Univ. of Central Florida receives $4.5 million for travel health research initiative

by | Jul 21, 2022


  • Three colleges at the University of Central Florida received a $4.5 million dollar research grant to study and prevent financial depression from future health crises 
  • The initiative intends to create an advanced warning system and generate resources for smaller businesses in preparing for future events that could lead to a downtick in profit 
  • Visit Florida estimates that Central Florida experienced a $40 billion dollar loss in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns

Three colleges at the University of Central Florida (UCF) — The Rosen College of Hospitality Management, College of Medicine, and College of Engineering and Computer Science — received $4.5 million dollars in funding on Thursday for a research initiative aimed at mitigating the damage caused to hospitality, travel, and small businesses by health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Infectious Disease and Travel Health Initiative, according to the school, has three major goals: to provide an advanced warning system through data collection methods, to bridge the gap between basic science and behavioral science, and to create a resource for small to medium-sized businesses in tourist areas to help them manage future health crisis situations that may arise.

The initiative funding originates from the UCF Strategic Investment Program’s Academic Excellence Category. The funds are intended to be used to hire research faculty, who themselves will be able to secure additional funding and establish new courses and a Travel & Health track of study within the Master of Public Health degree program.

“We began this project in the early days of the pandemic,” Professor Robertico Croes said. “Health crises like this are not an anomaly, they are becoming more and more frequent. Sometimes they are isolated to one area of the globe, but as we saw with COVID, they can devastate entire segments of the economy, and small businesses often can’t recover as they don’t have the resources that large corporations have in order to mitigate a crisis.”

The financial effects of pandemic shutdowns forced future prevention tactics to become a point of focus among strategists and economists. According to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency group, it is estimated the local economy in Central Florida took a $40 billion hit from lower rates of travel during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has woken the world up to the fragility and vulnerability of the global tourism industry,” said Rosen College Associate Dean and Professor Alan Fyall. “The time is thus ripe to bring together an internationally recognized and highly experienced interdisciplinary team to develop new science-based solutions and strategies to build future economic and social strength for Central Florida and beyond.”

Florida tourism in 2021 saw improved numbers across the board compared to pre-pandemic levels, welcoming nearly 120 million domestic visitors in 2021, the highest level of domestic visitation in state history. The increased tourism brought in local economy boosts, marking all-time high revenues for hotels and property rentals.

Florida’s hotels drew in the highest total hotel revenue ever recorded at over $17.3 billion dollars, while Florida’s airports accommodated an 80 percent increase in passengers.

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