Future of Educational Tourism

Technology is one of the largest impacts on the future of tourism and educational forms of tourism. Technological advancements and the increased diffusion and use of technology in everyday life will significantly impact tourist and academic experiences.

The Internet appears to have the potential to offer an alternative to school field trips and may overcome some of the safety issues currently impacting upon school excursions. Once the technology has been purchased, it is often cheaper than school excursions and offers students or parents the chance to interact with other nationalities without the requisite costs.

Despite these benefits, the Internet fails to allow students to experience living in another country, and the lack of immersion leads to a poorer learning experience. And how virtual reality may replace some university and college student field trips, although, as with school trips and the Internet, the ability of virtual reality to replace travel is uncertain.

However, it is difficult to argue against the implementation of such technology when there is a lack of current evidence pertaining to the educational benefits of student field trips.

Future of Educational Tourism

Distance education and the predicted growth of e-learning may have a dramatic impact on offshore forms of educational tourism, including travel to universities, colleges and language schools. The ability to source information through the Internet, including video and audio conferencing, will impact upon the future of educational programmes and the provision of courses and study. Kurzweil (1999) in a vision of the future suggests that:

“Students of all ages typically have a computer of their own, which is a thin tablet-like device . . . most textual language is created by speaking. Learning materials are accessed through wireless communication . . . learning at a distance is commonplace . . . by 2019 most learning is accomplished using intelligent software-based simulated teachers.”

Kurzweil (1999) paints an interesting, if not slightly chilling, picture of the future of learning and education, but one that illustrates the potential of technology. According to Stallings (2001), e-education is evolving into a growth industry with implications for many stakeholders, including universities, students, government and destinations. he believes that ‘most communicating and learning in the future will be done at a distance’. Online continuing education is the future and is a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars, facilitated by the growth and promotion of lifelong learning by the government and a desire to keep ahead in a knowledge economy.

Technology may also impact upon ‘tourism first’ forms of educational tourism and has been introduced into both cultural heritage sites, such as museums and galleries, and national parks and visitor centres.

Technology is a challenge for attraction and site managers as it can help them expand their educational mandate to a broader section of society by making information more accessible and engaging. Still, they can also be criticised for becoming too commercial and entertainment-focused.

The provision of quality and sometimes consistent educational tourist experiences is also noticeable as a growing trend and one that is likely to increase as educational tourism and competition grow. In ‘tourism first’ experiences, the development and implementation of accreditation programmes for ecotourism operators have been seen despite problems with defining and acknowledging what constitutes an ecotourism experience.

Implementing certification programmes for tour guides can also ensure quality interpretation is provided to educational tourists, resulting in improved service quality. Quality products are also a goal for ‘education first’ forms of tourism. The language schools sector has implemented an accreditation scheme for language school providers in many countries.

Careful product development and packaging are required for educational tourism as the market is a specialist area comprising niche markets. Packaging and promotional activities undertaken by adult educational providers differ depending on the type of provider involved and the nature of the educational tourism experience.

There are various learning vacations on the market and a diverse range of products and services. Diversity is also found in the provision of language schools’ tourism. In both instances, providers need to understand the market and may have to work together to package educational forms of tourism.

This may mean that educational providers, including language schools, will work closely with the tourism industry to develop social activities and field trips for school students. Similarly, for the adult educational tourism market, this could mean the tourism industry working closely with educational providers or non-profit organisations such as museums and universities, which may not all see themselves as part of the tourism industry as such.