Humanistic education: An analysis of students’ attitudes towards sustainable ski tourism


Humanistic education: An analysis of students’ attitudes towards sustainable ski tourism


Objectives. The complex issues related to sustainable tourism challenge the way tourism businesses and destinations operate (Ioannides and Gyimóthy, 2020), but also the way higher education in tourism is conceived in most cultural and geographical environments (Wilson and von der Heidt, 2013). Teaching, and thus learning, about sustainability is nowadays part of most tourism courses (Boyle et al., 2015), a must for many universities and institutions. Traditionally, the triple bottom line (economic, social, environmental) approach to sustainable development has been at the core of such curricula. However, this approach has been more and more criticized for its focus on continued growth and progress (e.g.: Sheldon et al. 2008; Scott, 2011). To enrich the vision of tourism educators and the perspective of students different approaches can be considered, in this line Springett (2010) argued that social responsibility should be at the center of the debate on sustainable tourism education. Hence, tourism scholars have integrated the triple bottom line approach with concepts of responsible tourism, societal ethics, and values in the framework of the Tourism Education Futures Initiative (TEFI) (Sheldon et al. 2008). Furthermore, Thomas and Day (2014) claimed that sustainability skills should be among the competences to develop in undergraduate courses. The need to educate the future generations of tourism and hospitality managers, leaders and stakeholders has permeated the last two decades of research in sustainability and education in our field.

This paper seeks to contribute to the debate on tourism education and sustainability by introducing the concept of humanistic tourism education in the field of Alpine tourism. The aim of this study is threefold: (1) explore younger generations’ understanding of tourists’ responsibilities with respect to preserving ski-destinations; (2) identify the actors in charge of promoting responsible behavior at the destination and in the wider context of skiing; and (3) contribute to theoretical development of humanistic tourism education. Based on qualitative data collected with a cross-cultural sample of undergraduate students, the study attempts to answer the following research questions:

RQ_1: What kind of “social responsibilities in the area of sustainability” do younger generations attribute to ski-tourists?

RQ_2: What is -in the mind of the young generation- the role of ski most influential figures (e.g.: champions, instructors) in stimulating ski-tourists to behave responsibly?

RQ_3: What aspects of humanistic education in tourism can be successful across different cultures?

#cross-cultural communication #humanistic education #ski tourism #Sustainability