Understanding Cultural Differences – A Tuesday Tourism Talk

HALBAN Intercultural competence is the deep understanding of cultural differences with your intellect and with your heart,” said Prof. Dr. Patricia East of Munich University of Applied Sciences,  during her lively talk on “Intercultural Competence in Tourism”, held as part of the series of Tuesday Tourism Talks organised by Prof. Dr. Heba Aziz, head of department of Logistics, Tourism and Service Management at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech).

During her talk Prof. East stressed that intercultural competence means perceiving and accepting that different cultures have different value systems and different concepts of normal behaviour and procedures. Cultural identity is not defined by geographical borders, but by sharing a value system, be it regional, social, religious, age, or any other group system; and cultures are constantly evolving, especially today with the huge amount of exposure and interaction through the internet.

Tourists on holidays usually just see the visible surface aspects of a culture, explained Prof. East. They see what people eat, how they dress, how they behave in public. But they do not really learn to understand the deeper-lying values, the invisible seven eighths of the so-called “iceberg of culture”; this requires deeper awareness of one’s own norms and understanding of cultural differences such as hierarchies, relationships within groups, acceptance or avoidance of risk, etc. These aspects of intercultural understanding are especially important in all business relations, above all in the world of tourism management where cultural interaction is part of so many people’s work.

Intercultural communication is an integral part of the tourism programme at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, where Prof. Dr. East has been professor of sustainable tourism and intercultural communication for over 20 years. “Intercultural communication was neglected in tourism education for a long time, but is now recognised in most state of the art programmes” said Prof. Dr. East.

“We are very pleased to have Prof. East with us today as a speaker in our TTT seminar;  in the light of the current world events it is of paramount importance to stress the importance of intercultural communication in order to avoid dangerous stereotyping.”

TTT is monthly seminar dedicated to highlighting important issues in tourism and business. The seminar is held and organised by the department of logistics, tourism and service management, Faculty of Business and Economics at GUtech.  The Faculty of Business and economics currently run two academic programmes one is International business and service management, focusing on the tourism sector and the other is Logistics.  Two of five economic sectors earmarked to lead the Omani economy according to Oman vision 2040.

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