James Higham


Distinguished professor of sustainable tourism

I have a strong connection with our natural environment and believe that we – and the visitors we host – can enjoy it without  increasing damage to the planet in the process. This is the challenge of tourism in the 21st century. It requires honest discussion, clear data and bold thinking.

Take a look at my numerous academic publications, lectures and symposiums, research and working papers, my professional affiliations, and my extensive work in the community. You can also read my blog for news, and feel free to contact me.

Peer reviewed journal publications


Invited keynote lectures

Research reports and working papers

PhD students supervised

My career at a glance

University of Otago, Dunedin
Department of Tourism
1993 – 2023

I spent 30 years based out of the Department of Tourism at the University of Otago, with my final role being Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Tourism. My career at Otago included Head of Department (2006 – 2011), member of the Business and Economics PBRF panel (2012, 2018) and co-editor of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism (2014 – 2021). I remain affiliated to the university – see below.

Griffith University, Queensland
Griffith Institute for Tourism
2023 – present

In May 2023, I was appointed Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith, as well as Co-Director, Climate change Action Cluster at the university. In my leadership role within the university, I will be involved in a wide range of academic projects. I also retain strong connections with existing and ongoing sustainable tourism-related projects focussing on Aotearoa New Zealand.

Honorary Professor
University of Otago, Dunedin
2023 – present

I am delighted to have been confirmed as an Honorary Professor at the University of Otago, enabling me to maintain very strong links with the university and my colleagues of 30 years.


My research addresses two broad themes ‘Tourism and global environmental change’ and ‘sport and contemporary mobility’. My research on the field of Tourism and global environmental change is anchored within the geographic concept of scale. Globally, my research explores aspects of sustainable tourism in relation to anthropogenic climate change, ecosystems and biodiversity. At the national/regional scale my interests focus on wildlife management, biodiversity, marine conservation and protected area policy and planning. The local scale of analysis addresses the ecological impacts of tourism on local species and ecologies that are globally significant. The theme of ‘Sport and contemporary mobility’ explores sport and tourism phenomena in relation to space, place and environment. 

My research is collaborative and interdisciplinary. Understanding our complex world requires different theoretical, methodological and empirical insights which are best informed by contrasting and complementary disciplinary perspectives. I enjoy building research collaborations that bring together fields of disciplinary expertise to address complex questions relating to climate change and air travel (human geography, social anthropology, sociology), tourism carbon emissions (economics, physics), aviation exceptionalism (philosophy), human interactions with marine mammals (marine science), the carbon emissions of sport mega events (sport tourism and events management), and tourism and resilience to natural disasters (geology), among others.

“Tourism can contribute so much to a country’s economy. But there is much unrealised potential for tourism to also contribute to environment and society. Given what we now know, it is incumbent on the all industry actors to create sustainable and regenerative tourism experiences.”