BARKA To promote intercultural communication and tourism studies in a ‘live tourism laboratory’, Professor Dr Nevenka Čavlek has initiated the International Tourism and Hospitality Academy at Sea (ITHAS) in Croatia in 2005.
As part of the series of Tuesday Tourism Talks (TTT) held at GUtech, Department of Logistics, Tourism and Service Management, Dr Nevenka Čavlek gave a public talk entitled “Experiential Learning for tourism education; the case of International Tourism and Hospitality Academy at Sea” on 15 December. Professor Dr Nevenka Čavlek is Head of the Postgraduate Studies in Tourism Management of the Faulty of Economics & Business, University of Zagreb in Croatia. The Tourism Department is part of the UNWTO Education Council and Dr Nevenka is also Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal Acta Turistica, published twice per year.
„In Croatia tourism accounts nearly 20 % of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and today all business students at the Faculty of Economics & Business have to study a compulsory tourism course,“ said Dr Nevenka about the importance of tourism in her home country. „Prior to my work in academia, I worked in tourism,“ she said while adding that the idea to initiate a special programme for students to get first-hand experience in tourism, conducted outside the lecture hall and outside the traditional vocational training practices grew. „The uniqueness is that the programme differs from common practices. Our main goal was to create an exciting opportunity to travel and to study at the same time,“ she said.
In 2005 Dr Nevenka initiated the first 7-day intensive study module at sea in Croatia, entitled „Island Tourism Management“. Since then Dr Nevenka has organized various trips and under various topics, e.g. on cruise tourism on the river Danube, but also in Croatia and other topics along the Adriatic coast (Montenegro, Albania). „During sail students have lectures lead by well-known academics of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism. Last year we had 26 different nationalities on board. Between 80-130 students participate and are well selected in advance and according to their study achievements. The lecturers circulate and the students stay on board,“ she said. The programme combines real life experiences, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and they learn about the most important aspects by tourism by active experimentation. „At the end the students see tourism in a different light“ she said.
To find out more about the perception and expectations of the student participants. Dr. Nevenka together with Dr Charles Arcodia from the Griffith University in Australia has conducted research about the short and long-term expectations and experiences during that academy on sea; they applied two questionnaire surveys during and after the experiential learning trips. Their results show that the majority of students had a positive perception of the learning outcome after having participated in one of the academies. „We mix on purpose undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students and different nationalities, so that they all learn also from each other,“ she said. Professor Dr Heba Aziz confirmed: “The academy is a multicultural learning experience, So far we have had two groups a total of 18 students from the tourism department attending ITHAS and students rated this as one of the most enjoyable learning experiences they have had”.
Currently Universities in Finland, Slovenia, Germany and GUtech in Oman are partner universities of the annual tourism academy at sea. „GUtech students have been an asset to the programme“ said Dr Nevenka while explaining that they helped to overcome prejudices and create strong bonds. „At the end of the trip they have a different identity. They identify themselves by the group culture of the ship,“ she said. A number of tourism representatives attending the talk suggested to Dr. Nevenka to conduct the Tourism and Hospitality Academy at Sea here in Oman and in the region in the future.