UTM Life

Catering for travellers with disabilities: UTM’s Dr. Sharleen Chen talks about her research interest

UTM Assistant Professor Dr. Sharleen Chen
中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese
Research is a passion for UTM Assistant Professor Dr. Sharleen Chen. She praises the University for providing its scholars with wide support when it comes to academic investigation

According to data from the World Health Organization published last year, 1.3 billion people – approximately 16 percent of the global population – live with some significant form of disability. The figure represents a substantial market of consumers, and therefore provides opportunities for tourism destinations and travel companies able to meet the needs of these individuals. In order fully to harness this segment’s potential, it is crucial to understand how to encourage travel among people with a disability. This is where UTM Assistant Professor Dr. Sharleen Chen Xiaolian comes in.

Dr. Chen is currently involved in research about “travel willingness” – and factors for deterrence – among people with a disability, focusing particularly on consumers living in Macao. The team of researchers has been collaborating with various local associations that offer services and support to such individuals.

The study aims to be comprehensive, featuring the visually impaired, individuals with hearing problems, and those with mobility issues. Dr. Chen hopes that the findings will contribute to the travel and tourism industry’s efforts to cater better to the needs of these individuals.

The UTM scholar is also engaged in a project with some crossover: the travel intentions of elderly residents in Macao. “We aim to ascertain whether these individuals intend to travel, their preferred destinations, and the reasons behind their choices,” she explains.

Both studies are being developed with involvement of undergraduate and postgraduate students from UTM.

Dr. Chen highlights a lack of Macao-specific data on topics related to accessible tourism and tourism for seniors. Having it could help decision-makers craft better policies to encourage such consumers to engage in tourism activities, she argues.

A prolific researcher, Dr. Chen tries to do work “that can have a meaningful impact on the industry.” She often collaborates with fellow UTM scholars and students from the University, and academics from other institutions. Her research interests encompass tourism geography, consumer behaviour and experience, and destination marketing.

Dr. Chen emphasises the interconnectedness of learning, teaching, and research in higher education. She believes that research engagement can enhance the educational experience for lecturers and students.

She lauds UTM for providing extensive assistance for scholars conducting research. “The University offers strong support for our research needs,” says Dr. Chen. “I believe UTM is an ideal destination for those interested in tourism education, given its reputation in this field.”

Dr. Chen joined the institution in 2021, when the University was still known as the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies, or IFTM. Prior to that, she accumulated over a decade of teaching and research experience in tourism and hospitality studies at other higher education institutions within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

Originally from Mainland China, Dr. Chen earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Tourism Management from Hubei University in Hubei Province. She later obtained a PhD from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

As an educator, the UTM scholar says she aims to impart academic knowledge and practical experience to her students. “I hope to share with students what I have learned,” she states.

Editor: UTM Public Relations Team