James Petrick, Texas A&M University – The Effects of Travel

On Texas A&M Center for Sports Management Research & Education Week: How does travel affect you?

James Petrick, professor in the department of parks, recreation and tourism sciences, explores cruise participants experiences to find out.

Jim Petrick is a Full Professor, Research Fellow and the Associate Department Head for Graduate Studies in the Department of RPTS at Texas A&M University.  His research interest focuses on applying marketing and psychology principles in the context of tourism services.  Pursuant to this interest, his research has been concentrated on understanding tourists’ purchase behaviors, to assist in properly marketing to them as well as the physiological effects travel has on the tourist.  His Tourism Marketing Lab currently consists of 8 students (6 Ph.D. and 2 M.S.) and is likely the largest and most productive of its type in North America.

In the past twenty years he and his Tourism Marketing Lab have been awarded over $3.0 million in research grants. Recent research projects which they have conducted include: a strategic marketing plan for the National Park Service, comprehensive work related to the benefits of travel for the U.S. Travel Association, national visitor studies for the United States Department of Agriculture, multiple accountability and advertising effectiveness studies, tourism website evaluations for 22 states and 18 cities; visitor/non-visitor studies for more than 25 cities and 9 national cruise ship passenger studies including six panel studies.

Studies conducted in 2014 and 2011 identified Jim as the 2nd most prolific tourism researcher in the world (#1 in U.S., and #1 tourism marketing researcher). He currently has more than 110 peer reviewed journal articles and has been recognized for his research abilities with the following awards: Critical Thinking Fellow, Emerging Scholar of Distinction (International Academy for the Study of Tourism), Tall in Texas (TX Travel Industry), Agri-life Research Fellow, Best Conference Paper (TTRA National Conference), Holland America Line Westours Research Award (twice), American Society of Travel Agents Future Tourism Leader Award, and the Excellence in Research Award from the Resort and Commercial Recreation Association.

He has also been recognized as one of the best teachers in his field via the following teaching awards: Faculty Fellow for Innovation in High-Impact Learning Experiences, Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement in Teaching Award, Student Led Academic Teaching Award, the ING Professor of Excellence Award, and Resort and Commercial Recreation Professor of the Year Award.

Jim serves on the Editorial Boards for the Journal of Travel Research, Annals of Tourism Research, Tourism Managment and Event Management, and is on the Advisory Board for Tourism Review International, and the Journal of Sport Tourism.  Additionally, he is the former President of the Texas Travel & Tourism Research Association Chapter, and is the Chief Problem Solver for his own tourism research and marketing company (www.Tourvey.com).  He has also served on the Board of Director’s for tourism entities Internationally (Travel and Tourism Research Association), at the State Level (Texas Travel Industry Association), and at the city level (Bryan/College Station Convention and Visitor’s Bureau).

Jim has presented his research findings at numerous national & international conferences, and has been a Keynote Speaker in more than 10 countries.  Prior to his work at Texas A&M he spent six years working onboard cruise ships for both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Viking Line, working in positions from Youth Coordinator to Cruise Director.

The Effects of Travel


Understanding the physiological and psychological effects of travel is believed to be important as it could dramatically affect how and why people travel.  Thus, the current study’s primary purpose was to determine how different activities on a vacation effect both the perceived and observed stress of cruise travelers.  Secondary purposes included the identification of how situational factors affect these relationships.  While psychometric analyses have suggested travel has the ability to relieve stress and improve one’s overall well-being, it is believed the current study is the first to utilize physiological data to examine the effects of travel on health.  The study was guided by the cognitive activation theory of stress and compared self-reported diaries and physiological data (using heart rate monitors) to examine the effects a 7-day cruise had on participants’ perceived and actual stress.  Theoretically, the results suggest that CATS is an excellent conceptual framework for understanding both perceived and observed stress of travelers.  As per the theory, it was found that stress stimuli (in this case activities) had an effect on both perceived stress appraisals and physiological stress responses (HR). Additionally, situational variables, including crowdedness, excitement, leisure and novelty, were found to be related to these effects.  Likely most importantly, it was found that even though perceptions of stress tended to linger for a little while, observed stress (HR) was found to return to normal, even after the most stressful of events on a vacation.  This suggests that participants’ hearts were healthier at the end of their 7-day cruise vacation. 

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