Teaching synergy to manage tourism

The tourism industry is renown for strategic alliances. Airlines, accommodation establishments and even information technologies within the tourism arena have made this method of business operation into an art form.

One partnership that can benefit the joining of tourism stakeholders is in the development of synergies between higher education and industry. In particular, the interface between the tourism industry in WA and the research resources of the universities.

While tourism businesses have in the past worked with universities on a range of tourism research projects, often this relationship is seen as a short-term association. With the development of strategic alliances in tourism research with universities, businesses can benefit from a longer-term involvement with universities and their research.

There is a plethora of tourism qualifications available in education. A challenge for both the university tourism educator and the tourism industry is not only to provide the conceptual or knowledge content of formal education, but to inform the student with procedural or operational learning. One mode enabling a transition to the real world of work is through the involvement in university/industry research projects.

This “real business world of work” context provided by the tourism industry exposes students to the dynamic external interactions and non-linear relationships between businesses.

This context allows them to explore patterns of interactions not available in textbook case studies, and at the same time view the networks of interdependence within the tourism industry. Students also develop skills in teamwork, collaboration, logistics, commitment to the project, time management and dealing with organisational staff and the public.

When espousing the ideal of higher education and research alliances, the pragmatic delivery of solutions to tourism business in essential for these alliances to be of benefit to the various stakeholders.

A good example of collaboration between the higher education and tourism sector is the Visitor Survey evaluating the annual Swan Valley Spring in the Valley Festival. In 1999, on behalf of the Swan Valley Tourism Council, Curtin academics and students from the School of Management, investigated the profile and behaviour of visitors to the Festival, to provide a benchmark analysis for future planning. During this 2000 Festival, the research will be continued to build a profile allowing comparisons and trends to be monitored.

Opportunities exist in the WA tourism industry for the development of strategic alliances with universities. These may comprise academic research teams or university research projects involving academics and a student cohort.

The essence of the alliance is to develop practical research solutions from universities for both short-term business projects and the strategic development of research alliances for tourism stakeholders in WA.

· Ruth Taylor is a tourism management lecturer with the School of Management at Curtin Business School

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