Academic journal article
By Jiang, Bingli; Tribe, John
Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sports and Tourism Education , Vol. 8, No. 1
Tourism is of increasing significance to the economy of China and the industry is set to recruit 1 million tourism personnel in the next ten years. This exploratory study used grounded theory to investigate tourism students' attitudes towards working in the tourism industry. The data analysis resulted in the emergence of a core category - tourism jobs: short-lived professions - which summarised the attitudes and views students held about tourism jobs. While students expressed enthusiasm about starting their first jobs in tourism following graduation, the five sub-categories that were identified to explain the factors influencing their attitudes reveal underlying concerns about long-term careers in the tourism industry. These five sub-categories were (a) personal reasons, (b) nature of tourism jobs, (c) human factors, (d) educational factors, and (e) management factors. The study highlights the importance of understanding the views and attitudes of the potential workforce towards tourism jobs. It also emphasises the challenges facing China's government, tourism enterprises and the education sector if they are to address the issues that may negatively influence tourism students and hinder the healthy development of the tourism industry.
Keywords: China; grounded theory; attitudes; students
The rationale for this article is the rapid rise of tourism in China, a concomitant development in tourism education, and a specific relationship that arises between education and the industry. On the industry side, the World Tourism Organization (WTO, 2001) predicted that China would become the world's largest tourist market by 2020. China has mapped out its 20-year tourism development plan, which estimates that by 2020 the country's tourism revenue will exceed US$398.7 billion, equal to 8% of the country's total GDP. According to the China National Tourism Office (CNTO, 2006), the yearly average growth rate of tourism revenues is 12%, which is much higher than the overall GDP growth rate of 7%. At present there are around 6 million people employed in the tourism industry and in the next ten years nearly 1 million tourism job vacancies will be generated (CNTO, 2006).
However, rapid growth raises questions about the quality and quantity of the labour force, the quality of the industry and the attractiveness of the industry to new recruits. Tourism education has become increasingly important in China, particularly as a consequence of China's transition from a centralised planned economy to a more mixed economy. Zhang and Fan (2006) reviewed the origins and development of tourism higher education (HE) in China, describing its hierarchy of programmes, regional distribution and operating mechanisms. Furthermore, Zhang and Fan (2005, p. 153) explained how China's tourism education "has formed a pyramid-type program system: from bottom to top are secondary education, diploma programs, undergraduate programs, postgraduate programs, and doctoral programs". Currently the number of academies and schools is 1,195, of which 252 provide tourism HE programmes and 943 are vocational schools. The number of on-campus tourism students has reached 330,000, including postgraduates, undergraduates, associates (college students) and secondary specialised (vocational education) students (CNTO, 2006).
The specific characteristics of the tourism industry may influence people's attitudes towards it and, in turn, the attractiveness of the industry to prospective employees and labour turnover. Walmsley (2004) summarised eight characteristics of tourism occupations based on previous research:
1. Low paid.
2. Low skilled.
3. Related to a negative image to the extent of being "Mickey Mouse jobs in a candyfloss economy".
4. Exposed to poor management.
5. Part time.
7. A "refugee sector".
8. Devoid of a clear career structure.
In China, research into tourism education has been limited. …