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Personal profile

Research interests

Marina is an internationally renowned policy, planning and sustainable development expert and Professor of Tourism and International Development at Brighton Business School, which is an Affiliate Member of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

She is a geographer with a background in economics and Academic Lead for the University’s Responsible Futures’ Research and Enterprise Agenda, an initiative aimed at fostering internal and external interdisciplinary research and consultancy collaborations - https://www.brighton.ac.uk/research-and-enterprise/brighton-futures/responsible-futures.aspx.

She has advised on numerous international cooperation and research assignments funded by International Development Organisations (IDOs) such as: The World Bank, the European Union, The UN (UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO), the Commonwealth Secretariat, National Ministries and Tourism Boards, Regional Development Agencies and NGOs. Examples of projects undertaken are available at: https://www.brighton.ac.uk/research-and-enterprise/groups/stl/research-areas/policy-practice-and-development/index.aspx 

She is known globally for her excellence in leading and collaborating with multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder and multi-cultural teams and for her commitment to generating new knowledge on ways in which tourism can play a key role in sustainable development by stimulating local economies, conserving the environment, developing peoples and changing lives.

Her current research and consultancy work focus on 4 key research thematic areas: tourism policy and planning in Africa; travel philanthropy in Africa; arts and sustainable development in Africa; contemporary niche tourism, leisure and hospitality; tourism impacts and overtourism.

Scholarly biography

Marina is a human geographer and an internationally recognised authority in the field of sustainable development, tourism, cultural industries and arts. She has written and advised extensively on a number projects across Africa, Europe and Asia. Her global reputation is associated with 4 broad thematic areas: Tourism and development in the developing economies (particularly in Africa); Niche tourism development and management; Overtourism; and, Contemporary Artistic Expression, Tourism and Sustainable Development.

Her interdisciplinary research approach draws on human geography, development studies and international politics as well as anthropology and sociology.

Her research has been designed and deployed to have impact beyond the University of Brighton. Having secured funding through highly competitive streams (for example, the World Bank, UN, MCC, EU and the Commonwealth Secretariat), she has deployed her own research frameworks drawing upon a number of qualitative, participatory and cross-disciplinary techniques, such as the Peer2Peer (P2P) collaborative approach and delivered research in various formats.

She is interested in the debates on global governance and policymaking, especially the role of international organisations and NGOs and international treaties in the development and management of tourism and leisure spaces and places as well as how the global agenda on development plays out on the ground, how it is contested, challenged and resisted.

Her research practice focuses primarily on aspect associated with: Sustainability, Responsible Entrepreneurship and Participatory Research Methods. As an applied social scientist, her research specifically addresses: sustainable tourism policy, planning and development; niche tourism development and management; rural diversification, leisure and tourism; community-based and responsible entrepreneurship in cultural industries,contemporary arts and tourism; tourism in the developing world, especially Africa; travel philanthropy - serious leisure and the act of giving beyond volunteering; TVET needs analysis, capacity building and curriculum development.

Knowledge exchange

Marina’s research and consultancy engagements and contributions to knowledge are primarily in the field of: diagnostic, monitoring and evaluation studies; policy, governance and institutional development; destination planning and product development and management; sustainable tourism product development and tourism value chain; cultural industries and arts in Africa; HRD - training needs analysis, capacity building, train-the trainers and curriculum development; service standards and optimisation processes in hospitality and tourism.

She has worked in several countries, including Botswana, Burundi, France, The Gambia, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, UK, USA, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

Supervisory Interests

Marina’s PhD supervisory interests are closely aligned with her research interest and experience. These include: sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation in tourism; cultural industries and arts in Africa; sustainable tourism policy, planning and development; special interest and niche tourism development and management; rural diversification and regeneration through tourism; community-based and responsible tourism approaches; tourism in the developing and emerging economies (especially in Africa); travel philanthropy, serious leisure and the act of giving beyond volunteering; tourism and hospitality capacity building and innovation; overtourism and tourismophobia; tourism and the circular economy.

Approach to teaching

Marina adopts a research led teaching approach. Her teaching is filled with knowledge emerging from her extensive portfolio of research and consultancy engagements, which makes it unique. Drawing on her extensive network of collaborators and practical experiences, she provides students with the opportunity to engage with ‘real world’ issues. 

Graduates and students from her programmes say:

 “Marina's wisdom and expertise have stayed with me far beyond my times at Brighton, informing my career choices and making a huge difference in the way I see travel and tourism both personally and professionally” Dr Claudia Dolezal (Austria)

Professor Novelli was instrumental in shaping my career in tourism development as my professor at Brighton University and mentor. She inspired to pursue my goals, supported me through her professional networks in Africa and beyond. We published together, we worked on few projects and she never ceased sharing her knowledge and wisdom. She believed in my dreams and today I am grateful to call her a friend.” Dr Carmen Nibigira (Burundi)

As a mature student, Prof. Novelli research informed teaching approaches inspired me to continue with my study at PhD level, through her mentorship and continued guidance, I was able to secure a ESRC scholarship and engage in a research programme on contemporary arts and tourism of great impact in West Africa” Clive Allanso (UK)

External positions

Panel Member for REF2021 UoA C24



  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Tourism
  • sustainable development
  • Policy and Planning
  • community development
  • GV Recreation Leisure
  • Tourism
  • arts
  • culture
  • community development


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