sixth issue - each and every year, was edited by Global Trends Editor, Jorge Costa and his colleagues. Jorge is also a founding member of the WHATT editorial advisory board and he has linked WHATT’s global trends issue to an annual, professionally organized conference for senior practitioners. The outcomes (after presentation, discussion and peer review) are published annually in WHATT. Prior to publication, Jorge and his team convened a trends event each year in Porto, Portugal, attended by senior tourism practitioners and policy makers from Europe and beyond. In 2017, the topic was Trends and opportunities for businesses and destinations and the event was attended by more than 200 invited guests from major associations, government and industry.

Jorge and his colleagues continued to explore important, industry-led questions and in his final issue in 2023 (WHATT v15 n6) they posed this question: Re-thinking tourism: Where is it going and how will it impact people and planet? The issue contains 14 articles written by a team consisting of: senior academics, the president of the world tourism network, the Azores regional secretary for tourism, mobility and infrastructure, the Madeira regional secretary for tourism and culture and president of the Madeira promotion bureau, the president and the executive director of the Porto and North of Portugal tourism association, the president of the Portuguese hotels association, the president of the association of hotels, restaurants and similar establishments of Portugal and the president of the Portuguese association of travel and tourism agencies.

Jorge Costa, Global Trends Editor (2016-2023), Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes  

  Jorge Costa
  Global Trends Editor (2016-2023)
  Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes


Gathering a group like this is challenging and helping them to turn their thoughts into articles is even more so because busy, senior practitioners don’t normally have time to publish their work. Yet this is why Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes is unique: we focus on finding solutions to industry-led questions by drawing on the widest possible range of experience and expertise. I have worked with Jorge for many years and I’d like to pay tribute to his incredible work, especially via the annual Global Trends series. These articles are widely read, cited and relevant to the challenges of an industry in transition, thank you Jorge for your pioneering contribution to the development of the journal.

Emerald’s focus on real world impact: How can practitioners help strengthen applied research?

In 2017, Emerald established a ‘Real world’ impact blog and its facilitator asked me to share something of WHATT’s approach to applied research. Here is an extract from my contribution to the blog on the journal’s policy of involving practitioners in the peer review process.

A 2018 WHATT theme issue (v10 n1 2018) posed the question: Is talent management a strategic priority in the hospitality sector? Theme editor Norma D’Annunzio-Green had explored this area a decade ago (in our third issue of the journal) and she drew on a large team of academics and practitioners. Here is what Norma said about the value that was added by her panel of practitioner reviewers:  

“I was struck by how challenging all of the writing team found the different writing style with its focus on practice-based and relevant action-oriented outcomes. Almost all of the practitioner reviewers recommended that the action-orientated outputs of the articles needed to be enhanced. In this way, they were pushing the academics to come up with better evidence-based solutions to their problems. There is still a gap between what academics and practitioners view as useful and relevant and unless that gap is reduced, valuable opportunities to learn from each other will be lost.”

Norma’s reflection is exactly why WHATT was launched and it is encouraging to know that our theme editors, contributors and peer reviewers are able to facilitate a collaborative approach that gives practitioners a voice in the process of publishing applied research. 

The future of Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

Several years ago, I began to look for a successor who could bring enthusiasm, fresh ideas and the contacts to develop new networks. WHATT is deliberately ‘global’ in scope and in future, we’d love to involve writing teams in countries that are under-represented in the literature. I didn’t initially expect to replace myself with four people but I’m thrilled to announce that two teams consisting of Hale Özgit (Managing Editor) and Ali Öztüren (Co-Editor) and Zanete Garanti (Managing Editor) and Galina Berjozkina (Co-Editor) will succeed me. Hale and Ali will edit volume 16 (2024) and Zanete and Galina will edit volume 17 (2025) and thereafter, rotate each year. The two teams fully understand the concept and practical application of WHATT theme issues as they have theme edited and launched their own theme issues with attendees from academia, associations, government, industry and other stakeholder groups. I know that Hale, Ali, Zanete and Galina have the vision and energy to sustain and develop the journal and its mission for many years to come. Thank you, I wish you great success!

Left to right: Hale Özgit, Ali Öztüren, Galina Berjozkina, Richard Teare and Zanete Garanti

Left to right: Hale Özgit, Ali Öztüren, Galina Berjozkina, Richard Teare and Zanete Garanti

How does collaborative publishing make a difference? There are many benefits that we observe in every issue of the journal, above all: 

  • Synergy from collaboration with a purpose – finding implementable solutions;
  • Workable solutions that are grounded in practice. This generates valuable new knowledge;
  • An opportunity to think and write differently in response to WHATT’s industry-led question approach;
  • Initiating partnership approaches to sustainability – the key challenge now and for the future.

It has been a long and rewarding journey and I’d like to thank the many people who have supported me at Emerald Publishing and in particular, the current team: Hazel Goodes, Jessica Evans, Shivani Verma and Abinaya Jegadhesan. Hazel and Jess, you have been brilliant to work with! Last but not least, I’d like to thank all the excellent theme editors, their writing teams and our readers for enabling WHATT to become a credible and respected journal that proudly advocates for industry stakeholder partnerships in hospitality and tourism publishing.