We must conduct tours to foster integrity and character.
With international outbound travel booming, Chinese officials are looking at significant reforms and development in the tourism industry. Dr. Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, explores the growth of educational tours, “civilized tourism” and what it means for the next generation of outbound travelers.
What challenges is China facing in terms of developing human capital in the tourism industry?
In China, most kids are satisfied with getting an office job after graduating from a university tourism and hotel management program. They are not very picky about their jobs. However, there are two problems: There is a lack of hands-on experience or the abilities to “do” something, such as writing articles; second, they lack the international outlook.
Overall, China has a culture of inclusiveness but does not have a good tolerance for failures.
How can we improve the training process and attract qualified talent?
After tourism becomes popular, we must take into account the market value of human capital in the younger generation.
Only adequate salaries can attract talent to join the tourism industry. In today’s Chinese market, professionals in the tourism industry still get lower pay compared to other industries.
Another issue is that the tourism industry has put more emphasis on years of experience in a company rather than on creativity. In my opinion, professional knowledge and creative thinking are more important than how long you’ve stayed in the industry or at a company. Otherwise, young people will not have the opportunities to exercise their talents.
How does travel enter into this process of fostering creative thinking?
Since ancient times, China has had a long history of conducting educational tours. We have a proverb that translates loosely as, “He who travels far knows much” or “It is better to travel far than to read voluminously.” We cannot only use books to educate people; we must conduct tours to foster integrity and character.
How are these educational tours implemented?
Today, China’s educational tours are growing from inception to development. Educational tours are mainly divided into three phases: elementary schools focus on understanding local customs; junior high schools focus on understanding the provinces of China; colleges focus on understanding the relations between China and the world.
The planning process is slightly different from that of other countries, mainly because China is a massive country with very different customs from the rest of the world.
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How has the educational climate in China changed in recent years?
After more than 30 years of reforms and development, Chinese people have gradually gained the capacity to consume.
From the educational perspective, the elite education from the past has marched towards the public education. China’s planned pregnancy policies have made parents focus even more on fostering quality education for children.
Moreover, as more than 20,000 tourism companies are rising up, some companies have even started to dedicate themselves solely to conducting educational tours.
What sort of talents does China need to develop these educational tours?
China needs professionals who have both international perspectives and an understanding of modern travel. We emphasize that tourism does not just play an economic role, but is a learning process.
Professional institutions and personnel familiar with the operation of business are needed. China especially needs professionals who can bring more of an international experience back home for specifically planning these educational tours.
Good communication skills are required. Educational tours involve several dimensions which include coordinating with governments, educational authorities, and parents, so excellent communications ability is important.
Finally, China also needs professionals with practical experience. Educational tours are different from normal sightseeing tours, as they involve route planning and a deep understanding of society and the humanities.
How does the rise of technology align with these educational tours?
Technology has changed the tourists habits and behaviors. In China, young travelers do not rely on guided tours anymore, but rather prefer to use their smartphones and applications, such as Uber, Micro-Channel, Baidu maps, etc. Those concepts contradict with planned, educational group tours. However, I think it is possible for educational tours to strike a balance there and even apply technology into the tour designs.
Who do you think bears the responsibilities of educating Chinese travelers about local customs and etiquette when they go overseas?
I want to emphasize the concept of “civilized tourism.” Tourism is a type of learning that can bolster civilization.
Chinese tourists traveling internationally may exhibit inappropriate behaviors, but we should focus on the idea of “what is uncivilized,” which we can divide into three categories:
Violation of the laws and regulations: fighting, harassment, etc. The problem here is not about the tourist identity, but that those behaviors are against the laws and regulations.
Violation of customs: When tourists are in another country or environment, they have to respect the local rules, religious taboos, and so on. They have to obey the long existing life orders and habits of the local people.
Lifestyle issues: The most obvious examples are when the Chinese people travel abroad, they tend to look for hot water when they get into the hotel. Westerners, on the contrary, look for ice buckets. Culture, regions and eras are also reasons why there are such differences.
On the whole, managing uncivilized behaviors must be considered from a rational perspective: the government must be a good guide; the enterprise must be a good guide; tourists must be self-disciplined; and travel agencies are responsible for letting tourists know about civilized tours.