Tourism Management As A Course Psychology Essay

 

To explain human behavior is a very difficult and complex task. But approaching it from different levels such as the person’s attitude and perception factors and so on, sheds light to this complexity. Concepts referring to behavioral dispositions, such as social attitude, and personality trait, have played an important role in these attempts to predict and explain human behavior (Ajzen, 1998; Campbell, 1963; Sherman & Fazio, 1983). This study uses the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB model) to test the influences governing undergraduates’ intention towards pursuing a career in the tourism industry. This study will thus explore the variables that influence a student’s intention to pursue a career in the hospitality industry and the factors that are implicated in or modify a student’s career commitment over time. The sample includes first year to forth year undergraduates studying Tourism management courses offered by The University of Mauritius.

2.1 Perceptions and Attitudes towards pursuing a Tourism and Hospitality Career

2.1.0 Tourism management as a course

In considering the level of student interest in the hospitality programme, Davidson and Tideswell (1998) found that job and industry factors such as career prospects and interest were the number one determinant of choice in selecting a hospitality programme among undergraduate students across all institutions in Australia. However, the growth in hospitality in the country serves to amplify the point that students see their degree as a rite of passage to a job and career. Furthermore, downgrading of entrance criteria is used by the institutions as a mechanism to attract more students into hospitality management. Similarly, Hobson (1995a) reported that due to industry growth many students especially in the Asian countries of China, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia have started to choose hospitality programmes without knowing much about the industry. It has been argued by Barron and Maxwell (1993) that many new entrants to hospitality institutions may well have an illusory image of the industry as glamorous and probably hold unrealistic perceptions.

Speaking of the entrance criteria, it must also be recognised that not all students are necessarily accepted into the programme solely on the basis of long term interest, but rather on other factors. It may also be that some students made a later decision to select the hospitality programme without knowing about the industry. Bloomquist (1998) similarly reported that a large number of students in her study indicated that they had a career interest in hospitality while they were in high school, but decided to enrol in the programme after arriving at the university in which the programme was located. Although, both studies did not identify how realistic was the students’ interest or the relationship of their interest to working in the industry, the result supported the evidence that because of limited resources being applied early in education process, students may not have the necessary preparation and knowledge to pursue their preferred career (Jarvis, 1994). However, Barron (1997) reported that half of his respondents chose the particular university because they received an offer and because of the good reputation of the university. 0′ Mahony, McWilliam and Whitelaw (2001) also identified that a substantial number of Australian students chose hospitality programmes based on the reputation and availability of a particular course of study rather than career interest. In fact, more than half their respondents chose to attend college even before choosing a career. This seems to suggest that the choice of a hospitality course at university level probably was a second or third preference as compared to other disciplines. This also supports the previous notion that some students were accepted into programmes because they achieved the entry requirement rather than for career interest. This is in line with Hing and Lomo (1997) who identified that many students enroll in hospitality programmes having a vague idea of their goal, hoping that during their study programme they will gain a better understanding of management issues, their future aspirations and career opportunities. They further argued that some of the students may have become disillusioned, have given up their studies, or look for an alternative career after completing the programme, if they found that career was not suited to their interest. Consequently, although commitment to the course is minimal, this is outweighed by the idea that any place at university or college is coveted, irrespective of the discipline. For those prospective students who found that their examination scores were too low to allow public institution admission, there is a chance to pursue their interest and a career in the hospitality industry through private colleges.

In relation to career advice, Purcell (1993) identified that students who made career decisions in high school were influenced by parents or guardians, peers or friends in choosing the hospitality programme. This finding is supported by other studies which noted that parents and families were the most influential forces in determining students’ attitudes and career choice (Cothran and Combrink, 1999; Sciarini and Wood, 1997). Young (1994) described parents as the primary providers of encouragement for their children to reach vocational goals. However, studies also showed that parental attitudes towards the hospitality industry were often negative and many parents still believed that industry jobs were confined to hamburger – flipping and bed making and provided a limited range of professional level jobs. Parents tended to transfer those perceptions to their children and discourage them from taking hospitality programmes (Machatton, 1997). In the recent study by 0′ Mahony, McWilliam and Whitelaw (2001), it was identified that the role of parents, teachers, school counsellors and peers was not rated as an important influence in student leavers’ decisions to enrol in a hospitality degree at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, as compared to the mass media. It has also been reasonably demonstrated that insufficient career guidance and inadequate information about the industry causes unrealistic perceptions and expectations of hospitality jobs among the hospitality graduates. Helms and Adcock (1992) pointed out that lack of information and career knowledge caused the creation of misconception and unwarranted negatives attitudes and was often associated with lack of opportunities. They further argued that misconceptions about any particular programme or career could cause bright and talented individual students to avoid any consideration of the occupation as a viable career option. Secondary students needed to be informed about the industry so that their decisions about choosing a programme and a hospitality career were based on choice rather than by chance (Barron and Maxwell, 1993). If more information on the job characteristics and career opportunities was disseminated to the students, shifts occurred in the way the students viewed the programme and a hospitality career. With little information, students’ interest was driven by perceived comparison with other career opportunities in other industries. However, it was also argued that irrespective of any career guidance received, students will start their tertiary studies with different views of what industry and career opportunities they are looking for. Some students might be interested in working in hotels, while others are looking at restaurants, or other sectors of the hospitality industry. This view however, might be changed again through the various exposures received during their study programme and exposure to the industry (Fraser, 2000).

2.1.1 Tourism as a career choice

While it has been recognised for some time that the hospitality industry faces a number of issues related to its poor image, quality of work life, customer satisfaction, service quality and employee attitudes, one area which has received less attention is that of the perceptions and attitudes of young people or those individuals who are potentially likely to pursue a career in hospitality workforce in the future.

Some work has been done in regard to tertiary students wanting to enter the tourism industry (Kus1uvan and Kus1uvan, 2000) and the hospitality industry (Fraser, 2000; Barron and Maxwell, 1993). The pioneering work by Ross (1991;1993) found that schoo11eavers had positive attitudes towards potential careers and had a high level of interest in management positions in the tourism and hospitality industry. He argued that the hospitality industry was regarded as holding considerable promise for future employment and career prospects in many countries such as Australia. In his later study, Ross (1997) examined travel agency employment perceptions and preferences among secondary schoo11eavers and stated that travel agency employment was favoured among potential hospitality industry employees. He further suggested that there is a need for greater understanding of the beliefs and intentions of school leavers in Australia for better labour force planning and career guidance so that they accept that tourism jobs are worth considering. However, a longitudinal study in Spey Valley in Scotland by Getz (1994) demonstrates that the hospitality sector was a relatively unattractive option for the high school students.

The desire to pursue a career in hospitality employment had become much more negative over the 14 year period of the study. While some of this was due to a downturn in regional economies, jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry were largely perceived as undesirable. Getz suggested that some potential appears to exist for attracting youth into the industry through internships or co-operative education between schools and industry to help the school leavers to better understand the career prospects in the hospitality industry. Airey and Frontisis (1997) supported Getz’ work by suggesting that career support and improvement in basic hospitality education are really crucial in providing the young with a relatively broad and realistic view of career options.

Airey and Frontis (1997) compared the attitudes of secondary students towards careers in hospitality in Greece and the United Kingdom, they identified that the Greek students had positive attitudes towards hospitality employment. This positive view however, was tempered by their suggestion that it was in part due to the students relatively unrealistic views about careers in the industry, their limited experience as hospitality consumers and the employment structure in Greece. Whereas in the UK, a better-established career support system works well in preparing the students with a realistic view of career options. Differences in students’ level of experience and differences in the employment structures of the two countries played an important part in fanning these attitudes.

Beside the secondary school students, the attitudes of students who are studying hospitality management are particularly important because this group is more than casually interested in hospitality and they are the individuals who potentially will hold management positions in the industry. Charles (1992a) identified that undergraduate students in the Bahamas generally have positive attitudes towards a career in hospitality and perceive the industry as exciting, stimulating and developing creativity, but dislike the potentially disruptive effect their career could have on their personal, family and social life. Their interest appears to be decreasing over time and they have been most influenced in their view by their internship experience. This finding was supported by Barron and Maxwell (1993) who compared the attitudes of undergraduate students in their induction week at the start of their hospitality management course with the students in their first week back at their institutions to continue their hospitality management course, after a period of practical training at undergraduate level. They found marked disparity in the view held about hospitality between students embarking on their hospitality management course and the students who had completed their work experience in the industry. The differences lie between perception and experience of the industry with new students holding positive views, whereas the more experienced students generally held negative views. Student expectations of good career opportunities, good training and treatment of staff by employers and that the job does not demand a capacity effort changed to a perception of the industry as being not lucrative and responsible for poor treatment of manual staff.

Similarly, Warsyzak (1997) identified in Australia that students’ assessment about the hospitality industry became less positive after post work experiences. In the recent study, Kusluvan and Kus1uvan (2000) reported that students’ positive attitudes toward different aspects of working in the tourism and hospitality decreased after practical work experience. Some of the factors which seemed to account for the decline in students’ attitudes included job stress, lack of family life owing to the nature of the work, long working hours, exhausting and seasonal (unstable) jobs and the low social status of a hospitality job. According to them the unfavourable evaluations of job aspects among the Turkish undergraduate students were due to insufficient information about careers and working condition in the tourism industry. They suggested that career guidance and orientation should be made more efficient at the secondary schoo11eve1 in order for qualified tourism students to have more positive attitudes about working in the tourism industry.

It was identified by West and Jamieson (1990) that an increase in various exposures reduced a student’s commitment to taking employment in the industry. Similarly, Purcell and Quinn (1996) pointed out that supervised work experience was considered as a key contributor to reducing students’ level of commitment towards the industry as a career choice. It was found that the higher transfer rate into the industry among the Higher National Diploma students, as compared to the undergraduate programme students, that she identified, may also reflect a higher level of vocational commitment among this group. Through his longitudinal study in New Zealand, Fraser (2000) ascertained that students’ perceptions, aspirations and expectations along with career commitment towards hospitality employment steadily declined over time.

Interestingly, such changes in perception about the chosen career were noticed among the undergraduates, Higher National Diploma, and one year certificate students in all hospitality institutions across New Zealand. In fact, levels of commitments are not directly related to sex, qualifications, levels of industry knowledge and prior experience. He pointed out that young graduates are more likely to be seduced away from hospitality by other industries, and warned that industries will keep losing the young skilled worker if the employment practices are not altered. In another study, Pavesic and Byrmer (1990) reported that a significant number of hospitality graduates changed their job to another industry a year after graduating. Among the reasons given were: the poor pay for the hours of work, little recognition for efforts made, or lack of opportunity to progress, long hours and stress at work, as well as not receiving acknowledgement of qualifications gained.

2.2 The Theory of Planned Behavior

Ajzen developed the Theory of Planned Behavior in 1991 as an extension of Ajzen and Fishbein’s 1975 Theory of Reasoned Action. The TPB has four components: attitudes (i.e. the individual’s positive or negative feelings about performing a behavior), subjective norm (i.e. the individual’s perception of whether people important to the individual think the behavior should be performed), perceived behavioral control (i.e. The individual’s perception on the self skills and ability of performing a behavior) and behavioral intention (i.e. an individual’s readiness to perform a given behavior)

Ajzen stated that for nonhabituaI behaviors that are easily executed by almost everyone without special circumstances, the theory of reasoned action was adequate. When behaviors are more difficult to execute, and when a person needs to take control over needed resources in order to act, the theory of planned behavior is a better predictor of behavior than the theory of reasoned action. In the theory of planned behavior, control is taken into account as a variable labeled “perceived behavioral control,” which is defined as a person’s perception of how easy or difficult it would be to perform the action. The theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) has been since its development some 20 years proved to be a powerful approach to explain human behavior.  

The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) predicts that planned behaviors are determined by behavioral intentions which are largely influenced by an individual’s attitude toward a behavior, the subjective norms encasing the execution of the behavior, and the individual’s perception of their control over the behavior (Ajzen, 1975). In simpler terms, behavioural decisions are the result of a reasoned process in which the behavior is influenced by attitudes, norms and perceived behavioral control.

2.3 The Theory of Planned Behavior: Model

Ajzen’s revised model (1991) is expressed in the diagram (figure 2) below:

Figure 2: Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior

The theory of planned behavior postulates three conceptually determinants of intention.

2.4 Determinants of Behavioral Intention

Attitude towards behavior

Attitudes represent an individual’s likes, dislikes, beliefs and opinions regarding a particular behavior. It represents a summary of evaluation of psychological object captures in attribute dimensions of good- bad, harmful- beneficial, pleasant- unpleasant, and likable- dislikable (Ajzen; 2001)

Rosenberg and Hovland (1996) viewed attitude as a ‘multi-component’ construct and made the following statement ”all responses to a stimulus object are mediated by the person’s attitude towards the object.”

Ayres (2008) claims that traditionally there has been a career-for-life philosophy adopted by workers, whereby workers will spend their entire working life working in one industry, and, in many cases, one organization.

This philosophy has in recent times, coinciding with Generation Y entering the workforce, been replaced by a more uncertain career structure, with employees frequently changing employers within their industry and many also pursuing work in different industries (Inkson, Anhur, and Pringle, 1999). Morton (2002) stated that Generation Y employees show a tendency towards valuing equality in the workplace and they seek positions that offer reasonable wages and good opportunities for training. Morton (2002) also claimed that they respect managers who empower workers and who are open and honest with employees. Martin (2005), who calls this generation “Yers”, describes eight main characteristics shown by Generation Y towards their careers. These eight characteristics include the Generation Y employee being self-reliant and independent, technosavvy, entrepreneurial, seeking flexibility, having an urgent sense of immediacy, wanting increasing responsibility, having a “get off my back” attitude and adopting a free agency attitude.

Oliver (2006) claims that recent interest in the Generation Y worker has intensified in recent years, and while generalizations are plentiful, he claims that the Generation Y worker is uninterested in a job for life, instead seeking flexibility and work-life balance. Oliver (2006) states that, overall, Generation Y workers are seen to have much higher expectations of a job than previous generations, including high expectations of pay, conditions, promotion and advancement.

A study conducted by Kusluvan and Kusluvan (2000) found that some of the factors that seemed to account for the negative attitudes towards careers in tourism, formed after students had undertaken a practical work assignment, are stressful jobs, lack of family life owing to the nature of the work, long working hours, exhausting and seasonal (unstable) jobs, low social status of tourism jobs, unsatisfactory and unfair promotions, low pay and insufficient benefits, unqualified managers, poor attitudes and behavior of managers towards employees, unqualified coworkers and poor attitudes and behavior of coworkers and poor physical working conditions for employees.

Subjective Norms

Subjective Norms is the degree to which someone wants to conform to other’s behavior or expectations. Usually, ‘others’ are individuals (family and friends) whose preferences on a subject matter are important to him or her. This concept was introduced into theory of planned behavior to accommodate the non volitional elements inherent, at least potentially, in all behaviors (Ajzen, 2002).

Although schools, peers and the student’s community all have an impact on the young adult’s self- identity and career choice, the parents’ expectations and perceptions of vocational fit for their children have been found to be the key roles in shaping their career choices (Ferry, 2006).

In one study (Creamer and Laughlin, 2005), this influence has been so strong as to override the influence of teachers, faculty, and career field in question but were not as well- known and or trusted as to students’ parents for this type of decision.

In an era where 49% of UK workers report that balancing work and family responsibilities is an issue of significant concern to them (IP Morgan Fleming, 2003), the influence of family and personal life and career decisions is receiving increasing amounts of media attention. Today’s business school graduates are ”looking for a work style to go with their lifestyle”, claims the HR consultancy Hay Group (The Economist, 2006). ”Generation X and Generation Y workers who are younger than 40, are more likely than boomers to say they put family before jobs,” says an article in USA Today (Elias, 2004). ”Today’s younger employees are working to live rather than living to work,” states a newspaper manager in the journalism newsletter Fusion (Williamson, 2006).

Perceived Behavioral Control

Perceived Behavioral Control (PBC) refers to a person’s perception of the ease or difficulty of performing a particular behavior. According to Ajzen (2002), PBC is used to deal with situations where people do not have complete volitional control (i.e. external influences) over the particular behavior in question.

An employee’s perception to any industry will, no doubt, be determined by their commitment, perceptions, attitudes towards working in the industry as well as the types of jobs available in the industry. It is argued that this is particularly pertinent to tourism and hospitality as it has been reported that potential recruits have a negative image of working in the industry (Aksu and Koksal, 2005; Brien, 2004; Getz, 1994, Kuslavan and Kuslavan, 2000).

Several researchers have also studied the perceptions of undergraduate tourism and hospitality management students. Barron and Maxwell (1993) examined the perceptions of new and continuing students at Scottish higher education institutions. They found that in general the new students had positive images of the industry, whereas the students with supervised work experience were much less positive in their views.

Baron and Maxwell (19930 found significant differences between the new students’ perceptions of the industry compared with the students who had undertaken their industry placement. The marked differences in the perceptions of new students compared with those post placement students and graduates lie in the difference between perception and experience in the industry. West and Jameson (1990) agree and claim that the more exposure hospitality students have to the industry, the less commitment they show.

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2.5 Behavioral Intention

Intention is an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions; in the words of Ajzen, ”an indication of how hard people are willing to try, of how much effort they are willing to exert in order to perform the behavior. Therefore, the stronger the intention to engage in a behavior, the more likely should be its performance.” (p. 181) TPB states that people act in accordance with their intentions and perceptions of control over their behavior, while intentions are influenced by attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms and perceptions of behavioral control (Ajzen, 1985).

Behavior

Hsing (2002) defined behavior as the performance of an action at a certain time, in a certain context and with a certain purpose.

Generally, the more favorable the attitude and subjective norm with respect to a behavior and the greater the perceived behavioral control; the stronger an individual’s intention should be to perform the behavior under consideration (Ajzen, 1991). However based on varying behaviors and situation, the relative importance of attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioral control is expected to be different.

2.6 Indicators of Behavioral Intention

For the TPB to predict behaviour successfully or for maximum prediction, intention must be measured as closely as possible in time to the observation of the behaviour. The longer the interval between measurement of intention and behaviour, the greater the likelihood that an unforeseen event will occur that will lead to changes in intention and be less predictive of actual behaviour. Nevertheless, this study is not working on actual behaviour, but rather on attitudes and beliefs about the behaviour of choosing a particular career.

2.6.0 Indicators of Attitude towards behavior

Thus, to measure student attitudes toward behaviour, which in this context meant choosing the programme and direction, or intention to seek a career in hospitality, questions were constructed in such a way so as to shed light on the attitude and beliefs of the undergraduates:

”I expect this course will only qualify me to do a specialised job in the hospitality

industry”

”I am still keen to work in the industry as when I first chose this training

programme”

”I am very satisfied with my choice of a career in hospitality”

”I am committed to a career in hospitality”

2.6.1 Indicators of Subjective Norms

A second major predictor of intention in this study is the influence of important people in an individual student’s life as encouragement and support to perform the behaviour intention. Subjective Norm refers to a favourable or unfavourable student perception of social pressure and the relative importance of different sources of social influence on their intention (decision) to choose a programme and hospitality career. Such social influence might come from immediate family members, peers and friends, teachers and other individual and groups. As stated by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) an individual will perform or operationalise their behaviours that they perceive as favoured by other people who are important to them. In the present study, there were items used to obtain a direct measure of students’ perception of significant others and the degree to which they influenced the decision to take a tourism management course. Questions which relate to parents, friends, brothers and sisters and school teachers were constructed to indicate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with such statements. Such questions were:

”My parents encouraged me to study hospitality”

”My school teachers and counsellors encouraged me to study hospitality”

”My brothers / sisters encouraged me to study hospitality”

However, according to Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) any relationship between the respondents and the referent (s) will be more or less stable over time. To assess the actual career influencer parallel to those of the students’ intention, an open ended question was asked:

Who was the most influential individual who influenced your choice of a hospitality

career?

2.7 Empirical Evidence

2.8 Conclusion

 

 

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