Dr. Sharon Suiwen Zou is an assistant professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on the power of marketing and understanding consumer behaviors to financially and economically empower organizations and communities in the context of tourism and leisure. Her research agenda aims at building economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable communities through tourism and leisure. She has published 19 peer-reviewed articles in high-impact tourism and leisure journals and authored 14 technical reports to provide insights for communities and organizations for tourism development. See Dr. Zou’s research website for more information.
Rural tourism development is a recent focus of Dr. Zou’s research. She is currently one of the principal investigators on the community-based research project titled “I-Rural: Reimagining Illinois Rural Tourism Through Community and Extension Collaboration” funded by the Illinois Extension Collaboration Grant. A collaboration between UIUC’s Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism and Illinois Extension, the project aims to design and implement a toolkit that rural communities in Illinois can use to guide rural tourism development to facilitate rural community and economic development. The project has received coverage from National Public Radio (NPR), the Telegraph, and Illinois Farm Bureau’s Farm Week Now.