Meet the co-editor of International Journal of Event and Festival Management: an interview with Leo Jago

International Journal of Event and Festival Management

ISSN: 1758-2954

Article publication date: 22 October 2010

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Adolphus, M. (2010), "Meet the co-editor of International Journal of Event and Festival Management: an interview with Leo Jago", International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Vol. 1 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijefm.2010.43401caa.002

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Meet the co-editor of International Journal of Event and Festival Management: an interview with Leo Jago

Article Type: Editor interview From: International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Volume 1, Issue 3

Interview by: Margaret Adolphus

About the Editors

Professor Leo JagoActing director of the Christel DeHaan Tourism and Travel Research Institute at Nottingham Business School. From late 2007, he was the Director of the Centre for Tourism and Services Research at Victoria University in Australia. For the six years prior to that, he was the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Director of research for Australia’s National Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism (STCRC). He has also been active at national level in tourism education in Australia. His research interests lie in the areas of management and evaluation of festivals and events, tourism marketing, entrepreneurship, small enterprise management and social impact assessment of tourism. He was a key researcher in a study which looked at the size of the Australian meetings, incentives, conferences and events industry and has developed tools to assess the economic contribution of festivals and events. Professor Jago co-edits theInternational Journal of Event and Festival Management alongside Professor Jack Carlsen.

Professor Jack CarlsenCo-director for Curtin Sustainable Tourism Centre at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia. His research interests lie in the areas of tourism economics, tourism management, sustainable tourism events management, economic impact of tourism and new tourism products such as wine tourism.

About the journal

International Journal of Event and Festival Management is a new journal for 2010 in Emerald’s tourism and hospitality portfolio. Events and festivals management research is growing at a considerable rate across the world as events are making a significant contribution to the economy and community in many destinations. In addition, there is an increasing number of universities offering specialist programmes in events management. The journal will publish papers from a wide range of disciplines, and while recognizing that research is a necessary accompaniment to a growing profession, it will also reinforce the link to practice by including commentary from an events and festival management practitioner.

Journal missionMA: Can you outline the journal’s mission and editorial objectives?

LJ: We established the new journal to help grow and consolidate the body of knowledge in this emerging field. While events have been around for a considerable time, there has not been a strong body of underpinning knowledge, so the purpose of the journal is to try and advance knowledge in this area and to encourage its uptake by practitioners. You could compare the evolution of events as a field of study with that of hospitality: it used to be very much a vocational area, but the last few years have seen its professionalization. Now the same thing is happening in events, although some of the practitioners have been slow to recognize this trend because they have been focused on practice, rather than learning.

MA. Why have events suddenly become such an important area?

LJ: I think it is because they are no longer seen solely as part of tourism. Destinations around the world have started to recognize that people want to travel for a reason, and not just to see sights, they want to have experiences. Melbourne in Australia, my home city, has set itself up as the “Events City”: as it has few unique characteristics, but strong sporting and cultural traditions and the infrastructure to match, they thought, let’s provide entertainment and activities for people, because that’s what events do.

MA: What types of activities are covered under the heading of “event and festival management”?

LJ: It is very broad-based. Jack [Carlsen] and I use four categories. First, there are sporting events, especially the mega ones which is what people often associate with events. Second, there are the very large cultural events based around music, theatres and shows. Third, there are business events, which have poor relationship within the field, but actually is one of the key drivers for many destinations around the world, for example the UK and Spain.

Fourth, there are festivals, which can have an element of any of the other categories, but which are more community celebrations. They provide a catalyst for visitation because people like to be part of that experience. What makes festivals attractive is that they are not just put on for the tourists; in fact, tourists want to celebrate and engage with the local people. And 90 per cent of events, not just festivals, attract around 90 per cent of their audience from the local area. So, local community participation is hugely important for an event’s success.

MA: There are already a number of journals devoted to events management: Event Management and the International Journal of Event Management Research, for example. Why is there a need for another one?

LJ: The reason why there are a number of journals is because it is an evolving area. In tourism, for example, there were only a few journals ten years ago, but now there are probably 40 or 50. As a field evolves, there is a need to provide an outlet for a larger quantity of (hopefully) high quality research.

MA: In your first editorial (Jago and Carlsen (2010), IJEFM, Vol. 1 No. 1), you make the point that once an industry becomes sufficiently large, it needs to professionalize and develop a research base. Why is this?

LJ: I think that as a field becomes more professional, it needs research to ensure that it grows. Yesterday I was reviewing an article for a tourism journal on the role of professionalization within tourism. It showed that in the UK, attempts to professionalize had not worked, partly because practitioners had not been building on existing knowledge and using it to move forward.

The same principles apply in the area of events: we need to make sure that event-related research is available and that practitioners are encouraged to utilize the findings. We need the journals to carry this information, as well as a way of disseminating it to the people who need to apply it, many of whom are unlikely to access this information in its original journal form.

MA: People doing quality research in this area may well want to submit to a more general tourism publication. How will you ensure that you receive adequate quality submissions?

LJ: For a new journal, the challenge is huge, particularly these days when universities are driven by quality frameworks, such as the Research Excellence Framework in the UK. There is a real push within my own institution for academics to only publish in four-star rated journals. So for a new journal, getting high-quality material is really tough. We are having to contend with the real pressure that academics experience to publish their material in highly rated, but often more general journals even though their articles relate to festivals and events. What we have to do is exploit, in a positive sense, members of the editorial board as a way of obtaining good articles that will become cited elsewhere, which will enhance the quality of the journal and help it to get a rating.

Whilst the quality of these highly rated journals is clearly outstanding, we believe that there’s a real need for a specialist journal. When we did a search of the Emerald journals, we found a large number of event-related articles spread across a wide range of journals, which makes it difficult for people with a specific interest in festivals and events to source all of this information. Our aim with this journal is to help consolidate this information.

Editorial objectivesMA: From what sorts of disciplines do you expect your authors to be drawn?

LJ: We are hoping for submissions from a really broad disciplinary base, because there are so many interesting perspectives of festivals and events. On the business side, there’s economics, marketing and psychology, but we need to encourage people from outside the mainstream business disciplines to come to us, because there is work in sociology, anthropology and history, for example, which does not tend to get published in the more business-oriented journals. If we could attract from those disciplines, it would add real colour and flavour to the journal.

MA: It is obviously very important to have a strongly practical focus, and one of the ways in which you are doing this is by having a panel comment on practitioner implications. What are your objectives here?

LJ: Emerald initially said that it was keen to have practitioner papers, but our concern was the inclusion of these may make academics less likely to publish in the journal, which means it would be more difficult to get the journal rated.

Also practitioners do not, by and large, read academic journals. So we thought we would get a practitioner panel to look at the practical implications of the research presented in the academic papers. The twofold objectives are first to try and get academics to think about the practical applications of their work and second to disseminate information in a more accessible fashion to practitioners. It could potentially provide a feed into practitioner publications, for example, through some of the festival and event associations in which we are involved. Some people might read it and think, I need to go back and have a look at the research on which this information is based.

I spent six years when I was with the STCRC trying to bridge the gap between academics and the users of research. They were poles apart but gradually they started to move together. We had academics starting to think about the practical applications and practitioners thinking about what research they needed to underpin business decisions. And once that starts to happen, things really take off.

It is really important that we find a way of breaching the academic-practitioner divide. Presenting some condensed material which provides practitioners with information that they can use is a step in the right direction. They assume that the research is high quality, but they do not want to hear about the literature review or the methodology, they just want to know what are the findings and how can they use them.

MA: Looking through the first issue, papers explore theoretical perspectives, models and methodologies for events management research. Is there a need, in what is a fairly young discipline, to develop a framework for research, and is this one of the objectives of the journal?

LJ: Much of what’s been published in the events area in recent years has related to economic evaluations. While practitioners should be undertaking such evaluations as a matter of course, the methodologies are now quite standard and articles on such evaluations no longer add anything new to the body of event knowledge. From a research perspective, what we need is an initial framework within which new knowledge can be constructed. And we need concise definitions – people may say, “Oh, how tedious”, but they are important because if a field is not adequately defined, you cannot get statistics to compare and monitor performance.

Developing methodologies and showing practitioners how to use them is also very important. A surprising amount of work in the event field is based on poor methods and inadequate sampling frames. For example, I am involved in an evaluation in Australia at the moment where the lead consultant has calculated a really high economic contribution figure due to the way that the sampling has been conducted. The organizer loves the answer, but it does not make sense! You can get any result you want if you skew your sample and this is an all too frequent occurrence in event evaluations.

MA: You are obviously looking for quality, but what does this mean in terms of what you are looking for in articles, and how do you ensure it?

LJ: Articles must be academically rigorous, situated within a recognized body of literature, adopting a suitable methodology and drawing appropriate conclusions. They should add to the body of knowledge: for example, we have desk rejected quite a few economic evaluations because they are standard assessments that do not add anything new. If an evaluation was used to highlight a new trend or help demonstrate or explain a phenomenon, then this would certainly be considered for the journal. We also look for the “so what” factor: what are the practical implications of the research that will make a difference to how this field evolves?

As to the review process, we go for double-blind refereeing as do most other journals. We have also set up a mentoring scheme whereby “junior academics” can learn about reviewing, by acting as a third reviewer. For example, I am currently working with a young Chinese researcher who has a PhD in an aspect of the Beijing Olympics. She’s never done any reviewing for us before, but she is going through an article and will then be given copies of the other reviews.

MA: You intend to have, in place of book reviews, reviews of the latest software. Why is this?

LJ: Technology is incredibly important in this field, so we thought that rather than just having standard book reviews, we would assess some of the software packages in a constructive fashion. This may lead to enhancements of these packages and help inform practitioners of their suitability for their various tasks.

MA: Event management is taught, at both undergraduate and graduate level, at a number of universities. How will the journal support these courses?

LJ: A lot of quality institutions employ what they term “research led teaching” and this requires the use of journals, particularly at postgraduate level. So journals underpin a lot of teaching, and more academics are building their courses around journal articles. There has been a proliferation of textbooks, but most of them concentrate on the “how to” side, whereas journals will hopefully provide the background knowledge and address the important “why” factor.

MA: I believe that you have quite a few plans for special issues. Can you give a heads up on these?

LJ: Our first special issue is on the development and management of event venues and will be published in 2011 (see the call for papers). The next one will be convened by Richard Shipway and will look at the role played by sport events and the link with sport tourism. We are also intending to have special issues focusing on sustainability, which has become incredibly important as people start to monitor their carbon footprint: events that attract people from far afield work against sustainability in many ways.

Through the journal’s regional editors, we hope to have some regionally focused issues particularly sited in the developing world, such as South America, Africa and Asia. There’s a lot happening in these regions which is quite different to what is going on in the developed world, and it will be informative to be able to focus on these specific regions. We are very keen to build up our representation from the developing world both in terms of editorial board membership and articles.

Take, for example, what is happening in South Africa with the lead-up to the FIFA World Cup: South Africa is using events to reposition the country as a safe destination that can successfully host major sporting events, and to show the world that is has the necessary infrastructure.

And finally..MA: Can you tell us a bit about your own background: how did you become interested in event management, and what brought you to the UK from Australia?

LJ: For the 20 years prior to 2005, I owned a number of small tourism businesses in Australia, largely in the accommodation sector. In 1992, the manager of a 30-room motel I owned in Victoria told me that we had just succeeded in letting 18 rooms for four months. This was fantastic business for a small operation at full tariff, so I enquired as to who was the client. I discovered that it was the organizers for Australia’s first international air show who needed rooms for the volunteers who were involved in the set up of the site. As a small tourism operator, I experienced the economic benefits that events can bring to a region. When the organizer of the air show found out that I was an economist with a tourism background, I was asked to conduct an economic evaluation of this event, which I did.

At the time, I was running a university tourism research centre, but not one focused on events. Based on my experience with Australia’s first international air show, I saw the economic benefits as a business operator as well as the overall economic contribution through undertaking an economic evaluation, and I have been “hooked” on events ever since. I subsequently completed a PhD that used events as the context and have conducted much research in the area since.

I have helped organize a number of sporting events in Australia, but mainly I’ve been involved in evaluations, initially looking at events from an economic perspective but more recently considering their holistic contributions. If you just look at the economic benefits, you miss out on their huge potential contribution to the social capital of communities.

What brought me to the UK? Clearly it was the weather! I arrived in the middle of this lovely winter [2010] and it’s been a real shock to the system. But it was time for a change: I had resigned my position at Victoria University, and was asked to come to the UK for a 12-month period to help reposition the Christel DeHaan Tourism and Travel Research Institute at the University of Nottingham.

MA: If you had to pick one facet of events management that made for success, what would it be?

LJ: Getting the local community behind you and reflecting the local culture. That is the element that is missing with a lot of events, which are just “me too” with no point of difference. You get an event that is successful in one region and the next season it’s repeated elsewhere. Event patrons are most discerning and we are starting to see more event failures – often due to the fact that they lack a unique selling proposition and are not in line with consumer needs.

So it’s crucial that organizers think about the relevance of their event to the area, and make sure that the local community is behind the event. Local support, even for mega events, is a real success factor. It will be interesting to see how things unfold over the next couple of years with the London Olympics, as there has been some unrest within host communities for previous Olympics such as Beijing and Atlanta, where some disadvantaged groups in the communities were relocated against their will to make way for the construction of facilities.

Mega events such as these are most successful when they result in urban regeneration and are part of a long-term plan for the area. The Barcelona Olympics is held up as the ideal case study because the games were used as the catalyst to reposition the city both physically and culturally: it is now a stunning city with huge success in the business events market. The Athens Olympics was much less successful in creating any form of legacy, as the city was so focused on completing the infrastructure required to actually run the games that there was little time to worry about post-games issues.

So, the London Olympics have a huge opportunity: their challenge is to try and get people out around Britain generally, which is why having some events outside London, for example, the sailing in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour on the south coast, is a good idea as it encourages people to move around and improves sporting infrastructure in different parts of the country.

Editor’s note

Margaret Adolphus interviewed Leo Jago in March 2010.