Heather Gibson, Ph.D.

Professor, Associate Director
Department of Tourism, Hospitality & Event Management,
Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute

  • Ph.D. University of Connecticut, USA
  • M.A. University of Connecticut, USA
  • B.Ed. Brighton Polytechnic, UK

Gibson CV

Contact Info

FLG 190C
P.O. Box 118208
Gainesville, FL 32611-8208
(352) 294-1649 | hgibson@hhp.ufl.edu


Dr. Heather J. Gibson is a Professor in the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management, at the University of Florida.  Her research interests include leisure, tourism, and sport behavior in mid and later life and the wellbeing associated with participation, women as tourists, sport tourism (specializing in sport events and active sport tourism, and perceived risk in tourism. This has led to projects on solo women’s travel, Girlfriend getaways, families who travel for sport, leisure in the lives of retirement aged women, and active sport tourism participation in mid and later life notably in the Senior Games, Bike Florida, and Paddle Florida. As sport tourism emerged as a focus in the late 1990s, with a background in tourism and sport Dr Gibson was well positioned to author some of the seminal papers proposing definitions of sport tourism, small-scale events as sustainable tourism, college sport as a tourist attraction, and testing the viability of developing social impacts through mega sport event hosting.

Professor Gibson has an extensive publication record across the fields of leisure, tourism, and sport with over 100 peer reviewed papers and 30 book chapters. She has edited/co-edited three books: Sport Tourism: Concepts and Theories, a collection of original essays on this type of tourism and co-edited Leisure and Aging: Theory and Practice and Active sport tourism: Global insights and future directions.

She teaches classes in tourism theory, sport tourism and a PhD seminar in leisure theories. For the past 17 years she has lead study abroad programs to Australia and Fiji with a focus on sustainability. In fall 2017, she was a faculty member on the Semester at Sea program. Dr. Gibson has witnessed first-hand the powerful influence that experiential international education has, and this has led her to develop a number of research projects in this area. She was selected as the HHP UFIC International Educator of the year for 2023-24.

 Professor Gibson is a Fellow of the Academy of Leisure Sciences, the International Academy for the Study of Tourism, a Senior Fellow of the World Leisure Academy, and a Fellow of the Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars at the University of Florida. She is a former Chief Managing Editor of Leisure Studies. Currently she is an Associate Editor for the Annals of Tourism Research and the Journal of Sport & Tourism. She is on the Editorial Boards of the Tourism Management, the Journal of Sport Management, and the Journal of Policy Research in Leisure, Tourism and Events. She has been a member of World Leisure since the mid-1990s and she is chair of the Women and Gender Special Interest Group (SIG), formerly the Women and Gender Commission.   

Research Interests

  • Active sport tourism participation in mid and later life – senior games and Bike Florida.
  • The social impacts of event sport tourism on communities.
  • Girl friend getaways – health and wellbeing effects for women.
  • Leisure and travel in retirement.
  • Tourist roles (behavior) during the lifespan with a focus on gender, motivation, risk and thrill seeking.


  • LEI 3830 Principles of Travel and Tourism
  • LEI 4880 Evaluation in Leisure Services
  • LEI 5188 Trends in Leisure Studies
  • LEI 6838 Sport Tourism
  • LEI 6895 Tourism Concepts and Theories
  • LEI 7163 Foundations of Leisure Behavior