Tourism education sets the foundation of the future leaders of the tourism industry. The development of a tourism destination, the quality of the services provided to the travellers, the success of the tourism businesses depend on tourism education and training. Dr. Stavros Sindakis explores how technology and innovation can improve knowledge transmission!
Over the past twenty years, there is a growing debate about the role of education in equipping young people and experienced professionals with the capacity to cope with an increasingly competitive, uncertain, and complex world involving higher rates of innovation and change. One vital skill individuals need to develop is the capacity to ‘enterprise’, by which I refer to a range of skills and knowledge such as industrial awareness, business management, new venture creation and the development of interpersonal skills. In other words, increasing awareness of entrepreneurship as a distinct educational challenge needs to be addressed.
Concerning the debate around the concept of entrepreneurship in the tourism industry, we see that there is growing consensus that entrepreneurship involves the way individuals and organizations create and implement new ideas and ways of doing things, and by responding proactively to their environment (i.e. visitors, suppliers, etc.), they participate in processes of change and complexity. In the educational context, the behaviors that are associated with entrepreneurship are important. In trying to respond to the question of entrepreneurship as a predisposed set of skills by virtue of genetics, or a learning process to be mastered, we may say that knowledge is a contextual element and thus entrepreneurial behavior can be encouraged within an educational setting. For example, it can be developed within the context of standard curriculum subjects, such tourism management, hotel and food services management, international hospitality and tourism, sustainable tourism planning and so on. It can also be addressed within a business education context, for example, via a task of creating a new venture where the knowledge base will be substantially related to the process of venture start-up and the associative tasks and learning requirements.
In addition, entrepreneurship in tourism education is a key instrument to enhance the quality of graduates who seek employment or start a new business in the industry, improving, at the same time, their social and intellectual behavior towards entrepreneurship. For instance, the concept of entrepreneurship in tourism management programs is a dynamic system, which allows individuals to combine their personal characteristics and competencies in order to turn opportunities into new values. Entrepreneurship in tourism education is a major contributor, which increases the entrepreneurial attitude of both potential and emerging entrepreneurs. The ongoing debate on the nature and purpose of entrepreneurship in education supports this argument, as for example, governments promote initiatives to stimulate enterprise development through the teaching of entrepreneurship in schools and universities, aiming at improving individual entrepreneurial characteristics. Nevertheless, the benefits of entrepreneurship in tourism education are not limited to start-ups, innovative ventures and new jobs, but enhance young people’s ability to turn ideas into action.
Consequently, technological learning is a vital component of every entrepreneurial activity nowadays, leading to economic growth, innovation, and employment. Learning is at the center of the business practice, as it generates both tacit and explicit knowledge as well as enhances the acquisition of soft skills, processes, and cultures that are essential to improve the performance of new ventures. For instance, INNOTOUR is an experimental Web 2.0 innovation hub for tourism, a platform for education, research, and business development in tourism. According to Janne Liburd, Associate Professor at the University of Southern Denmark, “the platform and associated research are considered to be of importance for the continuous amendment of innovation and competition policies for the tourism sector as well as to facilitate international interaction and knowledge dissemination.” Similarly, the entrepreneurial education model does not only consider the contents of tourism education programs but also the context where such programs are implemented by facilitator and the approaches used. Motivations as well as expectations and effectiveness of educational design, content, and context matter for both the deliverers and funders as well as the recipients of the education.
In this perspective, a discussion emerges within the borders of the tourism industry, aiming at investigating the ways by which technology and innovation benefit education and entrepreneurship in this competitive environment. The ways that technology and new organizational approaches influence the field of education in tourism should be further explored. A good example of this is the eTourism Lab, which was created by Professor Dimitrios Buhalis within the School of Tourism at Bournemouth University, UK. The aim of the eTourism Lab is to explore cutting edge information and communication technologies, alongside e-based strategic management and marketing for the tourism and hospitality industries. The eTourism Lab collaborates with multiple stakeholders (i.e. academics, industry experts, policymakers, etc.), to create and disseminate knowledge in the field of eTourism. Along this line, interesting insights emerge within the areas of: the different teaching approaches and the role of innovation in tourism education, the entrepreneurial pedagogy and innovation in teaching, the creativity and the dynamics of collaboration among students, learners, and teachers in the new digital era as well as the technological learning and educational reforms that take place in tourism studies over the last ten years. For instance, Colorado State University offers an online tourism management degree, focusing on the main concepts and best practices as well as on the different levels of the industry (i.e. local, national, and international). Likewise, Arizona State University has developed an online postgraduate and PhD degree on sustainable tourism, specializing in the environmental, economic, and social aspects of tourism.
Stimulating would also be the examination of the open educational resources platforms that could be used in tourism education, and the differences between education and training and the role of technology in this evolution. Moreover, the different levels of students’ knowledge along with the student/teacher experience and expertise as determinants of efficacy and the role of technology as a mediating/moderating factor should also be taken into consideration in a potential dialogue between industry experts, learners, and teachers. I also find remarkable and attractive the deliberations and different approaches on in-class vs. on-line vs. hybrid (in-person and online) training.
Share your experience:
- Does your company provide opportunities to its employees to further expand their knowledge in the field?
- How do you think these different learning approaches (in-class, online, hybrid) can influence the quality of knowledge of your employees?