Professor Tim Coles
Professor of Management
+44 (0) 1392 724441
Streatham Court 0.57
Streatham Court, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4PU, UK
Tim Coles is Professor of Management in the University of Exeter Business School.
His research examines how businesses and organisations in tourism, the cultural industries and creative economy respond to major challenges -such as digital innovation, austerity, Brexit, and global environmental change- in their management practices, operations and business models. He is particularly interested in issues around sustainable tourism and his latest work is examining how trajectories for tourism development relate to international agendas, for instance, relating to climate change and emissions reduction.
As a world-leading authority on business and management research in tourism, he is the author of over 50 papers in international peer-reviewed journals, 30 chapters in books, and co-author or –editor of four volumes. He edits two book series for Routledge and is a member of the editorial board of five international, peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Sustainable Tourism where his work has regularly appeared.
Tim’s research has been extensively funded by research councils, in particular by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the European Union. Within colleagues in Drama, he is currently working on 'Outside the Box', an AHRC-funded project about open-air performance as a pandemic response. Ahead of the 2012 Olympics, he was director of the Exeter Centre for Sport, Leisure and Tourism from 2008 to 2013. Funded by ESRC, this £1.5 million inter-disciplinary programme recognised Exeter as the UK centre for postgraduate and postdoctoral capacity building in sport, leisure and tourism in the social sciences.
Tim is deeply committed to engaged research, knowledge exchange and co-production. He has completed projects for and with a wide range of partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors. These have included the World Travel and Tourism Council, Tate, Arts Council England, National Trust, Flybe, Ministry of Defence, UK Trade and Investment, Rugby Football Union, BT, and Land Securities.
Within the Business School, Tim has held several senior management roles, including Associate Dean for Research and Impact (2016-18), Director of Impact (2015-16), and Director of Posgraduate Research (2008-11). In 2017 he established the University of Exeter’s Public Engagement Strategic Advisory Group (PEG) which he chaired until 2021.
- Member, University of Exeter ESRC Funding Advisory Network
BSc, PhD (Exeter)
Research group links
- Tourism and global environmental change
- Sustainable business and environmental behaviours in tourism.
- Business model innovation in tourism, the cultural industries and creative economy.
- Resilience, risk and crisis response in the tourism sector.
From the sheer number of people travelling these days to the proliferation of new digital platforms for tourism, there are many strong reasons for understanding changing mobility patterns and visitor economies. As a crucible for innovation, the tourism sector faces a dynamic range of issues around digital disruption, regulation, competition, privacy, data protection, productivity and pay gaps, among many others.
Tim’s work investigates how businesses and organisations in tourism and the cultural industries respond to these 'grand challenges' in their management practices, operations and business models. He is also interested in the potential of digital to provide new solutions to long-standing management challenges; to offer new insights into how contemporary consumers make decisions about their trips; and to present new possibilities for measuring and analysing visits and experiences that may result in further rounds of business model innovation. This is set against a backdrop of a sector that, although it may be growing and attractive to investors, is nevertheless highly vulnerable to market disruptions, natural hazards and events.
External Engagement and Impact
Awards and Honours
- 2016 Erskine Fellow, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
- 2015 ESRC Celebrating Impact Awards (Business Category) - Shortlisted
- 2002-04: Business Research Fellowship (SWRDA)
- 1993 Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize (Royal Geographical Society)
Conferences and invited presentations
- ‘Accessible tourism: major issues and future challenges in the UK’, Keynote address, Accessible Tourism: an Invitation for the Cypriot Economy, Cyprus University of Technology and Department of Tourism, October, 2019.
- ‘Strengthening research through collaboration’, Keynote address, The Exchange, Exeter, June 2019.
- 'A fair share? Or when a problem shared is not a problem halved. AirBNB, the sharing economy and the tourism sector in Brexit Britain'. Invited presentation, Airbnb, tourism, and the impacts of the sharing economy. University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ, March 2019.
- 'Tourism geographies of Brexit'. Invited research seminar. Umeå University, Sweden, October 2018.
- ‘Brexit research implications'. Keynote address. Business and Applied Sciences Academy of North America Conference (BAASANA). Exeter, August 2017.
- ‘This much I know…. [about SMTEs]’, Keynote address, Green Travelism Summer School, University of Hasselt, Belgium, August 2014.
- ‘Understanding the role of tourism in ecosystem services’, Keynote address, Tropical Tourism Outlook Conference: Nature, Culture and Networking for Sustainable Tourism, Dambula, Sri Lanka, August 2014.
- ‘Tourism as a driver for regional economic development’, Keynote address, Sibiu Smart City Conference, Heritas Foundation, Sibiu, Rumania, October 2013.
- ‘Post-disciplinary research in travel and tourism’, Keynote address, First Tourism Postdisciplinarity Conference, University of Lausanne, June 2013.
- Member, International Geographical Union (IGU) Commission on the Geography of Tourism, Leisure and Global Change.
- Member, ESRC Peer-Review College.
- Editor, Routledge International Series in Tourism, Business and Management.
- Editor, Routledge Critical Studies in Tourism, Business and Management
- Editorial Board Member, Journal of Destination Marketing and Management.
- Editorial Board Member, Journal of Sustainable Tourism.
- Editorial Board Member, Tourism Geographies
- Editorial Board Member, Current Issues in Tourism
- Editorial Board Member, International Journal of Tourism Research
- Invited Co-editor, International Journal of Tourism Research 7(2) (2005)
- Invited Editor, Tourism Geographies 6(2) (2004)
- Invited Co-editor, Current Issues in Tourism 9(4/5)
TeachingIn his modules, Prof Coles explores the interfaces between management principles and practices, and between the academy and everyday business and commerce. Inspired by his research and his experiences of consultancy and contract research, Tim’s current postgraduate modules are designed to ensure that students have the dual benefits of academic rigour combined with ‘real world’ practicality. Employability features strongly in how the modules are designed and assessed.
BEMM381 Tourism Business uses international case-studies as well as practical examples from regional businesses to unpack key ideas and issues about tourism management. Although it may be unusual to see a module on a specific sector in a business school curriculum, travel and tourism is arguably one of the world's largest industries and it is accompanied by distinctive forms of behaviours that management scholars cannot afford to ignore.
BEMM389 Business Analytics and Research Methods focuses on a rapidly expanding area in business administration and management. Using examples from a range of sectors, this module examines the practicalities and pragmatics of analysing contemporary business sources. Rather than just focus on the 'know how' of analytics technologies, this module also stresses the 'know why' - why data are important, why they can be trusted, and why they are communicated in particular ways.
Tim is a very active and committed supervisor of research students at all stages. 28 students have successfully completed their doctorates with his direction, and 17 are working in higher education throughout the world. In 2013 he published a textbook on writing dissertations and theses in tourism and related subjects, primarily aimed at undergraduate students. This broke new ground by adopting an overtly project management, time-based approach to tackling dissertations by breaking down independent research into a series of less daunting, more ‘do-able’ tasks. Scalable and adaptable in scope, the principles are equally applicable to doctoral and masters students, both in tourism and other social science disciplines. At present he is particularly interested in supervising students in the areas of:
- Sustainable tourism, including tourism and the SDGs
- Tourism and global environmental change, including climate change and net zero emissions.
- The impacts and management of tourism in both natural and historic environments, including overtourism.
- Business model innovation in tourism, the cultural industries and creative economy.
- New product development, and competition, including the sharing economy.
- Business resilience, risk and disaster planning in the tourism sector.