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Dr Cheryl Willis

Dr Cheryl Willis

Lecturer in Management


+44 (0) 1392 726109

Streatham Court, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4PU, UK

Dr Cheryl Willis a social scientist with an interest and enthusiasm for inter-disciplinary and collaborative working. Her research interests include sustainable tourism, business travel, human-nature relationships, meanings and motivations in tourism experiences, particularly in coastal and marine environments and within the context of human well-being.

Cheryl was awarded a PhD from the University of Exeter in 2014 which was concerned with understanding the ‘intangible’ benefits of nature and specifically the ways in which a coastal landscape served to enhance human well-being. Her thesis title is: ‘Exploring Nature’s Benefits through Tourism and Eudaimonic Well-being: A Case Study of the Jurassic Coast, Dorset’ (ESRC CASE studentship within the Centre for Sport, Leisure and Tourism Research, held jointly by Geography and Politics departments at the University of Exeter and part funded by Dorset County Council. Supervisory Team: Professor Michael Winter, Dr Robert Fish, Dr Stewart Barr).

Cheryl has extensive experience of teaching and supervising students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level and had been an Associate Lecturer in the Business School at the University of Exeter since 2013.

Nationality: British


  • PhD

Research interests

  • Human-nature relationships and well-being
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Business travel

Cheryl’s research to date has largely been focussed on the innovative area of cultural ecosystem services or the intangible ways that nature benefits humans. She is particularly interested in how these benefits contribute to well-being and the role they play in shaping visitor motivations and behaviours in certain environments. Her PhD research, with partner organisation Dorset County Council, gave her the opportunity to explore these questions in a coastal environment and to understand the policy implications of this work. This research highlighted for example, some significant issues such as how pro-environmental behaviours are shaped by meaningful interactions in natural settings and how they might be harnessed in tourist destinations.

Cheryl was also involved in the UK National Ecosystem Assessment follow-on work to extend these understandings and to address challenging questions relating to how insights into human-nature relationships can be integrated into environmental policy. Most recently, she was awarded a NERC funded grant to research how changing marine conditions impact on cultural ecosystem services and human well-being with specific reference to the impacts of harmful algal blooms (HABs). This is important as such stressors in the environment can have significant impacts on tourism and local distinctiveness and therefore, local economies.

Research projects

Cheryl is currently exploring the ways in which tourist destinations might benefit from a focus on well-being (work with partners at Bournemouth University) Paper in prep.

External positions

  • Postgraduate Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
  • Associate of the Higher Education Academy
  • Peer reviewer for high impact academic journals

Invited lectures

  • 2016: Exmoor Society – ‘Landscapes and well-being’, Exmoor Society Spring Conference
  • 2015: A Community on Ecosystem Services ‘Revealing cultural ecosystem services, lessons from the Cornish Coast’ Washington D.C.
  • 2014: Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference ‘Psychological Well-being and the Coast’

Dr Cheryl Willis is passionate about conducting high quality research and using this to inform teaching and to enthuse students. She currently is Module Convenor/Lecturer on BEM3036 ‘Destination Marketing and Management’ which aims to integrate understanding and knowledge of tourism, marketing and management principles.

She also assists on module BEM1013 ‘Business and Tourism’ which aims to explore how tourism is distinctively organised and managed as an economic activity.



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