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Challenges and constraints of hospitality and tourism

education in China

Terry Lam
Senior Lecturer, Department of Hotel & Tourism Management, The Hong Kong
Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Honggen Xiao
Department of Tourism, Huaqiao University, Quanzhou, Fujian, China

Keywords Education made by the Central Committee of

Education, Tourism, China, Introduction the Chinese Communist Party on 27 May
Career development, Curriculum,
Training With the rapid economic development in 1985, which spells out the importance of
China since the introduction of the economic preparing professionals or experts by the
Abstract reform policy by Deng Xiao-ping in 1978, the tens of millions (Yuan Qi, 1988). Tables I and
Tourism education in China plays II show the number and distribution of
influx of international tourists and
an important role of supporting
businessmen into this untapped market has tourism schools and colleges. It is found that
tourism development and ensuring
the continuous supply of quality increased significantly in the last 20 years. It the development of tourism education in
human resources to meet the is anticipated that the growth will continue, China is consistent with the industry growth
overwhelming industry
in particular, when China is expected to join and the labour demand of the region.
requirements. This paper presents
a comprehensive review of current the World Trade Organisation in 2000.
tourism education in China in Tourism will become a dominant tertiary
terms of the various educational industry in China that has been guaranteed Attitude of tourism employers
programs. The attitude of tourism
in the Ninth Five-Year Plan for National towards human resources
employers towards human
resource development was also Economy, Social Development and development
assessed. The results indicate Prospective and that target for 2010 was Although the industry people consider that
that a big gap exists between passed at the 14th Communist Party of China the hardware contexts of hotels, restaurants,
supply and demand for quality
National Committee. airports and transportation facilities have
personnel, as the tourism industry
is growing rapidly in China. A key Given the rise of tourism ventures, tourism generally attained international standards,
dilemma of tourism education in education in China has been developed the software contexts in terms of employees'
China is poor curriculum design. rapidly. It began in 1978 when Nanjing service attitude, skill levels, and language
Graduates from tourism education
Tourism School was first established and ability still fall short of those expected by
institutes and vocational training
schools cannot fulfill industry Shanghai Tourism College the year after international travellers. The employers feel
needs and demands in terms of (Tao, 1997). According to Chinese that the poor quality of service providers in
quality and quantity. A number of government statistics, there were only 27 China is due to lack of visionary education
education reforms are discussed
universities and colleges offering hospitality and training plans provided by the
regarding curricula design,
scholars' and educators' and tourism programs with 4,800 students in government. The supply of labour force from
qualifications and knowledge, and 1986, and the number has increased to 69 with existing tourism institutions and vocational
standardisation of tourism 8,551 students in 1989. The number continues training schools cannot fulfill the expanding
education practices in China. needs for high quality service providers. By
to grow. In 1998, 936 tourism schools and
colleges existed, of which 192 were higher and large, tourism employers consider that
educational institutes of tourism with 29,566 human resource problems are crucial, and
students. Among the higher educational that they are not healthy for tourism
institutes of tourism, 81 offer degree development in China. The problems can be
programs, representing 42.2 per cent. It was summarised as follows:
estimated that 45.5 per cent of the students 1 The general international service ethic as
study for bachelor's or Master's degrees in expected by foreign operators, and
tourism and 54.5 per cent for the two- or comprehended by international visitors,
three-year diploma or certificate. On the rarely exists among Chinese employees in
other hand, vocational training schools at the tourism industry. The legacy of the
secondary school level have increased in Cultural Revolution has created an
numbers and become popular after a environment where the concept of
International Journal of
Contemporary Hospitality resolution on Institutional Reform of ``service'' was foreign to most employees,
Management regardless of their status or level of
12/5 [2000] 291295 employment (Huyton and Sutton, 1996).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
# MCB University Press Conceptually, the employees can only
[ISSN 0959-6119] http://www.emerald-library.com
subjectively see the importance of
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Terry Lam and tangible products provided for their 3 New recruits have high intentions to quit
Honggen Xiao customers, but not the intangible added- the job or leave the tourism industry
Challenges and constraints of
hospitality and tourism value service delivered during each when they find that the salary package of
education in China interaction between customers/guests the industry is not as competitive as
International Journal of and employees. others, and the pressure or the stress at
Contemporary Hospitality 2 The higher education institutions and work is unexpectedly high. It appears that
12/5 [2000] 291295 vocational training schools of tourism hotel schools cannot provide realistic
continuously develop pools of tourism information for students so that, when the
graduates every year to meet the graduates join the industry, they are
overwhelming demand by the expanding likely to encounter reality shock about the
industry. Unfortunately, few graduates nature of the job, work conditions, and
are dedicated to the industry and human relations.
committed to their jobs. Industry 4 Education institutes and vocational
managers comment that young tourism training schools of tourism nurture
graduates seem to have unrealistic career graduates with operational concepts and
expectations. For example, they expect to knowledge without paying much
get promotion from operative to attention to skill development. Practical
managerial levels within two to three training is not sufficiently provided for
years in the hotel industry. students during their study. Zhou (1991)
states that because of the limited
experience of most of the faculty and
Table I limited lab facilities, the curriculum in
Number of tourism schools and colleges in institutes of higher learning generally
China (1993-1998) places more emphasis on classroom
Number of Number of instruction and de-emphasises skill
institutes of secondary development. Thus students have
higher profession/ virtually no laboratory experience prior
Year Total education vocational schools to entering the industry as an intern.
1993 354 102 252 Fresh graduates have to learn the skills
1994 399 109 290 from scratch and are unproductive
1995 622 138 484 during their early stage of employment.
1996 845 166 679 The learning time can be shortened if
1997 936 192 744 students are provided with intensive
1998 909 187 722 internship programs in the industry to
gain hands-on practical experience.
Source: CNTA, Yearbooks of China Tourism Statistics,
5 The teaching materials are outdated.
Textbooks are usually written and

Table II
Major statistics of tourism schools and colleges 1998
Number of tourism schools and colleges Number of students at tourism schools and colleges
Institutes of Secondary Institutes of Secondary
higher professional Vocational higher professional Vocational
Locality Total education schools schools Total education schools schools
Total 936 192 87 657 221,504 28,566 26,912 166,026
North China 96 20 5 71 39,080 4,013 2,264 32,803
Northeast China 63 21 4 38 22,235 2,704 669 18,832
East China 381 50 30 301 85,464 8,415 7,901 69,688
Central China 116 32 20 64 21,866 3,968 6,218 11,680
South China 149 22 4 123 27,132 3,340 3,626 20,166
Southwest China 87 31 14 42 15,957 4,066 3,653 8,238
Northwest China 44 16 10 18 9,770 2,060 2,551 5,159
Notes: Tourism institutes include tourism colleges and ordinary institutes of higher education with tourism departments.
Vocational schools include vocational high schools and tourism classes at ordinary vocational high schools and technical schools.
Statistics in this Table are presented on the basis of China's administrative and economic regionalisation. North China includes Beijing, Tianjin,
Hebei, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia; Northeast China consists of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang; East China covers Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui and
Shandong; Central China is composed of Jiangxi, Henan, Hubei and Hunan; South China includes Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan;
Southwest China covers Sichuan, Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan and Tibet; and Northwest China includes Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia and
Source: CNTA, 1998

[ 292 ]
Terry Lam and published by faculty members. programs. Run jointly with tourism and
Honggen Xiao Unfortunately, most textbooks are simply hospitality enterprises, the programs are
Challenges and constraints of
hospitality and tourism translated from foreign texts without usually shorter in duration and more flexible
education in China taking Chinese cultures, values and to cater for the needs of the industry.
International Journal of contemporary issues into consideration. Vocational and technical schools serve the
Contemporary Hospitality Knowledge gained by students may not be purposes of pre-employment training and
12/5 [2000] 291295 applicable to China's situation. help develop skilled or semi-skilled front line
workers for their co-operative enterprises.
The functions of these vocational schools are
Tourism programs similar to those in Hong Kong. The students
receive three- to 12-month off-the-job training
The first hospitality educational institution
in the classroom as well as on-the-job
of its kind was the Jiangsu Provincial
internship at enterprises in the related
Tourism School, which was set up in Yixing
industry. These students are usually
in 1978. The first institution of higher
competent and skilful in operations when
education in tourism and hospitality was
they graduate.
established in Shanghai in 1979 and is known
as The Shanghai Institute of Tourism. The
rapid tourism development in China since
the 1980s has forced the Chinese government
Development constraints of
to redefine its tourism education policy at
tourism education
both higher education institutes and Although China's tourism education has
vocational and technical training schools. been developed for 20 years, there exists a big
Among the 192 higher educational gap between supply and demand for quality
institutes in tourism, 19 offer a Master's managers, supervisors and operative staff as
degree in tourism/hospitality management. a result of the rapid growth of the tourism
So far, no universities offer doctoral degree industry. It appears that the current tourism
programs in tourism management in China. education system emphasises the supply of a
Doctoral degrees in tourism have to be labour force to meet the industry's needs, but
studied with overseas hotel schools. less attention is given to the development of
For the Bachelor Degree, Diploma or other quality human resources for this service
certificate education programs in tourism, industry. It is considered that quality
there are various programs provided that employees can help organizations to meet
primarily cover four areas: first, language their customers' expectations and their
programs with a strong service orientation; satisfaction (Evans and Lindsay, 1999;
second, economics and management Zeithaml et al., 1990). The development
programs such as tourism management, constraints of tourism education in China
hotel management, tourism economics, and can be summarised as follows:
tourism finance; third, educators' training 1 The hierarchy of tourism education and
programs which aim at developing quality training does not correspond to the
tourism teachers for vocational and technical tourism career path which is specified by
schools of tourism; and fourth, skill-oriented individual needs of tourism students or
programs which have become part of the trainees and the general demand of the
national plan for higher occupational industry (Jiang, 1998).
education. This national plan started in 2 Most degree programs of tourism
September 1999. The course programs education are dominated by non-tourism-
include various areas of study such as hotel related disciplines, such as geography,
service and operations, tour service and business administration, social sciences,
operations, food preparation and cuisine, foreign languages and other humanities
tourism sales and promotion, and food and disciplines. It may indicate that the scope
beverage service and operations. of tourism education programs is limited
Vocational and technical training in and that they cannot meet the
tourism takes various forms in China, sophisticated and specific requirements of
including high vocational school, tourism the industry.
skill training school and tourism vocational 3 The curricula in tourism education are
technical school. The National Education not developed effectively. Curriculum
Ministry is responsible for the development design is constrained by the education
and management of national vocational laws. Most of the current tourism
education in tourism. The Ministry of programs are out-of-date and are not able
Labour and some bureaux such as China to develop competent and knowledgeable
National Tourism Administration (CNTA) personnel to meet the industry needs.
are also involved in running some of the Some tourism-related subjects such as
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Terry Lam and management of tourist attractions, hotel
Honggen Xiao facility planning, strategic human
Education reform and future
Challenges and constraints of
resource management, employee relations
hospitality and tourism
education in China and service management are not found in It is crucial for the Chinese government to
International Journal of the programs. focus efforts and investment on the
Contemporary Hospitality 4 The curricula of tourism education do not improvement of the existing education
Management institutions of tourism. Education reforms
12/5 [2000] 291295 emphasise internship, which is
considered important by foreign tourism are necessary and demand-oriented. They
educators. In Hong Kong, hotel and should focus primarily on tourism education
tourism students are compulsorily and training needs in parallel with the rapid
required to undergo a certain period of development of the industry and help develop
practical training in at least one area such and improve the quality human resources for
the industry and have a long-term
as hotels, travel agencies, fast food and
implication for the tourism education
catering organizations, private clubs and
development in China.
airlines during their three-year study. At
China had a series of reforms implemented
present, tourism students in China do not
in 1999. For example, The National Education
have much hands-on experience and
Ministry simplified the structural contexts
realistic evaluation of actual working by reducing the original catalogue of 543
experience. As a result, tourism graduates secondary disciplines to 249. In addition, the
are handicapped by a lack of technical higher occupational education program in
skills and workplace experience. They are tourism was implemented in September 1999.
likely to encounter reality shock when The reforms of tourism education cover the
they join the industry after graduation. following areas:
5 China's tourism education has a strong 1 National education policies and standard
emphasis upon international tourism and guidelines are set to unify tourism
service, while domestic tourism, leisure, education practices across the country.
and leisure-related studies are rarely The new policies and guidelines require
included in the scope of tourism education tourism education institutes and
programs. vocational training schools to review
6 Though the development of higher their existing education programs so that
education in tourism is rapid, the latter should be commensurate with
professional and vocational schools still the standardised requirements. All
play a dominant role, accounting for 80 program structures, contexts and
per cent of tourism education in China. contents, teaching equipment and
Moreover, the hierarchical link between facilities, educators' background,
tourism education and training has not textbooks and student learning
been established in accordance with the assessment have been defined for the
individual needs and industry demand. design of curricula. The prescription of
7 Many authorities are found to be involved core fundamental courses aims not only at
in the development of tourism education developing students in a broader
programs. For example, CNTA plays a disciplinary context which is the general
more dominant role in fostering the direction of China's educational reform,
but also, and more practically or
tourism education development than the
operationally, at guiding the actual
China National Education Ministry. As a
curricula design of tourism management
result, these central authorities may
as a secondary discipline.
confuse the genuine tourism educators in
2 A new education model has been set that
executing the policies.
aims to establish a linkage between
8 The Chinese government does not provide
education and training path and career
much support to tourism institutions in
path. By building a hierarchical career
terms of granting funds for research, path into the curricula of tourism
setting-up training facilities and education and training, the relationships,
equipment, strategic plans for developing functions and objectives at different levels
quality local teachers or for inviting of the course programs can be further
renowned educators and professors from distinguished. In addition, functional
Hong Kong or abroad to share their distinctions and hierarchical links are
expertise. In addition, the status of also established between tourism
tourism educators is low in China; hence education and tourism training.
tourism teachers are poorly paid. It is Distinctions are set in curricula design
difficult to attract good quality educators regarding qualifications of educators and
to join the education field. teachers, facilities and equipment,
[ 294 ]
Terry Lam and experimental foundations needed for the customers, and will become more committed
Honggen Xiao course programs, and the knowledge and to their employers when they find their
Challenges and constraints of skill constructs of students and trainees. knowledge and skills provided at school can
hospitality and tourism
education in China 3 In terms of tourism research, the be applied immediately at work. On the other
International Journal of methodologies adopted by Chinese scholars hand, the employers in the industry will be
Contemporary Hospitality and educators are less sophisticated as more willing to accept the graduates and put
Management compared to international researchers. in more effort to develop them if the latter
12/5 [2000] 291295
Publications of research papers from can help contribute to the success of the
Chinese scholars are mainly confined to organisations.
local journals and newspapers such as
China Tourism Publishing House (Beijing), References
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