Alan Machin's Blog: October 2008
Good Experience For Career Development
The fact that tourism is supposed to broaden the mind might be controversial although it does depend on how you define 'broaden' - a bit of knowledge or a lot, for example. Something which becomes clear from looking at the subsequent careers of Leeds Met tourism students is that their studies of the activity not only broaden the mind - as all higher education should do - but deepens their knowledge and develops their management skills particularly well. From resarching to decision-making, self-motivation to groupworking strengths and from interest in the tourism industry to appreciation of much wider fields of employment the experiences and outlooks of the ex-students is vastly improved.
Five graduates came back to Leeds this week to speak to level 2 students. They talked about their own days in University and what they found worked best for them in approaches to study. They traced their subsequent careers - longer for some of them than the more recent ones - and how they found and progressed their jobs. As happens in this kind of exercise each year we find students might be hearing what tutors already told them in class sessions but they relate much more strongly to recently graduated people and their similar experiences. Gary Dixon, Julie Somers, Gini Wilde, Nicola Jerzyszek and Richard Bryan are all to be found on the Alumni News page of this web site. What they have shown from their different fields of current work is that studying tourism is a fun way of studying business, society and the environment, opening up many jobs to students who have handled management modules and teaching about the wider world together. And it is also a way of getting more females into management, too -in our courses the women outnumber the men by a high margin. Long may they continue their studies - and long may their journeys around the world be.
The Story of Photography: Aids To Drawing
You may think it odd to include a posting about books for instruction in drawing techniques in a strand on tourist photography. The reason is that it leads to an all-important break-through.
The "Youth's New London Self-Instructing Drawing Book containing a series of progressive lessons" shown here was written by an N Whittock and published in 1836 by G Virtue of Paternoster Row, London. Some pages showed simple preliminary sketches to help the amateur artist to draw figures, animals, objacts and views. Others had engravings (there were no photographic reproductions possible in printing then as the basic processes would not be invented for three years and more) which could be copied. Explanatory text described what to do.
For the artist working on landscapes, views of buildings and the like as a traveller, the problem would remain. Despite books like this, the sketch artist still had to work from life. He, or she, had to sit with paper and pencil, look at the chosen view and create an image on a sheet of paper which would represent it. Could something be done to help that?
First Steps: Maps
History is about chaps, geography is about maps, went the old saying, and of course it was wrong. Well, misleading in the extreme anyway. History needs a sense of place just as geography does, and geographers deal with chaps and chappesses as well as the old favourites 'capes and bays'.
So maps like those shown above have so many uses.
They also had some indirect effects. In my case the between-the-wars Ordnance Survey 'Quarter Inch' map introduced me to map reading and to some knowledge of northern England. This was a map intended for motorist who would roam further afield so the one inch to one mile scaleallowed fair coverage, but we also had at home four adjoining maps. At one time they were pinned on a wall, correctly aligned to eack other, and had little paper-and-pin flags attached in some kind of war game. The 'one inch' map was an essential on a camping holiday my brother and I took which included the Keswick area as we hitch-hiked back from Scotland. Just visible on the cover is Dave's ballpoint pen list of shopping for sausages, tinned tomatoes and other goodies for cooking on the paraffin primus stove. And that was fity-two years ago.
Their modern equivalent is on the right: the Fugawi CD-Rom version of a quarter of all the 1:50,000 scale maps of northen England. These scroll seemlessly together on a desk computer and can be printed off in full colour in A4 sheet size. Intended also for orienteering enthusiasts they work in ways that were undreamt of in the days of the motorist's map of the 1930s. Mind you, that old map introduced this old chap to a very wide realm of both geography and history, and when I was able to get on the road myself I could really become a tourist.
I'm not in the habit of sending complaints to the media, but I have just sent this to the BBC via its Complaints button at the bottom of its website, on the subject of the Ross/Brand broadcast:
"I did not hear the original broadcast but have heard and read enough quotations and reports to make a judgement. The phone calls to Andrew Sachs were disgraceful, puerile and extremely damaging to all of us. How on earth could they justify such stupidity? No wonder so many younger people in the Radio 1 audience think them justified solely because the phone calls were claimed by the presenters to be funny and popular presenters must, of course, be right. Ross and Brand have added immeasurably to the problems of those of us trying to teach, at whatever level (for me, university) a sense of human decency. To justify themselves by claiming they were being funny when causing deep hurt to Sachs and his grand-daughter is offensive again and lacking in any kind of maturity. Would Brand and Ross like us to phone their relatives and subject them to such imbecility?
But it is also a disgrace that some producer, some editor, allowed the recorded tapes to be broadcast. The two presenters and their producer need to be knocked off their pompous pedestals. They are not great heroes but absolute, overpaid, zeroes. They have helped reduce a national pride - the BBC - to a national embarrassment".
Publicity Trick Or Research Treat?
In the Guardian newspaper Fred Pearce launches a critical look at the way in which commercial companies promote their so-called green credentials without much subtance to their claims. 'Greenwash' is the term the newspaper will use in a campaign to expose misleading advertising.
"The green claims coming from corporations can be absurdly general" said Pearce in the Guardian's G2 section on 23 October '08. "Nearly everything we buy these days seems to be 'sustainably sourced' or 'environmentall friendly'". Renault claims that its Twingo car is an 'eco' car "picturing it with leaves blowing out of its tailpipe, even though it's emissions are among the worst for a car of its size". Fiji Water claims to be cutting the carbon footprint of its water by 25% and offsetting the rest. "But isn't the whole idea of bottling water on a remote South Pacific island and shipping it to your dinner table just a tiny bit barmy?"
I see all of the dissertation proposals submitted by Tourism at Leeds final year students. In recent years there have been proposals to measure the environmentally friendly nature of hotels and tour operators by reading their web sites and noting down their claims. No efforts proposed to cross-check the claims by some other, comparative research method. They were under the misapprehension that what they called "content" analysis of web pages was sufficient. One project was to take a check list from an environmental action group and if a company's web site ticked most of the boxes by stating that they were doing most of the things listed, then the student would conclude that the company was some kind of green leader.
As Fred Pearce says, most claims by manufacturers to have magic ingredients in their washing powders and alcoholic drinks were made illegal unless proved properly years ago. Green advertising attempts to ignore the rules laid down by the Advertising Standards Authority and to greenwash its activities. Properly critical examination is needed. Researching students should remember the same lesson.
Old Rice Farm
We are used to a big-business approach to tourist attraction development in which expensive market research precedes product development with a big budget to launch the project. This is a very narrow view, though it is the one favoured by academic authors, perhaps because they and their publishers see commercial tourism companies as a large part of their market. Think of the range of UK attractions: the national museums (eg British Museum, Science Museum, V&A etc), the local city museums, the properties cared for by the National Trusts and the heritage quangos, the charity-run attractions like science centres, botanical gardens and wildlife centres including those of the Wildfowl Trust and the London, Chester and Bristol Zoos. There are many more. We are also used to thinking of the UK conservation, building and statutary planning rules that govern how attractions are developed.
Victoria and Jay Stevens, in Kentucky, USA, have taken the first steps in creating their own tourist attraction and how it began and is developing is giving an example of just how different things can be. Their project is not in a less-economically developed country but an advanced one which is a mixture of conservative attitudes to change and a vigorous acceptance of the entrepreneurial spirit. It is called Old Rice Farm and it occupies around 250 acres of land set in a valley close to the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains. Victoria and Jay have taken the first step towards 'developing' their property by having a local woodworker build them a cabin. It will provide them with a weekend base away from their full-time jobs in Cincinnati - Vicky in market research and Jay in jet engine maintenance. With a new baby less than a year old and busy lives back home they see it as a long term activity. Ideas are still churning around in their minds. Cabins for people to own or rent are in amongst the basic plans with hopes for small craft workshops and music events some of the prefered options. But already the nature of the 'holler' - the regional name for this kind of closed-ended side valley - and its neighbouring people has produced a fascinating glimpse of a very different way of life. Tourism planning here is at the grass roots - the blue grass roots just about as it's close to the famous horse country of Kentucky - and not up in the dark canopy of big business.
New postings will tell the tale.
Before Photography: Portraits and Paintings
Before photography was invented in the 1840s, and became more widely affordable in the in the early twentieth century, the only way of bringing home pictures of places and people was through painting and sketching. Those well-off young men (and occasionally women) who were sent out on the Grand Tour of Europe, for example, paid artists in the countries they visited to make portraits of them, often with local scenes as backgrounds to emphasise their knowledge of history and culture. Not all of them, of course, bothered to gain much of that knowledge, but the effect of displaying these portraits back home was what mattered. Artists like Pompeo Batoni, Teresa Mengs and Anton von Maron were busy developing a tourist trade.
The examples above show a Victorian gent having his portrait made, clearly with the stress on his feelings of self-importance. The illustration on the right represents the sort of watercolour that could be commissioned or bought off the shelf in places like Paris, Rome, Venice and the other cities of popular travel. It shows part of the Villa Adriani in Tivoli, Italy.
Buying a painting was one thing, but it was more expensive and the traveller only took home a very few. It would have been artistically impressive if you could produce your own works of art by the notebook-full. That could be done, as the next posting will show.
The Story Of ... Tourist Photography
Way back in the days pre-printing and pre-photography, people who made journeys to some place to work, be a pilgrim of some sort or to perform some necessary duty might have returned home with a stone, a flower or some kind of curiosity as a keepsake of where they had been. In a way it might have served the purpose of keeping them connected to somewhere distant by giving them a vicarious sense of owning a part of it. Better off people would later buy a work of art or better, have one made, often showing themselves in a portrait painted with a background representing where they had been.
We take photographs. For well over a century travellers have been snapping and picturing distant locations and often having some friend or passer-by take a photo with themselves standing in front of the chosen view. These days the mobile phone has become a ubiquitous means of making a self-portrait with some landmark behind - the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Iguasu Falls - by holding the mobile at arms length, lens pointed back towards themselves, unless some fellow traveller passing by offers to do it for them. "Can I take it for you?" bids fair to become one of the world's most popular English phrases as the speaker of one language meets the speaker of a different language and both resort to the common communicator - English.
Photography has shaped not only tourism but our understanding and viewing of the world. Still photos, movie film, live TV and video recording help set out our memories and communicate our messages in the language of technovision - since chemical and electronic systems impose a certain vocabulary on the records we make of our travels. Here's a chance to explore how photography has shaped our world view, especially as tourists exploring far-off places. Technology, mass production and cultural fashions have all played their part. Later postings will examine the development of travel photography and those same influences.
Demographics: Age-Sex Graphs
In our workshops today we were talking about age-sex graphs (or 'pyramids') and I tried to illustrate them by a quick sketch. These are three examples from the Population Reference Bureau web site (www.prb.org) and you should go to their web pages for much useful information about them.
On the left the West African example shows the point I was making about characteristic profiles - fewer older people survive in less economically developed countries. In the European example the distribution between age groups is more even and there is a falling-off of numbers in the youngest groups which is often found in economically developed countries. The third example, of Germany, shows irregular patterns, the results partly of deaths during wars, especially of the maile population. Emigration can also be a cause.
One of our Zimbabwean students was saying that her country's profile shows a distinct lack of numbers in the middle age groups as internal wars and strife along with high levels of emigration in the face of growing starvation have produced a very asymmetric profile. This is something I wasn't aware of and is a nice example of how in workshops all of us benefit from sharing knowledge.
My level 2 students might like to consider:
The organisational structure of each example
The geographic influences on the examples -
climate, nearby markets etc
Who the key players and stakeholders are
The conservation issues
The importance of heritage - and why?
Carrying capacities at each point in the tourist
The contribution to the local community
That will keep them going until January.
Leeds Met students have been choosing their topics for dissertation projects and are now busy at work on them. The range is again broad and some old chestnuts have gone while others have arrived. We don't stipulate the topics - students choose - and can put forward what they like. One or two got refused on grounds of risks of one sort or another (such as proposals requiring interviews with people working in legally problematic occupations or places) and others needed to be modified, but most could go ahead in one form or another.
In the 1990s a popular subject areas was the effects of the Channel Tunnel on British tourism. Later came the effect of the internet on the high street travel agency, and topic almost done to death in its basic form, though still attracting one or two people still. Sustainability has become more popular still even though it has been a long-time favourite, as has that uf urban regeneration. The effects of terrorism supply newer topic areas. However our own students seem to be more interested now in socio-cultural impacts and management than environmental issues, perhaps reflecting our teaching concerns. Marketing, along with branding, consumer choice and behaviour and image formation are still highly popular. Students see those areas as important job providers and of course tourism is important for business after all. Human Resource Management scores highly and is still almost entirely chosen by female students, though as the great majority of the class is composed of women that isn't so surprising. (A male graduate who entered the HR profession has reported he's in a clear minority, however).
The growing importance of issues around environmental and socio-cultural impacts is beginning to balance out the more business-related, money-making operational areas. Community involvement through local and national government and voluntary organisations is becoming more attractive to our undergraduates. The ways in which policies have to be decided and implemented in order to produce more sustainable situations is catching their imaginations. Tourism has a heavy not-for-profit sector ranging from quangos like English Heritage and charities such as the National Trust to local authorities which run so many attractions and drive public sector marketing campaigns, all requiring policy formation before all else. So it is rewarding to see this reflected in the interests that students are expressing and putting into practice through their research projects.
On The Level
A discussion with colleagues about the levels of education in university teaching brings reflections once more on how students see final year work. We have a challenging course in our tourism teaching, especially in that last year. As we deal with management training we put students under pressure. They have to balance the demands of a dissertation (about a quarter of their final marks) based on their individual work with a group project working with four or five other students. The individuals in the group are chosen by tutors in order to mix strong and weak personalities and different achievement levels. Tensions can exist as the year progresses. Conflicting demands on time between these and other modules mean that tough decisions must be faced and taken. It's just as in real, professional, life. Ex-students say that though it's tough at the time the experience of winning through sets them up well for career development.
Student opinion surveys part way through the final year reflect the stresses they feel at the time. What comes out is that they believe at that stage that there is a much bigger a step up from level 2 to 3 than there is from 1 to 2 and it should be reduced. Now, there might be pressures to dumb down, to soften the hard edges of that final year. Some tutors believe that higher education has been put under so much government pressure to boost participation by the post-school generation that reducing standards has been the order of the day. It should also be remembered that tutor stress has been increased by having to handle classes twice the size of what they once were - not just because of the teaching in class but because of the administration and pastoral care demanded.
A problem that underlines management teaching at HE level is that competition for jobs and industrial standards call for high levels of competence and approach in new graduates. Since tutors want to help students meet these demands the final year requirements generally stay. There is another way of looking at the problem, anyway. That is that post-compulsory education students have their own levels to be aware of, not just the educational steps from one to three which underpin the planning of their education. They have perceptions of the whole process and how they must respond to it. These start at a pre-higher education level as they think of university as a time for independence, socialising and learning (probably in that order). At level 1 they are then finding out what it is all about. At level 2 they have proved their worth and don't see the requirement yet to go into the highest gear necessary for a good award. when level 3 arrives with the final exam board only nine months away the adrenalin flows, the stress - and sometimes the panic - kicks in. On being asked half way through what their views are they will be measuring not the educational levels but their own fears and the hopes which might be about the be dashed. It isn't a joyful prospect, but they need to stay level headed and on course to meet the challenge. It's their spirit level that is being checked at this stage.
On The Road
This week Pat and I took a trip to the Motorhomes and Caravans Show at the NEC near Birmingham. Pat having sold her market research business last April and me reaching my sell-by date this year, we are planning to start making caravan trips. Judging by the market segment inspecting the goods on offer at the show it's the kind of thing that crumblies do. We have already changed our car for a Kia Sorento which can tow a mansion on wheels if needs be so tried it out on a longer journey getting to Brum. (We guessed two hours' driving time, allowed two and a half, took three thanks to bad weather, traffic and widening the dear old M1).
There might be a recession looming but the exhibition was heaving with people. Whether they are all buying remains for somebody to see. We concentrated on just one part of the show which occupied several halls, but we still staggered towards our lunchbreak and staggered more back to the park and ride bus at the end of our visit. This is a big area of tourism with a large infrastructure of services and sites looking afters the customers. Will more take to it as a means of reducing holiday costs during a credit squeeze? Perhaps for some it will provide an answer, though low cost flights and budget hotels booked through the internet are likely to take many people abroad still. It is, by the way, noticeable that while the famous high street travel agencies have been feeling the competition from home booking for a long time, it is also affecting web-based services - some four LeedsMet graduates lost their jobs recently when Online Travel, based in Leeds, closed down. More and more people are likely to want to arrange book-it-yourself holidays now in order to avoid paying a company a fee for doing what they can do themselves almost free.
We had marked down two makes of caravan as the kind we might go for next summer when retirement equals time to travel. Having learnt long ago to check every possibility we did the rounds of all the stands and found two more, both better in terms of price and design. As we may be spending some time on trips and hope to cross the channel a few times, getting the right one requires a lot of planning (especially as we have plenty of ideas which will occupy our time as we explore places). So the old adage still applies: leave no stone unturned. The way I drive a 4x4 that's likely to be the case.
That's My Baby!
On a bric-a-brac stall in the touristy area of Monastiraki, Athens, stands an old film projector. It's a Pathescope Baby, French-designed and using the 9.5mm format which had virtually disappeared by the early 1960s. This version was probably made in the 1920s. The folm was only a little narrower than the pro-am 16mm that was used by TV companies and well-off amateurs. It is recognisable by the single line of sprocket holes for the projector mechanism to wind the film on during a show, running down the middle, between the frames. The projector has an electric motor attached. The film ran into a chamber from where it had to be rewound. Cameras for this kind of film were at first hand-cranked: later a lock-on side unit with a wind-up motor could be used; later still battery motors were possible. Pathe films were printed from cinema releases - I had a Pathescope Ace - hardly more than a toy really but capable of showing 20-minute silent reels - in the late fifties. Cartoons, newsreels and travelogues were sold. Camera owners could add their own records of family events and holidays. This kind of set-up was the equivalent of the moviecam of today in which sophisticated colour films with stereo sound can be recorded and viewed on a tiny, hand-held device. Now the Baby lies abandoned on a market stall, awaiting some travelling collector to give it a new home as a curiosity of the amateur film industry. Someone with a bigger suitcase than I had.
My previous email shows two dates - 14 October and 18 October. Part way through writing it my keyboard decided it ought to give me a challenge to brighten my day. Every time I pressed a key the requisite letter or action appeared twice. I found myself deleting two old email for example when I only clicked a deletion of one - and it took a little while to realsied that was happening. No knowing whether my computer had caught a Hong Kong 'flu virus or the software had gone potty it took quite a while to discover that it was the keyboard going a bit qqeerrttyy as it were. I did discover that holding down the Function key restored the process to one letter at a time - but it also reduced me to single-finger typing (and at best I only manage two, one from each hand - but I'm pretty fast at that). So out to the local branch of PC World and a replacement board of the same model ... problem solved.
It did raise another point. At the moment that the fault occurred a new email arrived and the Outlook message popped up - did I want to read it now? Being busy typing I didn't notice what was happening and happened to press the Enter key to open a new paragraph - which told the Outlook message that I wanted to open the email. Now that I never do - I like to know something is there but I only open trusted, non-spam, virus-free messages. Seeing an email bursting forth I quickly killed it. Just as well because it was a dodgy missive with an attachment, all of which got zapped. That all sounds good, but of course as the keyboard went doolally at that point it lead me to think that a virus attack was the cause.
So now I have followed the example of other people and close the email system down after reading whatever has arrived. And I have just completed the previous posting.
14.10.08 / 18.10.08
I had always liked Expedia.com for booking flights, restaurants and excursions. The website works well with many integrated services. It's clear. Itineraries can be stored. Above all, a problem arising last year which meant my wife and I needed to postpone a complex American trip for some months was dealt with in a very helpful fashion by phone. The agent I dealt with had time and knowledge, advised well and helped us shift the whole set of flights to where we wanted it.
So a recent problem has punctured that image of helpfulness. Three days before our trup to Rome in September we were phoned to say the booked hotel was closing: could we choose another and let them know? I did, calling in Trip Advisor as usual to check customer reviews. I called Expedia back - actually Lodgeops@expedia.com who handle the bookings. Voice mail - choose one of three optional extension lines. I did and then spent twenty frustrating minutes waiting while nobody answered but an increasingly irritating, upbeat American voice told me how much they valued my business and would be right with me. I heard five cycles of hald a dozen variations on this message before I hunbg up and redialled.
I did speak to an agent. She took details, found my booking on her screen and requested me to wait while she reviwed the several notes attached. Several minutes of reviewing several notes later she came back, said the system was down, could she call back. I told her of the new hotel chosen and rang off. She did call back as promised to say the chosen hotel's booking department was closed for the evening (around 7pm) but in any case my original hotel had booked me in to a five-star hotel already, with them picking up the tab. It was five kilometres out of the city. Time was running late and so was the day so I accepted - unfortunately.
We flew out and took the train in to the city, then a taxi to the hotel. It was around 3pm and we should have been depositing our luggae and exploring some nice little cafe. Instead we were at a hotel with no food service, no cafes or shops nearby and a metro - subway - station a ten minute drive away. The hotel turned out to be of a mixed quality - a Golden Tulip: having stayed in them twice before elsewhere we expected better, but the front desk service was lousy with mixed messages about the time the restaurant opened and a series of other problems. I muust say that the restaurant when it did open was superb - friendly, helpful and serving good food: late one night they produced a two course meal within a very short time of when they should have been closing and with the greatest good nature.
But back to the Expedia problem. We had to use the metro or taxis to get into the city and back again, thankfully reducing the costs as we got to learn better ways of doing it. It put our costs up and had deprived us of our first evening in the city. So on returning home I wrote and email to Expedia pointing out the damage to our holiday and recounting the extra costs. After a few days I prompted them to reply and we had a sort-of corrspondence by email about the costs and their willingness to consider the matter. They asked me to send receipts. They didn't tell me their address and we didn't have receipts for all the taxi fares. Every time I sent an email I had to wait at least a week and then request an answer. At the present time I still haven't got an address to which I can send receipts.
And I used to think Expedia gave a personal, caring service. Like heck.
Where In The World?
Industrial cities have their great monuments too. Was it because they didn't have great pyramids, colosseums or temples that they developed an interest in steam engines and factories? Industrial archaeology has been around for at least sixty years. It has very large numbers of devotees who photograph the remains of the manufacturing world - buildings, transport systems, those sorts of things. And gas works, which is what the photo above shows. Britain led the world in industrialisation. Its landscape is a rich legacy of the economic and social systems that sprang from the changes. So we have rightly drawn attention to those remains and what they have to tell us of the start of globalisation and environmental pollution just as much as of the coming of new, more widespread forms of wealth. So monuments like the one above have become icons of the British experience as much as the Acropolis is an icon of the Greek experience. We associate icons and places in a way that becomes automatic.
Which is why it's interesting to note that the preserved gas works, now a theatre and arts centre, of which the storage tank above is part, is in fact in the centre of Athens.
OK - as a tourist you see new places and meet new people. What kind of foods did you discover for the first time, abroad? On my list are goose and potato salad (Germany, 1962-ish);apple juice, borsch and caviare (Russia, 1964 - lunch stop on a tour in the picture above for apple juice which wasn't common in my home town then); octopus (Spain, 1968) cheesecake, whisky sours, sweet potato and coffeemate (USA 1969 - the coffeemate on the plane out); oysters (Paris, 2007 - hadn't fancied them before and wasn't very impressed). I bet our travelling students sample a much more exotic fare in far-flung places nowadays ... or do they live on familiar beefburgers?
Easier To Get Around?
The previous posting suggested it's easier to travel the world. I wish it was always easier to travel to Leeds to teach students about travelling the world. One day this week the journey - actually back to Halifax, on one of those things shown above - was dreadful. And that is after the train operator promised three coaches on every train. Many are still only two. On this day it was a standing-for-forty-minutes journey for yours truly. At Leeds the cheerful - but embarrassed - train crew had to ask three times for people to move down the train to let others on, but even then at least a dozen attempting to board by the door nearest to me had to turn back. It was hot and very uncomfortable. Most people stood in miserable silence, though two passengers carried on a loud conversation across people stood between them for the whoile of their journey. Some got off at stops along the way, only to be replaced by others at busy Bradford. Awkward positions when standing lead to achey limbs over that distance. Open doors at station stops brought a breath of fresh air but that didn't last. Thank goodness for Halifax station at long last. Where the scaffolding that has been propping up the ageing structure has become a familiar landmark over the years it has stood there. Misery for commuters when the frequent overcrowding happens, a terrible image for travellers stepping off at Halifax. Anyone getting on and off at stations without ticket checks (those exist only at Leeds on this journey) can do so without a ticket. What a way to run a railway. Did Britain invent railways or rail woes?
Globetrotting in the 21st Century
Seeing news of some of the Leeds Met alumni as they spread out across the world illustrates the ease with which people - especially young people - travel these days. Tourism students have the interest in, and often the experience of, travelling before they get to university. Having been equipped with a whole range of skills and plenty of inspiration from their teaching it's not surprising they take the opportunity to travel while they have fewer ties. It's not to say that they all launch out on global tours after graduation - some have to wait while the pennies mount up, others already have families or other commitments taking priority. But - the credit squeeze apart - lower costs, rapid transport and a realisation that people round the globe are friendly, the food is good and there is fun to be had have all helped get them moving. Far more people round the planet speak the main language of travel - English - and that helps those monoglots from the UK to communicate their needs for a bed, breakfast and a bus ticket to the next destination. There's another probable reason: the wartime attitude, based on the years of empire, that johnny foreigner was of inferior stock has faded fast. The last stains of that era need to be scrubbed out fast.
An open day at my old Staffordshire primary school a month ago gave a look back to where I could almost say my tourism interest began. Or, to be more accurate, interest in geography. It was the first time I had been in the school since 1954 when I completed my time at the junior school. The place looked so small compared with what it seemed like then, but it was also bigger - some more rooms and additional buildings have been added. The spaces were more colourful, and so were the children taking part in this Saturday opening, singing in the hall and showing off current styles of work.
It was here that Mrs Pickering, teacher in the oldest class in the place, introduced something quite new: project work. Six of us were placed round desks in the corner shown above, given some books and magazines and told to find out all that we could about a Malayan (as it was then) rubber plantation. I was chosen as the 'librarian' gathering together whatever we found into one place. It was so different from the more formal whole-class teaching that permeated most subjects and it was fun. We felt we achieved something. I remember one of the things we achieved was a paper model of a plantation with crude trees and a hut glued together. I don't know for sure about the others in the group, but I got the bug of learning about foreign places and it is a bug which has trotted around a few stacks of books, magazines, films and maps ever since. It would have been impossible to say at that stage that I would pursue a career in and out of the tourism industry because I didn't enter it formally for another nineteen years and a lot of other adventures in education later. But that little corner was still one of the places where I really began to look out beyond my classroom and my home to see the world beyond the windows.
06 October '08
This blog is a sort-of revival of the Idealog pages which I ran until last December. Other projects got in the way of continuing those. In this version I will mix brief comments, news, notes and opinions with slightly longer articles. Some will be very short - but hopefully range widely and easily over a broad field which will still relate in one way or another to: tourism as education.
With retirement approaching in late July 2009 I guess its inevitable that there will be quite a bit of reflection and recollection with a personal slant on things. The story? - it's one of time and space, when you think about it - mine, ours, everyone's ....
Answers to the Where In The World quiz (blog - 06.12.08)
Germany, the UK, India
First woman prime minister: Sirimavo Bandaranaike