Just a year after joining the University of Mpumalanga (UMP), Dr Julia Giddy, has put the name of the institution on the map by scooping one of the prestigious awards: the South African Geographers Centenary Award.
The award is designed to recognise and invest in emerging academics in geography in the country. Giddy said her research project aims to assess and promote engagement with national parks, conservation spaces and nature-based tourism among South African youth.
“I’d like to thank the committee for their efforts in assessing the applications for this award. As a geographer in South Africa for the past 10 years, it is really exciting to be recognised by the society for the work that I am doing,” remarked Giddy after winning the award.
She said her research does not only to promote domestic tourism spending but that, in addition, the continued funding of conservation spaces is highly dependent on this source of income. It is also important, said Giddy, that young South Africans should appreciate the significance of the conservation spaces to sustain the future.
Giddy said her research area is significant at the moment because it can be used to assist in the promotion of domestic tourism. She said this will also increase the level of engagement among the youth particularly their perceptions towards tourism and conservation spaces in the country. “The end goal is to promote local domestic tourism in the future, which is highly dependent on nature-based tourism,” she added.
The other reason why Giddy’s proposed research has won is because of its focus on tourism, one of the critical sectors earmarked to kick-start the economy following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Said Giddy: “The non-white leisure tourism market is incredibly under-researched, particularly in the sub-sector of nature-based tourism. This research, therefore, seeks to better understand the demands of this emerging market as well as their perceptions of and engagement with nature-based tourism, especially as a result of increased domestic tourism caused by the pandemic.”
This is not the first time Giddy won such an enviable accolade. Last year she was honoured with a National Research Foundation award at the institution’s ‘research and engagement awards. She was awarded for her research that focuses on human-environment interaction in the tourism sector.
“It was very exciting to see my research recognised so soon into my tenure at the university. It also gave me a boost during a very tough year to continue to pursue my research and to open up new avenues for research, particularly in the local context,” said Giddy.
Her advice to aspiring post-graduates and scholars is that they should work hard and ensure they present innovative research to top journals early in their careers. Often their PhD is some of the best research they will produce, as they have the time to put all their energies towards one project, she said.