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ATLAS Special Interest Group
 Tourism Education



Contact details

The contact persons for this research group are:



Goretti Silva

  Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo

  Sheena Carlisle
  Cardiff Metropolitan University
  United Kingdom




Aims of the SIG on Tourism Education

To provide a platform to discuss and critique key challenges, issues, values, processes and practices in tourism education and training.  To identify and share effective practice which supports tourism employability and longevity of careers for a sustainable tourism industry.  


  1. Utilise online forums and discussion workshops to discuss key challenges, solutions, and good practice in tourism education
  2. Contribute to relevant conferences to generate an equal interest in innovative tourism learning approaches and teaching methods as well as (pedagogical) research
  3. Encourage use of international policy developments and tourism education networks to support innovative teaching practice, such as UN SDGs, TEFI, BEST EN, CTS, CAUTHE network
  4. Discuss, critique, and promote accessible and flexible processes in future course design
  5. Reinforce university, industry and government cooperation and collaboration, through joint research processes and cooperative learning processes and projects.

Key Themes

Background and Context

Tourism education in Higher Education Institutions encompasses a range of professional courses, degrees and training that can lead to knowledge, skills and competences related to the tourism industry. As tourism is a multi-faceted industry and a unique cultural, economic, technological, and environmental phenomenon, it has led to a multi-disciplinary approach in teaching and training.

The tourism education landscape represents a complex web of educational institutions, government departments, professional associations and key subsector businesses e.g. accommodation, F&B, travel agencies, DMOs, visitor attractions, third sector organisations and all other tourism services suppliers e.g. transportation companies, guides, animators, marketers etc. The main goal of the educational providers of all types is to address the recognised needs of the tourism industry and to produce competent and competitive students and graduates (Airey and Tribe, 2006).  This SIG aims to discuss and reflect some of these challenges to engage and integrate tourism education with the needs of a range of tourism stakeholders.

Tourism Higher education is available for Bachelor, Master and Doctoral programmes. The majors or degree titles are very diverse, from Hospitality and Tourism Management programmes to more specialized degrees such as Adventure Recreation, Tourism Marketing or Tourism and Digital Transformations. In most countries, the process of accreditation and certification of university tourism programmes is sometimes complex and includes self-awarding powers, governmental accreditation, and quality assurance agencies. Many higher education institutions have a great degree of autonomy when developing the specifications of degree programmes if they reflect the general requirements of the relevant Higher Education Act and the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

A systems and values approach to tourism education is particularly relevant to advocate concrete steps towards establishing a broad tourism education strategy that can respond effectively to future trends and technological, social, and environmental challenges in the 21st century.  Global and national environmental, economic, social conditions urge creative and unprecedented solutions and finding opportunities for effecting lasting change at the systemic level. Putting that into practice requires some radical changes in the way we educate, do business, shape policy, and organize the future of tourism and hospitality. Tourism education institutions and businesses have a key role to play in upskilling will help tourism professionals advance along their current career path, either within the same organisation or within the broad reach of the tourism industry. Reskilling will help professionals’ transition between job functions and industry sectors, whether that is by necessity or choice.  

Both the need to satisfy industry stakeholders and to comply with academic rules impact the delivery of tourism education. On one hand, the need for practical skills and competencies requires a more pragmatic approach, emphasizing daily routines and tasks, with a focus on service delivery. On the other hand, a more philosophical and sociological foundation is claimed to ensure a more strategic and long-term decision making for the higher-level positions and destination development (Inui et al, 2006). Internships and in-service learning are often cited as the key connection between academia and the business, however other forms of interaction with industry and destinations are also achieved via problem-solving, scenario planning, case study development and guest speakers. The debate in higher education is ongoing, especially to find the balanced relationship between specific occupational skills and more theoretical and conceptual frameworks derived from the academic disciplines. Still, this interdependency of academia and industry, and the multidisciplinary approach result in the production of very skilful students, who are more competitive on the labour market bringing employability skills and different perspectives to jobs. A key issue is the importance of education and training institutions translating the value and benefits of the skills and knowledge gained in higher education for the future of the tourism industry.

Increasingly tourism education at all levels for all types of tourism jobs require qualifications and training that can equip future and current employees with adaptable, agile and resilient skills to respond to the rapidly changing needs and trends of the tourism industry. Keeping track of rapidly changing skills needs and bridging skills gaps, to cope with a world in constant flux, are major challenges for tourism businesses, education providers and governmental bodies. This involves not only the acquisition of new skills but also life-long education and continuous reskilling and upskilling.  

The future of tourism education poses a lot of questions.  The gaps between industry needs and delivered education require a holistic and critical rethinking of the core elements of the tourism education system and elaboration of new strategies that support a regenerative and progressive approach for global and national tourism education. The focus is shifting from gaining degree titles, towards building more universal and transversal skills and competences, that are utilized at any hierarchal level, job position or tourism subsector. This can help enhance the underlying capacity of individuals, professional workforces and educational systems to be future oriented and fulfil their potential.

Digitalization offers numerous opportunities for enhancing training and providing access to education to future tourism employees in a variety of formats.  For example, different Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), e.g.,,, etc. provide self-paced online courses to excel particular skill or gain knowledge in a particular area like Front office service. Some universities already recognize the completion of MOOC modules for certain credits as part of student’s graduation (Hsu, 2018). Virtual reality used for training is another modern app to educate students, new and current employees or internees.

Supporting the sustainability agenda should no longer be seen as a specific role or job but more integrated into all jobs to support social equity for staff and customers as well as more efficient resource management.   Recycling and managing waste, water and energy services to help reduce carbon emissions and pollution via the application of circular economy principles in the design and management of tourism value chains are becoming essential to reduce the impact of tourism on climate change. Training and education of sustainable design and sustainable management techniques of hotels, attractions and food and beverage outlets are therefore becoming increasingly important in curricula design.

Draft Annual Work Plan

September 2021: Deliver Special Track in Tourism Education at the ATLAS Tourism Conference and generate interest in the SIG, collating good practice in innovative learning and teaching methods and models within tourism education in higher education.

October 2021- May 2022 - Develop a special issue journal derived from the research presented in the ATLAS conference special track with targeted journal

October 2021 – June 2022: Develop academic journal paper and industry publication on Tourism Education Governance and the Tourism Education Landscape in collaboration with key members

January 2022: Hold 1st online discussion workshop forum on tourism education amongst recruited members of the SIG

April/May 2022: Hold second Online Discussion Forum on Tourism Education with SIG members



Annual review of activities 2022

After a successful series of Tourism Education tracks in 2018, 2019 and 2021 we are looking forward to Cork for the Special Track 8 on Good Practice in Learning and Teaching Tourism in Higher Education. 

Through the compilation of 10 case study examples of experiences on how different tourism education themes and topics can be delivered in or outside the classroom experiences will focus on innovative student-centred, active learning experiences, that place the student at the centre of learning.

We will be holding the SIG meeting for Tourism Education during the ATLAS Cork conference to discuss how to take the SIG forward into 2023 and continue to advocate for innovation and progression in tourism education to meet today's challenges in the tourism industry. 

Participants in the special track will also be encouraged to submit an extended paper for a special issue journal on Innovation in Tourism Education. 



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