Tourism, Knowledge and the Curriculum

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This thread is to offer a critical analysis of the tourism curriculum. It initially
discusses definitions of curriculum by reference to a number of studies on the subject and
introduces the idea that any curriculum involves framing in curriculum space. Hence, the
notions of choice and contestability are introduced.
Since a curriculum involves choice of what knowledge is to be included and knowledge
itself represents a particular way of looking at a target phenomenon it is important next to
understand the relationship between tourism knowledge and the curriculum.
Having done this some basic principles of curriculum design are considered before
introducing and evaluating a number of curriculum proposals that have been proffered for
tourism. Finally, a number of theorists are assembled to offer a more deep critique of curriculum
emphasising the role of ideology in their construction.
The issue that arises throughout the thread is that of the schisms that exist in each of
the areas of tourism, knowledge and the curriculum. On the one hand, tourism, knowledge
and the curriculum may be bounded by a business and vocationalist view of things. On the
other, tourism education may be seen as a quest for understanding and acting in a more
widely drawn complex world of tourism.

[ by Tourism at 3-7-2009 06:33 edited ]

A simple definition of the curriculum can be found in Taylor and Richards (1985) who
define the curriculum as that which is taught. More complex definitions include that used
by Kerr (1968) which embraces a much wider experience capturing all the learning which
is guided by an institution. There is also a literature which unearths a hidden side to the
curriculum (Snyder, 1971; Cornbleth, 1984; Graves, 1983). Here, the spotlight falls not
just on the explicit aims and objectives of the curriculum, but also on the implicit values
that accompany it. Exponents of the hidden curriculum point to the significance of what is
left out of the curriculum as well as what is put in.
For the purposes of this thread, the curriculum is defined as a whole programme of
educational experiences that is packaged as a degree programme. Its constituent parts are
a number of modules or courses, which in turn may be specified as a series of syllabi or
course contents. Alongside this, a wider concept of curriculum space is proposed to capture
not just what is taught, but what is excluded.
The term curriculum is more widely used and accepted in compulsory education, than in
higher education. For in many older universities and traditional single honours degrees, the
canon of the discipline represents what is to be taught. But for newer universities and newer
courses, curriculum has more relevance. The expansion of higher education and a proliferation
of new courses (including tourism) has given the concept of the curriculum more significance
since there is no simple disciplinary structure to form a core for many of the new
courses. Therefore, the question of what to teach is thrown into sharper focus. Indeed,
emerging worries about chaotic or accidental curricula (and “Mickey Mouse” degrees) have
prompted some calls for a government-regulated national curriculum for higher education.
The term curriculum space (Tribe, 2000b) enables us to visualise some important steps
in curriculum construction. The term denotes the expanse or area that contains the range
of possible contents of a curriculum (the what could be). Curriculum space is populated
with a large array of possible knowledge, skills and attitudes. The idea of framing
(Bernstein, 1971) is useful to understand the point of curriculum space. The construction
of any particular curriculum will entail framing, where some areas of curriculum space
will be included, and others excluded. When a framed curriculum is identified within curriculum
space, what is left outside the curriculum becomes evident. The idea of curriculum
space also enables the concept of curriculum as a contested construction to emerge as
illustrated in Figure 1.
The inside rectangle of Figure 1 illustrates curriculum space for tourism. The circles
inside the rectangle (X and Y) each represent a particular framing of the curriculum.
Around the outside boxes represent the various interests which may influence a particular
framing. The actual content of the framed curriculum will depend upon the power exerted
by these interests. So, for example, circle X illustrates an outcome where the government
exerts a strong central control on the curriculum. Circle Y illustrates a curriculum influenced
by the interests of lecturers in critical subjects.

Since the curriculum is a packaging of knowledge and knowledge is our way of understanding
the phenomenon of tourism this gives rise to the need to distinguish between the
terms tourism, knowledge and the curriculum and examine their inter-relationship. Tourism
is a practice or performance which exists in the external world. It is what people are
engaged in when they visit friends and relatives, or go skiing or visit Venice. The phenomenon
of tourism (particularly because of its rapid growth) has generated interest among academics
whose investigations into the phenomenon result in a growing body of knowledge
of tourism. Tourism education and the tourism curriculum offer packages of knowledge in
order to better understand the phenomenon of tourism. So what is the relationship between
tourism as a phenomenon, tourism knowledge and the tourism curriculum?
Tourism as a phenomenon is that part of the external world where humans go about the
business of being tourists and that part of the external world which is affected by tourism. It
is large, messy, complex and dynamic. It encompasses a range of possible practices and outcomes.
It is not the same world as the study of tourism. The latter consists of a tourism
research community and a symbolic record of tourism knowledge. It is an attempt by humans
to capture, to represent, to describe, to explain and to predict the phenomenon of tourism. The
study of tourism uncovers new ways of seeing tourism, maps out new concepts, elaborates
new theories and builds up a body of knowledge. Tourism knowledge is however essentially
much less than the activity that it describes. It is essentially in the business of making generalisations
about the phenomenal world of tourism and the packaging of theories.
Tourism knowledge can therefore offer only an incomplete account of tourism. Indeed,
there may well be interesting aspects of tourism which are not as yet revealed or discovered
by the study of tourism. The relationship between the study of tourism and the phenomenon
of tourism also points up the important issue of the knowledge gaze. Our knowledge
gaze determines what parts of the phenomenon of tourism are studied in tourism studies and
how these parts are known and conceptualised.
Moving to education we should avoid the temptation to elide the terms curriculum and
knowledge. They only coincide in limited cases — mainly in traditional universities, and for
traditional courses where curriculum would appear to be a redundant term. The undergraduate
programme here represents a process of induction of students into a particular discipline.
But for tourism higher education, any move to define the curriculum in terms of induction
into a discipline, or body of knowledge is a problematic one. Tourism studies may be
conceived of as being pre-paradigmatic (Kuhn, 1970). It has not yet settled into “normal
tourism”. The pattern of research activity and puzzle solving is not settled nor is the direction
for future activities agreed by those operating in the field. Because tourism studies is in
a pre-paradigmatic state, there exists a variety of different knowledge systems in operation.
Since the concept of tourism knowledge is problematic, the curriculum cannot be reduced to
an induction into a discipline. A knowledge choice has to be made.

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3-7-2009 06:21

Figure 1: Curriculum space.

[ by Tourism at 3-7-2009 06:21 edited ]

So two key issues for the tourism curriculum are first, a choice of which aspects of the
tourism phenomenon are to be studied and second, a choice of which types of tourism
knowledge are used to approach to these phenomena. The curriculum for tourism education
itself represents several steps of removal from the phenomenal world of tourism and
encompasses a smaller domain. This is because the curriculum has necessary limits. There
is after all only a certain amount that can be incorporated into a curriculum. For tourism
degrees, the curriculum typically spans a period of 3 academic years. Just as tourism
knowledge occupies a smaller space than that of the tourism phenomenon, the tourism curriculum
can only incorporate a limited amount of what is offered by tourism knowledge.
These domains of phenomenon, knowledge and curriculum are illustrated in Figure 2.
Some important points emerge from Figure 2. First it may be noted that the tourism curriculum
is smaller than the larger domain of tourism knowledge. In turn, tourism knowledge
represents an incomplete insight into the phenomenon of tourism. Additionally, since
the curriculum is not only constructed from tourism knowledge its circle straddles the nontourism
world. Note that there is a flow from the phenomenon of tourism, through tourism
knowledge to tourism education and the curriculum, which illustrates the refining and
selection process in action. However, the flows are not uni-directional. For example, there
is a flow from both tourism knowledge and the tourism curriculum back to the phenomenon
of tourism. This captures the important point that tourism knowledge and tourism education
have the possibility of influencing and changing the phenomenon of tourism itself.
So for example, the elaboration of theories of socio-cultural impacts of tourism and the
transmission of such theories into the wider world through tourism education may lead to
pressure to amend tourism to take more account of its socio-cultural impacts.
Having explored the concept of the curriculum and mapped its relationships with
tourism and knowledge the latter concepts are now examined more fully.
Tribe (1999,) defines tourism as:
The sum of the phenomena and relationships arising from the interaction in
generating and host regions, of tourists, business suppliers, economies,
governments, communities and environments.
His definition reveals the key dimensions of a comprehensive tourism world namely:
? those related to the tourist (including motivation, experience, demand, choice, satisfaction
and interaction);
? those related to business (including profit, marketing, human resourcing and corporate
planning of transport, hospitality and recreation organisations);
? those relating to the host community (including perceptions, economic, social and cultural
? those relating to the host environment (including ecological and aesthetic impacts);
? those relating to host governments (including measurement of tourism, policy and
? those relating to the generating country (including economic, environmental, aesthetic
and socio-cultural effects) (Tribe, 1999,).

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3-7-2009 06:24

Figure 2: Tourism, knowledge and the curriculum.

[ by Tourism at 3-7-2009 06:24 edited ]

In offering this definition, Tribe seeks to allow the concept of tourism room to celebrate its
full complexity. That is not only tourism that represents consumer and business activities
but also tourism that reflects environmental, aesthetic, ethical and cultural issues. Crudely
speaking then, the phenomenon of tourism can be roughly split between the business of
tourism and non-business aspects.
Turning to tourism knowledge, Tribe (1997) suggests that knowledge about tourism
is organised through the established disciplines (e.g. economics, anthropology), through
interdisciplinary approaches (e.g. environmental studies, marketing) and through extradisciplinary
approaches (e.g. customer service). Tribe further postulated that a coalition
of approaches (mainly interdisciplinary and extra-disciplinary) under the banner of
tourism business studies had established a substantial inroad and major presence in the
study of tourism. However, things have changed somewhat since Tribe’s 1997 analysis.
First there has been an extraordinary burst of research activity and articles relating to
sustainable tourism. Second a new wave of tourism research is gathering momentum
concentrating on “studies” rather than “business”. The increasing interest in such
approaches is signalled by new journal titles such as Tourist Studies and the Journal of
Tourism and Cultural Change and new approaches include those using interpretivist and
critical methodologies by researchers working in for example gender studies and cultural
Figure 3 aligns these different levels of the tourism phenomenon, tourism knowledge,
and the tourism curriculum one above the other, dividing each level into two key constituent
domains. The diagram illustrates a fundamental rift evident between two camps.
On the one side is the view of tourism as a business phenomenon to be investigated
through business knowledge and giving rise to curricula for vocational ends. On the other,
the view of tourism is as an unrestricted phenomenon, to be investigated by a range of
knowledge approaches and giving rise to curricula for liberal ends.
These ideas of liberal and vocational education are taken up later in this thread but the
following examples show how the different approaches to tourism education are illustrated
in the curricula of different universities. University A demonstrates a curriculum with
vocational aims:
to prepare [students] for a management career within the travel and tourism
industry through a sound education in the principles and practices of management
in the industry and to develop a set of personal skills and management
competences appropriate for managerial careers in the travel and
tourism industry.
On the other hand, University B demonstrates a curriculum that encompasses a more liberal
The key areas of study in this course are Introduction to the Sociology and
Anthropology of Travel and Tourism; Tourism and the Global Culture; Thesis
Writing; Tourism, Heritage & Environment; Space, Place and Society; Tourism,
Myth and Pilgrimage; Travel Writing and Media Representations; Dissertation.
The diagram also demonstrates that these levels of phenomenon, knowledge and curriculum
are not independent of each other, but each is interconnected so that the emergence of
a particular type of tourism, knowledge and curriculum reinforces, and is reinforced by,
developments at the different levels.

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3-7-2009 06:27

Figure 3: Tourism, knowledge and the curriculum.

[ by Tourism at 3-7-2009 06:27 edited ]

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