The Influences of Tourism Awareness on the Travel Patterns and Career Choices of High School Students in South Africa
Purpose– The aim of this paper is to investigate whether tourism awareness can be created through introducing tourism as a subject in high schools in South Africa. It also explores if studying tourism as a high-school subject has an influence on the travel patterns of students and their parents, and if it stimulates students to pursue a career in the tourism industry.
Design/methodology/approach– The study is exploratory in nature. Based on a literature review, a questionnaire was developed and administered to 250 students with tourism as a high-school subject (research group), 250 students without tourism as a high-school subject (control group), 250 parents whose children have tourism as a high-school subject (research group) and 250 parents (control group) whose children do not have tourism as a high-school subject in South Africa.
Findings– Data revealed that introducing tourism as a high-school subject created tourism awareness among students. The travel patterns of those parents whose children studied tourism were also influenced. Results also indicated that students who studied tourism at high-school level are likely to pursue a career in the tourism industry.
Research limitations/implications– The study was conducted on learners who had been exposed to the tourism curriculum for only a year-and-a-half and therefore did not measure the full impact of the three-year curriculum. The study was also conducted in only one of the nine provinces of South Africa and the demographic location of the learners could have had an influence on the findings. More advanced statistical analysis could have been performed to increase the value of the study. The Bartlett Tests of Sphericity and Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin overall measure could also have been reported. The study can be replicated in other countries, where tourism is currently being offered as a school subject to measure the effectiveness of the tourism curriculum as an awareness tool. The influence of children on their parents' travel patterns should also be further studied as it can assist in strategic development, planning and marketing of tourism attractions.
Practical implications– Introducing tourism as a high-school subject in other developing countries can be considered as a way of creating tourism awareness, and to stimulate the domestic tourism market and the tourism industry as a whole. If tourism can be introduced as a subject at a younger age students will be able to influence their parents' travel patterns and are likely to pursue a career in the tourism industry.
Originality/value– This study is one of the first to measure the effectiveness of a tourism curriculum as a tourism awareness tool. It also adds to a limited body of knowledge on how children influence their parents' travel patterns. Last, it shows the effect that tourism awareness has on students in their decision to pursue a career in the tourism industry in South Africa.