Sunday, 1 March 2009

Ethics in Tourism

Guest Lecture at the

Free University of Bolzano-Bozen

The Free University of Bozen-Bolzano is a highly renown institute located in South Tyrol, Italy. Founded in 1997, the FU Bolzano is organised in one school (economics and management) and four faculties (computer science, design and art, education, science and technology). Today, it has about 3,100 students that are taught in German, English and Italian.

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano

The campus in Bruneck-Brunico, situated in the marvellous surrounding of the Italian Alps, is home to the tourism branch of the university. The major in Tourism Management, offered as a three-year course, is equally trilingual. It prepares students from Italy and other European countries for the challenges in the international tourism industry by practice-oriented study activities. This includes seminars, applied tourism projects, internship semester, field trips and academic work.

FU Bozen Tourism Management

My first contact with the FU Bozen dates back to 2007, where I held a university seminar on the tourism development in Dubai and spoke at an event of the Tourism Management Club (=> link to previous weblog article). This year, I was invited to conduct a workshop about an equally controversial topic: “Ethics in Tourism – Acting Responsibly in the Business Environment”.

Cover Page of the Seminar Presentation

The full-day seminar was attended by 25 students, most of them with little or no expectations regarding the content of the lecture. But already in the very beginning of the seminar, where case studies of ethical dilemmas in daily tourism practice were discussed, the interest for the subject was raised quickly. What followed was a highly interactive day of cases, discussions, films, theoretical input and personal experiences, all related to ethical concerns in the work and private areas.

The structure, contents and applied teaching methods during the seminar were laid out as follows:

A . Introduction to Ethics
  • Case Studies “The Ethical Dilemma”
  • Article “The Ethical Mind”
  • Film “A Grand Day Out”
  • Presentation: Relevance of (Business) Ethics
B . What is (Business) Ethics?
  • Lecture: Theoretic Background
  • Exercise “Stakeholders in Tourism Projects
C . Corporate Ethics Programmes
  • Presentation: Ethics in Companies
  • Case Study/Group Work “CSR on Inagua, The Bahamas”
  • Exercise “Responsible Engagement of Companies”
D . Codes of Ethics in Tourism
  • Lecture: Codes of Ethics
  • Case Examples “UN Global Compact” and “UNWTO Code of Ethics”
  • Group Work “Codes of Conduct”
E . Acting Responsibly
  • Ethical Criteria for Decision-Making
  • Evaluation Test
  • Conclusion & Feedback

The final feedback from the students towards the topic and the lecture was highly positive. The learning experience expressed by the participants showed that ethics is a highly relevant topic already at the student stage that is often neglected or not sufficiently mentioned in the education process.

Student Feedback on Learning Experience

A high acceptance of a potentially boring topic of ethics was also expressed. Especially the case studies showing the direct connection of ethical behaviour in daily work practice was met with great interest. But also the personal experiences from the industry, paired with interactive teaching methodologies such as the film, a world puzzle or moderated discussions contributed to the positive resonance amongst the students.

Critical Evaluation of the Lecture

Both the perfect organisation of the FU Bozen and the active participation of the students helped to make the seminar “Ethics in Tourism” a large success. The key learning experiences 1) to create an awareness for responsible conduct, 2) to evaluate actions from a moral point of view and 3) to make own decisions on the basis of ethical criteria were fully reached.

Especially against the background of the current economic crisis, which is largely based on a lack of fundamental business principles and values, the topicality of ethical behaviour in the work environment becomes increasingly evident.

On a personal level, I very much enjoyed the interactive work with the students and there is one question by a student that I will definitely keep in my own mind: “When you talk about ethical behaviour, why is the project document of a Sustainable Tourism Master Plan that you show us not printed double-sided – doesn’t that waste valuable resources?”

Andreas Hauser

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