A Comparison of Student and Practitioner Perspectives of the Travel and Tourism Internship
Beggs, Brent, Ross, Craig M., Goodwin, Bryan, Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sports and Tourism Education
The purpose of this study was to examine differences in the perceptions of internships between college students studying travel and tourism and practitioners in the field. Using a web-based survey of 48 items, the study explored how students and practitioners differed in their view regarding the role of the internship experience; the role of the internship agency, the intern's abilities; and factors in selecting an internship.
Using t-test analyses, the results of the study revealed that students and practitioners were in disagreement on 13 of the 48 items in the survey and had significantly different perceptions regarding intern skills, the role of the intern, responsibilities that interns should be given, and factors to consider in selecting an internship. This study examined these differences and implications for practitioners in travel and tourism.
Keywords: Internships; Travel; Tourism; Student; Practitioner; Perceptions
Experiential education provides the opportunity and the learning landscape for students to experience, first hand, professional practice activities which directly relate to the application of knowledge. Experiential education, including internships, has a long and noteworthy history in higher education. Not unlike other aspects of the recreation industry, experiential learning and fieldwork experience are critical in a travel and tourism academic programme's curriculum (Breiter et al., 1995; Cho, 2006; Goeldner and Ritchie, 2006; Kay and DeVeau, 2003; Petrillose and Montgomery, 1998). According to Clark and Whitelegg (1998: 326), "learning by doing reinforces classroom understanding by contextualising knowledge".
In this context, 'travel' and 'tourism' are used to encompass the various businesses that provide fee-based leisure travel and guest related services. For the purposes of this paper, the travel and tourism services focus on commercial recreation agencies such as resorts, hotels, travel, cruise ships, event planning, and tour operations. The travel and tourism industry generates tremendous economic activity and, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2005 travel and tourism activity accounted for some 16.8 million jobs, representing 11.9 per cent of total employment across the USA (WTTC, 2005). Given this magnitude, it is critical that existing and new travel and tourism education curricula develop and expand training, educational courses, and programmes that produce quality graduates competent to perform in these organisations (Williams and Buswell, 2003). Without professional preparation in higher education, this multi-billion dollar industry risks a stunt in its growth (Williams, 1990).
A successful travel and tourism academic programme produces graduates with high quality learning, knowledge, skills, and the ability to meet the needs of the industry (Goeldner and Ritchie, 2006; Harris and Zhao, 2004; Kok, 2000). To achieve this, there has always been significant emphasis placed on students gaining practical experience outside of the classroom learning environment (Szambowski et al., 2002). These types of experiences often take place in the form of an internship.
An internship gives students the opportunity to examine career possibilities in a realistic and 'real world' environment and to explore a possible fit with a particular agency (Kapoor, 2000; Waryszak, 1999). It is an excellent opportunity to acquire transferable skills and the specific detailed knowledge necessary in today's workplace (Busby, 2003). The internship "is an opportunity to have an intensive, work-based exposure to a broad range of operations within a company" (Crossley et al., 2007: 312). In addition, internships afford student training under both academic and practitioner supervision. This supervision allows students to gain interpersonal skills with industry workers and to potentially earn money while learning (Thiel …
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Publication information: Article title: A Comparison of Student and Practitioner Perspectives of the Travel and Tourism Internship. Contributors: Beggs, Brent - Author, Ross, Craig M. - Author, Goodwin, Bryan - Author. Journal title: Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sports and Tourism Education. Volume: 7. Issue: 1 Publication date: April 2008. Page number: 31+. © OXFORD BROOKES UNIVERSITY Apr 2010. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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