We are glad to announce, that on December 6, 2013 our colleague and friend Nadzeya Kalbaska has successfully defended her PhD thesis: eLearning courses about National Tourism Destinations: Destination Management Organizations’ offers and travel agents’ perceptions and motivations.
Congratulations, Nadzeya, for the new title – PhD in Communication Sciences!
The Jury panel was composed by:
Prof. Cantoni Lorenzo, Università della Svizzera italiana (Switzerland)
Prof. Suggs Suzanne, Università della Svizzera italiana (Switzerland)
Prof. Alzua Aurkene, University of Deusto (Spain)
Prof. Baum Tom, University of Strathclyde (United Kingdom)
You may find the link to the PhD thesis and related acknowledgements here, while the summary of the research can be found below.
Limited research has been done previously on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as educational and training modes within the hospitality and tourism field. Travel agent training, certification processes and the use of ICTs to deliver training to the travel trade have been largely excluded from the previous academic research. This PhD thesis aimed to address this research gap with the purpose to understand eLearning offerings within the tourism field. It explored the use of eLearning courses created by Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) for the education and certification of their travel trade partners. Additionally, it investigated the reactions and motivations of the users – travel agents based in the United Kingdom, India and New Zealand – on those training activities. This thesis adopted a mixed method approach including both qualitative (benchmarking and case studies), and quantitative (online questionnaires and phone interviews) research instruments.
The research has analysed and tested the factors influencing travel agents’ participation in and awareness about eLearning courses about tourism destinations. Furthermore, this research has proposed and tested a sound empirically based theoretical framework for the evaluation of the motivational drivers in the specific context, those of travel agents on undertaking destinational eLearning courses.
This research suggests that eLearning courses represent a convenient mode of training, which gives a greater access to education for travel agents globally, especially to those based in geographically isolated locations. eLearning courses are financially viable from both the provider and the user perspective as well as enhance the performance of travel agents within their roles, and presumably the satisfaction of their current or potential clients. Travel agents undertake eLearning activities, as they believe them to be helpful in work-related tasks as well as are beneficial for updating needed knowledge. Additionally, travel agents appreciate the opportunity to study online, while being able to update their knowledge on their own pace and in a flexible environment. The research revealed that travel agents in the three studied countries are not attending eLearning courses about tourism destinations due to a desire to feel related to their managers or colleagues.
The study showed that participation in the eLearning courses depends on the country where travel agents are based, the type of agency they work for and their gender. While the age of the travel agents and their educational level did not show any significant influences on the participation level. At the same time, awareness about the existence of eLearning courses about tourism destinations depends on the county where travel agents are based, and doesn’t depend on their age, gender, type of agency they work for or their educational level.
This thesis provided the first empirical results in the field for the use of ICTs for Human Resource Management of the travel trade. It is the first extensive study on eLearning usages within on-the-job training in the hospitality and tourism industry. This study contributed to eTourism and eLearning literature, within a given professional family, that of the travel agent.
The results of the study also have industry implications, particularly the first understanding of the eLearning options through a benchmarking study of all existing national eLearning courses about tourism destinations as well as through two case studies, which presented the managerial perspective on the studied issue. Furthermore, marketing, trade partnership and training managers within national, regional and local tourism offices are presented with the first research on travel agents’ evaluation of eLearning training platforms, on the rates of awareness and participation in the United Kingdom, India and New Zealand and on their motivations on starting an online training activity. This research can help representatives of the DMOs to understand better the role of eLearning for travel agents, and, therefore, develop more efficient and effective strategies and actions in their trade and training partnerships globally.