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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 School of Business and Law, which is an Affiliate Member of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).  

She is a geographer with a background in economics, considerable experience of high-quality research, consultancy, PhD supervision, teaching and curriculum development and a keen interest in interdisciplinary research.  

Between 2017 and 2021, she plaid a key strategic role as Academic Lead for the University of Brighton's Responsible Futures Agenda, an initiative aimed at fostering innovation through impactful interdisciplinary research and consultancy collaborations, at local, national and international level. This laid the ground of the current Global Challenges Agenda.  

Marina has advised on numerous international cooperation and research assignments funded by International Development Organisations (IDOs) including The World Bank, the European Union, The UN (UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO), the Commonwealth Secretariat, the millennium Challenge Corporation as well as National Ministries, Tourism Boards, Regional Development Agencies and NGOs. Such work has provided the basis of very impactful work (see: REF2014 and REF2021 Impact Case Studies). Examples of other projects undertaken by her are available here.   

Amongst her most recent achievements are:  

- 2023: Selected Member of The World Economic Forum Global Future Council for Sustainable Development;

- 2022: Elected Fellow of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism;  

- 2021: Appointed Alternate Member of the UNWTO World Committee on Tourism Ethics (2021-2025); and  

- 2018 to 2021: served as UK national Research Exercise Framework (REF2021) panelist for UOA C24: Sport, Tourism and Leisure.  

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 research spans across 3 main areas, including:   

- Sustainable Tourism Development for Resilient Communities - i.e., the complexity of tourism development in the Global South; niche (tourism) product development; the impact of heath crisis on tourism communities (Ebola, COVID); healthy lifestyle tourism clusters; Local, National and IDOs' interventions for resilient communities; travel philanthropy.  

- Innovation, responsible entrepreneurship and sustainability in tourism - i.e. British Council project on Innovationa for African Universities;  circular economy, contemporary arts and community development, contemporary arts for sustainable development in Africa.  

- Policy, Planning and Governance - i.e., master-planning; training needs analysis and capacity building; responsible leadership; participatory and community centered development. 

Scholarly biography

Marina's international reputation is broadly associated with the field of sustainability and community development in tourism, and more specifically with her elaboration of the niche tourism concept and extensive empirically grounded research on tourism for sustainable development. She has written and advised extensively in over 50 destinations across Africa, where she worked in 27 countries, Europe and Asia. She has also contributed significant new elaborations of the Overtourism concept and on the role of Contemporary Arts in Sustainable Community Development.

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

Her research has been designed and deployed to have impact beyond academia. Having secured funding through highly competitive streams (i.e. 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 particulalrly interested in the debates on tourism governance, policy and practice in relation to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and how this plays out on the ground, how it is contested, challenged and resisted and most importanntly how these conntribute (or not) to more resiliennt communities.

As social scientist, Marina's research holds the role of the community at the centre of whatever she does. Her research specifically focuses on: sustainable tourism policy, planning and development; niche tourism development and management; fostering community resilience; tourism at time of health crisis (i.e. Ebola and COVID); rural diversification; community-based tourism; responsible entrepreneurship in tourism; tourism in the developing world, especially Africa; travel philanthropy - serious leisure and the act of giving beyond volunteering.

She has also advised on TVET needs analysis, capacity building and curriculum development.

Knowledge exchange

Marina’s has over 20 years of research and consultancy experience in the field of: diagnostic, monitoring and evaluation studies; policy, governance and institutional development; destination planning and sustainable product development and value chain management; community centred interventions; cultural industries and arts for sustainable development; 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 Tourism Development for Resilient Communities - i.e. the complexity of tourism development in the Golbal South; niche (tourism) product development; the impact of heath crisis on tourism communities (Ebola, COVID); healthy lifestyle tourism development and management; Local, National and IDOs' interventions for sustainability and resilient communities;  travel philanthropy, serious leisure and the act of giving beyond volunteering;

- Innovation, responsible entrepreneurship and sustainability in tourism - community-based and responsible tourism approaches; circular economy, contemporary arts and community development, contemporary arts for sustainable development in Africa; rural diversification and regeneration through tourism.

- Policy, Planning and Governance - i.e. master-planning; training needs analysis and capacity building; responsible leadership; participatory and community cetred development; capacity building processes and practices; 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)
  • Sustainability
  • sustainable development
  • Policy and Planning
  • Innovation
  • Sustainable Tourism
  • community development
  • arts and culture
  • Circular Economy
  • G Geography (General)
  • economic geography
  • Tourism
  • Sustainability
  • HD28 Management. Industrial Management
  • Tourism managment
  • Hospitalty Management
  • circularity
  • Circular Economy
  • sustainable tourism
  • Open Innovation


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