Not content with offering a unique learning experience, Edge Hotel School now launches itself as a centre for hospitality and tourism research with the arrival of Dr Weizheng Zhang.
Dr Zhang, who completed his PhD at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, is an expert in tourism and hospitality entrepreneurship, risk and uncertainty, and migration within the industry.
In April 2022 he published his first paper, co-authored with colleagues at Surrey and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, in Tourism Management, a leading journal in tourism research.
Their study, which looked at uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on small- and medium-sized (SME) bed-and-breakfast enterprises in Zhangjiajie in China, was one of the first longitudinal qualitative projects to examine how SME entrepreneurs respond to crises.
They found that changes in uncertainty and capital shaped how entrepreneurs responded, especially in terms of product and marketing innovations, which in turn created new uncertainty.
Dr Zhang, who is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Advance HE, and a member of Essex’s Centre for Migration Studies, explained what attracted him to Essex: “Edge Hotel School is excellent in education and ambitious for research. As a research-based educator, I am looking forward to contributing to the research and education plan of the School.
“At Essex there are interdisciplinary research centres, such as the Centre for Migration Studies which is an excellent fit for me, and the research environment for early career researchers is supportive.”
He added: “I will continue working on high-quality research outputs and making an impact on the tourism and hospitality society.”
Andrew Boer, Head of Edge Hotel School, said: “Over its first decade, Edge Hotel School has developed a reputation for excellent industry-engaged education. At the start of its second decade the School is commencing its next challenge - excellence in research.
“Having Weizheng join us is an important and exciting first step on this journey. Over the next months we will be appointing a significant number of colleagues to join him and the team so that, before the end of our next decade, the School will have an international reputation for excellence in both research and teaching.”
Dr Zhang’s PhD research explored how risk and uncertainty and capital affect SME entrepreneurs' entrepreneurial orientation and performance, and the impact of their migration experiences.
Prior to his PhD, Dr Zhang studied human geography for his MSc and physical geography at undergraduate level. He explained what inspired him to switch from geography to hospitality and tourism: “Hospitality and tourism is generally interdisciplinary: geography is essential, along with psychology, business management, economics etc.
“Geography provided the theoretical foundation of my knowledge, such as space, place and population-related knowledge, and I am implementing the geography knowledge to tourism and hospitality management research.”
His arrival at Edge marks a new chapter in the School’s history as it embarks on developing a research profile, with several members of professional teaching staff also completing PhD research.