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Taxis in tourism: forgotten place makers and local voices (Advert Reference: RDF22/BL/EIS/VARLEY1)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Prof Peter Varley, Dr Sharon Wilson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project seeks to contribute to an extant conversation in the tourism literature regarding the 'forgotten voices' of the industry. Myriad workers behind the scenes, are often unattached to particular tourism business organisations. The point of departure for this project is that transportation is integral to the overall tourist experience (Page, 2005) and resonates with how tourists experience a destination, yet in-depth research into those phenomena is lacking (Song et al., 2012). Further, as a result of interactions with and narratives from these forgotten place-makers, visitors might access otherwise ‘secret’, local and hidden places, and thereby come closer to elusive authentic experiences. To understand this travel phenomena as part of the architecture of the place encounter, the student will consider the hitherto lightly-regarded role of the taxi driver in shaping the tourist imaginary, in adjusting and refining expectations of places arrived-at or visited. The study also focuses on the ways meanings are shared, negotiated and mediated from the front seat of a cab, but at the same time are unfiltered, partial, personal, and perhaps even disruptive. As such, the stranger be afforded a 'peeling back of a city's layers, potentially revealing a fascinating cultural milieu and a thickening of the sense of place. Mobile methods such as ‘ride-along’ ethnographies and conversation analysis will be employed.

The study is nested in a mobilities and place research group, based in  Newcastle upon Tyne where ‘host-guest’ training of local cabbies was met with resistance.  The PhD is undertaken in collaboration with NGI (Newcastle Gateshead Initiative) seeking to understand the value of local narratives in visitor experiences. Additional comparative work may also be undertaken at our campuses in London and Amsterdam. The research  will form valuable consultation work and knowledge creation towards tourism and urban place development initiatives .

This project is supervised by Prof Peter Varley and Dr Sharon Wilson.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see 

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF22/BL/EIS/VARLEY1) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/22 full-time study this is £15,609 per year) and full tuition fees. UK and international (including EU) candidates may apply.
Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,365 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also read the full funding notes which include advice for international and part-time applicants.


Varley, P., Schilar, H. and Rickly, J. (2020) Tourism non-places: bending airports and wildscapes. Annals of Tourism Research. Vol 80.
Kennedy, S., MacPhail, A., & Varley, P. (2020). Other voices in the adventure expedition assemblage. Annals of Leisure Research, 1-18.
Rantala, O., & Varley, P. (2019). Wild camping and the weight of tourism. Tourist Studies.
Varley, P., Farkic, J. and Carnicelli, S., (2018). Hospitality in wild places. Hospitality & Society, 8(2), pp.137-157.
Kennedy, S., MacPhail, A. and Varley, P. (2018). Expedition (auto) ethnography: an adventurer-researcher’s journey. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, pp.1-15.
De Jong, A. and Varley, P. (2017) Food tourism policy: deconstructing boundaries of taste and class. Tourism Management 60, 212-222
Varley, P. and Semple, T. (2015) Nordic slow adventure: Explorations in time and nature. Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, 15 (1-2)
Varley, P. (2011) Sea kayakers at the margins: the liminoid character of contemporary adventures, Leisure Studies, vol. 30 issue 1, pp. 85-98
Varley, P. and G. Crowther (1998) Performance and the service encounter, Journal of Marketing Intelligence and Planning, vol. 16, no. 5 pp. 311-317
David M Brown, Sharon Wilson & Tom Mordue (2020) Using hike-along ethnographies to explore women’s leisure experiences of Munro bagging, Leisure Studies, 39:5, 736-750,
Wilson, S., Chambers, D. and Johnson, J., 2019. VW campervan tourists' embodied sonic experiences. Annals of Tourism Research, 76, pp.14-23.
Wilson, S. & Hannam, K. (2017). The Frictions of Slow Tourism Mobilities: Conceptualising campervan travel. Annuls of Tourism Research, 67, pp. 25-36.
Wilson, S, (2014).The Ethics and Fieldwork and Experimentation in Auto-Ethnographic Practice,( Eds), in Hannam, K, Mostanezhad. Moral Encounters in Tourism, (pp.221-232) Farnham: Ashgate.
Wilson, S and Obrador, P. (2014). The Nomadic Village: Communal creativity and political subversion in temporary settlements. In T. Rakić and J. Lester (Eds), Travel, Tourism and Art, (pp. 129-145). Farnham: Ashgate.
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