About AIRTH - and its journey FromZero.

AIRTH, noun, /ɛːθ/, pronounced as “air” with “th”

Innovation is a cornerstone of economic development. Interest in innovation in tourism and hospitality comes and goes. In recent years, there has been a steady, albeit small, stream of research in this area. The initiator of the FromZero family of projects, the Alliance for Innovators and Researchers in Tourism and Hospitality (AIRTH), is a network of innovation-minded researchers and practitioners.

The goal of AIRTH, starting in 2017, is to organize conferences, events and projects in collaboration with interested institutions and individuals to permanently focus on innovations in tourism and hospitality management. These activities are intended to offer researchers and practitioners alike the opportunity to learn from each other and initiate collaborative work. In other words, this should be fun!

Next level, post-pandemic cooperation

AIRTH core values are still the same as in 2017:

Vision. Understand, develop and implement tourism & hospitality innovations that sustainably create value for tourism, destination societies and businesses on Earth and beyond. 

Mission. Foster interdisciplinary collaboration to develop and implement innovations that contribute to the sustainable development of destinations and tourism & hospitality businesses.

From 2017 to 2022, we fully followed the above Vision and Mission and carried out many activities that connected the academic world with the global tourism ecosystem. In response to the groundbreaking Covid-19, we co-founded the global  TourismFromZero initiative. To improve the connection with higher education, we co-created UP FTS sTOUdio Turistica. Then we brought together all the activities we do with our partners in the FromZero Consortium/Alliance.

From a purely legal point of view, we started as an association (“društvo”), but there are more and more development activities and opportunities. Therefore, in 2023 we have transformed AIRTH into an institute (“zavod”), so that we can better connect the different areas of the tourism sector.

The fact that our links between business and academia are becoming stronger and stronger is demonstrated by the decision of Janja Viher, who has taken over the management of the newly designed institute AIRTH and has always been a sworn link between the various tourism stakeholders:

Janja has experience in running a municipal administration, development agency, company and institute, both private and public. Having served as director of the Development Agency Slovenske Gorice she took the reins of Maribor-Pohorje Tourist Board. For several years she worked with NGOs in the framework of the Slovenian Tourist Board and served as its vice-president, active member of the Regional Chamber of Craft and Small Business Maribor as well as president and vice-president of numerous committees and supervisory boards. Janja has experience with smart villages and cities in the context of creativity and innovation building and promotion of stakeholder participation for improved competitiveness and visibility.

The central nervous system of AIRTH, strengthened by Janja, continues to be represented by the Founding Members listed below. Together they provide a solid foundation for all of our partnerships and projects under the FromZero umbrella.


The Founding Members of AIRTH


Dejan Križaj • Co-Founder • University of Primorska, Faculty of Tourism Studies – Turistica Portoroz, Slovenia

My research is on R&D as well as promotion and measurement of tourism innovation. Since 2006 I chair the Slovenian National Tourism Innovation Awards Commission on behalf of Slovene Tourism Organization and Ministry of Economic Development and Technology.

Florian Zach • Co-Founder • Virginia Tech • Blacksburg, VA, USA

My research interests are on innovation and stakeholder management focusing on the important of collaboration among tourism actors to foster and disseminate innovation to create sustainable and competitive businesses and destinations.

Gunnar Þór Jóhannesson • Founding member • University of Iceland Reykjavík, Iceland

I study innovation and entrepreneurship through a relational approach and describe how innovation is accomplished through actor-networks of humans and non-humans.

Juan Luis Nicolau • Founding member • Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA, USA

My research on tourism innovation analyzes the effect of innovation on the market value of firms, that innovation being of any of the standard types or being it in the form of awards.

Stephan Reinhold • Founding member • Linnaeus UniversitySt. Gallen, Switzerland

I investigate how supply-sided tourism actors can benefit from and address change by means of business model innovation, organizational transformation, and new mental models. In addition, I study how actors in networked co-production deal with pluralistic logics and divergent success definitions.

Carina Ren • Founding member • Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark

I explore how tourism affects society, for instance through cross-sectorial innovation and other organisational set-ups and relations. My focus is how alternative ways of collaboration and co-creating tourism adds new value to tourism.

Vinod Sasidharan • Founding member • San Diego State UniversitySan Diego, USA

My research interests align with tourism innovation in the area of evaluating sustainability performance indicators for implementing tourism initiatives within the context of destination development goals.

Iis Tussyadiah • Founding member • University fo SurreyGuildford, United Kingdom

I investigate the role of information technology in the processes of innovation and the diffusion of innovative products and services in tourism. I am interested in understanding how to integrate consumers in new product/service development and experience design.

Zheng Phil Xiang • Founding memberVirginia Tech • Blacksburg, VA, USA

I write about how information technology is changing travel behavior and how the industry responds to it. IT is the driver (or catalyst) of innovation, particularly in terms of how we connect with consumers and offer meaningful experiences.

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