Over several years, TREES (Tourism Research in Economics, Environs and Society) has established itself as a leading tourism research entity that is making a contribution to alleviating the scarce skills in tourism research in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa (through post-graduate studies), as well as growing the field of knowledge through published research. TREES is a young, passionate and enthusiastic research unit whose research supports major government policies, since tourism is seen as a key pillar in economic development. In addition, one will find that our research has already made several contributions to improving services and products throughout the region. But where did it all start? In the early 1980s, Prof Gert Scholtz started a research entity called the Institute for Leisure Studies. He was director until Prof Melville Saayman took over in 1995 and changed the name to the Institute for Tourism and Leisure Studies. In 2019 Prof Elmarie Slabbert took over the reigns to steer this research unit to new heights.
In the early 2000s, the National Research Foundation (NRF) put out a call for the establishment of research entities and this led to the birth of the first tourism niche research entity called SEIT (Socio-Economic Impact of Tourism), after which the name was changed to TREES. In 2015, TREES became a research unit. With tourism growing in importance in the country, we are becoming more relevant every year and our research focus is also in line with the goals and objectives of the National Department of Tourism; especially by focusing on economic environmental and community (society) issues. Government and the private sector regard tourism as an important industry and this enhances our relevance. In addition, more private sector businesses are taking decisions based on proper research. This makes us even more relevant and sustainable. We also adapt themes and focuses where necessary to address the specific needs of industries or scholarly communities. A future direction is to expand our international relations, and Green Bubbles (an international research project on scuba diving) is one of the pillars in achieving this.