The perceived inﬂuence of travel experiences on learning generic skills
, Philip Pearce
Hotel, Restaurant & Resort Management, Northwood University, 2600 North Military Trail, West Palm Beach, FL 33409, USA
School of Business, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
Received 1 April 2010
Accepted 30 April 2011
Empirical work exploring the role of travel in assisting the learning of skills is of interest to travellers,
educators and employers. Pearce and Foster’s generic skills attributes list was used as a basis to inves-
tigate the amount and nature of perceived learning by North American University students. It was
established through survey research and tested with ANOVA comparisons that travel experiences were
perceived as assisting the learning of generic skills, especially amongst those who had travelled inter-
nationally four or more times. Key skills seen as inﬂuenced by travel included independence, being open-
minded and feeling comfortable around all kinds of people. There was a moderate increase in
communication skills. The ﬁndings showed close links with previous studies of youth budget travellers.
Employers and educators can consider travel to be a learning opportunity affecting the acquisition of key
business and generic skills.
Ó2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
In the contemporary global economy certain skills are identiﬁed
as contributing to the effective performances of business leaders
and managers. These skills include, but are not limited to self-
conﬁdence, effective communication, time management, risk-
taking, open-mindedness, adaptability, allocation of resources,
and emotional stability (Cooper, 1997; Moody, Stewart, & Bolt-Lee,
2002; Novelli & Taylor, 1993). According to Elmuti, Minnis, and
Abebe (2005) these characteristics are routinely discussed in
college classrooms but cannot always be properlydeveloped in that
setting. University students themselves have indicated that
meaningful and practical lessons come from outside the classroom
and one of the potentially inﬂuential sources for the development
of skills lies in experiences accrued while travelling and taking
holidays (Seidman & Brown, 2006).
The framework of this study is modelled after contemporary
tourism research concerning skill development amongst largely
young British and European backpackers conducted by Pearce and
Foster (2007). The present research investigates the learning
outcomes perceived to be associated with travel amongst North
American university students. This sample of travellers supple-
ments the work of Pearce and Foster and offers the opportunity to
broaden the applicability of ﬁndings concerning skill acquisition
and travel. The objectives of the research are
1. To determine if students with different levels of travel experi-
ence perceive travel as developing business relevant generic
2. To assess how much travel was required to change the
students’perceptions of the beneﬁts of travel to generic skills.
3. To compare the perceptions of the inﬂuence of travel on skill
development versus the effects of education alone on skill
4. To identify if there are any particular sub-sets or individual
business related generic skills perceived to be more strongly
developed by travel experiences.
2. Literature review
2.1. Generic skills edeﬁnitions and justiﬁcation
For the purpose of this study, generic skills are deﬁned as “the
abilities, capacities and knowledge one requires to function as
a sophisticated professional in an information rich society”(Pearce,
2002, p. 7). In previous studies, generic skills have also been
labelled graduate attributes or applied skills (Harvey, 2000; Pearce,
2002). These skills have also been identiﬁed as key skills in the
United Kingdom, necessary skills in the United States and leader-
ship skills in Australia (Centre for Understanding Research in
*Corresponding author. Tel.: þ61 7 4781 4762; fax: þ61 7 4781 4019.
E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (J. Scarinci), Philip.Pearce@jcu.edu.
au (P. Pearce).
Tel.: þ1 561 681 7913; fax: þ1 561 681 7940.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/tourman
0261-5177/$ esee front matter Ó2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Tourism Management 33 (2012) 380e386
Vocational Education, 2001; University of Western Australia, 1996).
Like so many other broad terms, the labels change with the
researchers’geographic locations, but the underlying concept
remains the same. It is quite clear that whatever the exact termi-
nology, these kinds of skills are prominent when employers
consider hiring graduates. Pearce and Foster (2007) elaborate on
the concept of generic skills as follows:
Examples of generic skills include such abilities as identifying and
solving problems, managing time well, communicating with
a range of audiences, persuading others, continuing one’s learning
and, amongst others, managing ﬁnancial resources. The support for
the importance of generic skill acquisition in formal education as
well as in other contexts is reﬂected in the texts of university
recruiting and marketing statements and is boosted by similar
support from businesses (Pearce & Foster, 2007,p.4).
The perspective adopted in this study is to embrace the broad
deﬁnition offered by Pearce (2002) which usefully directs attention
to the skills and knowledge which travellers might acquire to build
their professional and working lives. Generic skills have been
a concern to educators for some time with much business educa-
tion being criticized for being fragmented and not always relevant
to the skills needed in employment settings (Elmuti et al., 2005;
Nirenberg, 2003; Tinto, 1997). Traditional settings and approaches
may be very functional for teaching declarative (or heavily infor-
mation based) business knowledge such as accounting, ﬁnance and
organizational (Biggs, 2003). There is, however, a wide chorus of
calls for learning experiences and opportunities which give
students a chance to develop their interpersonal skills and capac-
ities (Buss, 2001; Doh, 2003; Elmuti et al., 2005; Gosling &
Mintzberg, 2004; Milter & Stinson, 1995). Milter and Stinson
(1995) suggest that behavioural and communication skills are
often missing altogether from traditional educational programs.
The pathways to correct these skill deﬁciencies often focus on
providing students with ﬁeld trips, work placements and intern-
ships but there are also suggestions that international exchanges
and travel experiences can play an important informal educational
role (Gmelch, 1997; Kuh, 1995; Pearce & Foster, 2007). It is this
informal educational role of travel which is of particular interest in
2.1.1. Researching generic skills
The systematic study of the need for and the acquisition of
generic skills include work done in several countries and with
different target samples. In a study typical of this area of work and
surveying the target group of employers, Clarke (1997) looked at
the needs of 40 United States trust member companies, which
together employed over one million employees. The survey
revealed that the employers viewed graduates as lacking skills in
the areas of communication and the ability to apply learned
knowledge. Many respondents cited skills such as ﬂexibility,
adaptability, team membership, interpersonal and communication
skills, and the ability to think innovatively as being underdeveloped
in recently employed graduates. Similar ﬁndings have been
revealed in studies in other parts of the United States, the United
Kingdom and Australia (Gursoy & Swanger, 2005; Nabi & Bagley,
1999; University of Western Australia, 1996).
There is also work of particular interest to the present study
which reports the broad skill related beneﬁts of student travel. For
example, Gmelch (1997) observed that students of university age
returned home from their trips abroad with an increased sense of
self-conﬁdence, adaptability and an improved ability to cope,
survive and deal with surprises. In an analysis employing a non-
travel control group, Hansel (1998) found that students who trav-
elled appeared more independent, more aware of their home
culture as well as less materialistic and less conventional than their
non-travelling counterparts. Earlier, a tourism based study of young
travellers in Europe demonstrated that those returning home
(again by comparison with a control group) had different and more
tolerant views of their own nationality as a consequence of their
adventure group travels (Pearce, 1982).
A limited number of researchers have focussed just on business
and leadership skills. Many of these contributions provide argu-
ments and anecdotes about skill development rather than detailed
empirical evidence. Kuh (1995) noted that travel was a powerful
contributor to particular business skills for some students. In
particular he argued that the skills required in out of classroom
experiences were those required in an increasing number of jobs
including leadership. The value of travel related experiences as
a precursor to corporate and political leadership has been empha-
sized by Hunt (2000) and Oddou, Mendenhall, and Ritchie (2000).
Some of the existing literature on the learning of generic skills
through travel does more than simply document the skills which
seem to increase for certain groups of travellers. It also describes
the conditions or circumstances necessary for skill building to take
place. Factors of importance in fostering experiential learning
include internal motivation, self-initiated activity, involvement in
the experience, the experience of novelty and opportunities to
reﬂect on the experience with others (Boud, Keogh, & Walker,1985;
Foley, 2000; Gmelch, 1997; Mohsin & Christie, 2000). These
conditions for learning are very applicable to many younger
student travellers and the types of experiential travel they pursue
(Murphy, 2001; Pearce, 1990).
In a recent study Pearce and Foster (2007) have attempted
a thorough audit of generic skills. They extracted generic skill items
from a comprehensive literature review of the skills topic area and
supplemented this information with self reports of skill develop-
ment from traveller web sites to develop a 42 item framework of
generic skills. In a second part of their study young budget travel-
lers were shown a list of the skills and asked to identify skills they
thought they had developed due to international travel. The top
three skills that the respondents perceived they had developed
included effective communication (84.7%), being open-minded
(84.1%) and gaining in self-conﬁdence (79.3%). Pearce and Foster’s
research concluded that a majority of their 372 respondents felt
that travel had substantially increased at least ten of their generic
It is particularly notable that Pearce and Foster’s study identiﬁed
that the most commonly developed skill through travelling was
effective communication skills. This is directly relevant to the
assertions from employers that graduates lack this skill in business
employment (Clarke, 1997; Gursoy & Swanger, 2005). The oppor-
tunity for additional research to conﬁrm Pearce and Foster’s (2007)
study on the communication beneﬁts of travel is worthy of atten-
tion as this particular perceived skill deﬁcit appears to be one of the
less well developed abilities resulting from formal business
education. Additionally, there are other unanswered questions in
this ﬁeld. The Pearce and Foster study was concerned with budget
travellers surveyed in Australia who were on extended stays in their
host destination. It is appropriate to ask is it only those with a long
stay in a different location who develop these generic skill advan-
tages? What length of stay or what amount of travel experience is
necessary before these generic skills appear to be noticeably
different from those who do not travel? And further, since any one
study has its limitations in terms of sampling, it can be asked
whether or not the skills developed are always the same from
setting to setting or do they vary when another sample of travellers
is considered from the same age range but in a different location or
country? These questions drive the present research and are
formulated as the four speciﬁc goals outlined previously.
J. Scarinci, P. Pearce / Tourism Management 33 (2012) 380e386 381
The data collection method employed for the study was a two
page survey that was adapted from Pearce and Foster (2007).
Selected freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior classes were used
to gain access to the students during the 2007 winter term at
Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Florida. As a small
tourism hospitality and business college in the United States the
courses and student experiences may be seen as broadly typical of
modest programs in much contemporary North Americaneducation.
The Northwood University courses fulﬁlled the general education
requirements for undergraduate business students and the students
selected were a representative sample of the total population. All
ages, genders, and educational levels were represented.
3.2. Data collection forms
A cover letter was provided explaining the research and
requesting the students’participation. The participants were
advised that their participation was voluntary and the responses
were anonymous. Therefore, at the unit of analysis level, self
selection was the process of sample formation. An incentive was
included at the bottom of the cover letter to increase the response
rate. The researchers used structured questions to gather the
primary data. The ﬁrst section of the survey was used to gather
general travel information such as the frequency of international
travel, length of travel time, with whom they travel, and the loca-
tion of travel.
The second section of the survey was designed to determine the
level of skill development. The respondents were asked to identify
skills that were developed as a result of international travel on a 4
point rating scale (1 ¼no change to 4 ¼greatly improved). If they
had not travelled internationally then they were asked to identify
the skills they had developed as a result of their university expe-
rience on the same 4 point rating scale. Additionally, they were
asked to rate each of the skills as to the relevance to employment on
a 4 point scale (1 ¼not relevant to 4 ¼very relevant).
The third section of the instrument was designed to address the
demographics of the students. Questions such as gender, grade
level, age, and whether they were an international student were
asked in order to determine if there is a relationship between these
variables and their level of skill development. The survey was kept
to a minimum length with 10 key questions and a rating system for
ease of completion. The average time to complete the survey was
approximately 11 min and a pilot test was conducted to ensure the
effectiveness of the survey, conﬁrm the administrative procedures
and ease of the respondent’s understanding and comprehension of
3.3. Total population and sample
The population for this study included all of the undergraduate
business students that attend Northwood University in West Palm
Beach, Florida. A detailed approach to the selection of respondents
was undertaken. By systematically sampling students from across
the institution there is a basis for inferring that the ﬁndings can be
extended to the experiences of students at the whole institution
and to a lesser extent to similar colleges and University environ-
ments. All subjects were students enrolled during the Winter Term
2007. The registered enrollment for the winter term was six
hundred and eighty-four (684) students. According to Krejcie and
Morgan (1970), to achieve a ninety-ﬁve (95) percent conﬁdence
level, a sample size of 248 was required in order to represent a total
population of 684 students. In order to maintain a proportionate
stratiﬁed sample, the sample size for this study was 326 students.
The sample unit for this research was ﬁrst broken down by core
curriculum classes that the researchers identiﬁed would provide
a stratiﬁed sample to represent the total population. The classes
chosen for the research were from the winter term 2007 and
consisted of freshman, sophomores, juniors, and senior level
classes in the core business curriculum. The students in each of the
selected classrooms became the basic level of the sample unit.
The total sample size was three hundred twenty-six (326), which
is a representative sample of 48% of the total population. The sample
consisted of 58.6% male (n¼191) and 32.2% female (n¼105); and
a 9.2% non-response rate (n¼30). Female representation is rela-
tively low at Northwood University compared to the national
average. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics
(NCES) (2004) men comprise 42.8% of all degree granting enroll-
ment while women (57.2%) are somewhat more common in many
institutions. The majority of students are in the age categories of
18e21 (57.4%) and 22e25 (31.3%). The respondents were within the
traditional age range for undergraduates.
The sample was representative and proportionally distributed
based on grade level for the stratiﬁed sampling method. The sample
was comprised of 67 freshmen (20.5%), 59 sophomore (18.1%), 71
junior (21.8%), 101 senior (31.0%) and 28 non-response rate (8.6%).
The distribution of grade level compared to the population was
within an acceptable range of a 3.0% variation for the freshman
class, 3.7% variation for the sophomore class, 0% for the junior class
and 1.9% variation for the senior class. This variation in grade
distribution can be attributed to the 8.6% (n¼28) non-response
rate for this question. The sample included 31% international
students (n¼101) and 60.1% non-international students (n¼196)
with a non-response rate of 8.9% (n¼29). The percent of interna-
tional students in the sample (31%) is representative of the percent
of international students in the total population (30%).
3.4. Travel behaviour
The respondents were asked the number of times they had
travelled internationally over the past two (2) years. The majority of
respondents (67.5%) indicated that they have travelled interna-
tionally between 1 and 5 times in the past (2) years. Only 29.4%
stated that they have not travelled internationally in the past two
(2) years with a 3.1% non-response. The largest category for times
travelled was ﬁve times or more (20.6%). The majority of the
respondents (n¼161) also indicated that they normally travel with
others (70%). The most frequently visited continents were North
America (43.6%) and Europe (32.2%).
The ﬁrst objective of the research was to determine if students
with different levels of travel experience perceive travel as devel-
oping business relevant generic skills differently. This was assessed
using a one way analysis of variance for independent samples to
compare the perceived skill beneﬁts of travel by students with
different frequencies of travel. It is important to be precise in terms
of exactly how the skills questions were asked. As documented in
the methods section the respondents were asked to identify skills
that were developed as a result of international travel on a 4 point
rating scale (1 ¼no change to 4 ¼greatly improved). The data
reported in Table 1 contrasts the perceived beneﬁts of international
travel by students who had travelled internationally once, twice,
three times, four times or 5 or more times. The results indicate that
the level of travel experience makes a difference to the perceived
beneﬁts of travel for 14 out of 20 skills.
J. Scarinci, P. Pearce / Tourism Management 33 (2012) 380e386382
The second principal objective of this study was to address the
question of how much travel was required to change the students’
perceptions of the beneﬁts of travel to generic skills. The substance
of this question was addressed by re-examining the data in Table 1
for the 14 signiﬁcant items and determining for each skill what
amount of travel experience seems to make a difference in the
perceived beneﬁts of travel for the development of that skill. The
Scheffe post hoc tests were used in this analysis and signiﬁcant
differences in the levels of perceived beneﬁts are indicated by
different bracketed letters attached to the means in Table 1. The
consistent and major effects for travel being seen as signiﬁcantly
more important to skill development occur predominantly when
the students have travelled on four or more occasions.
The third objective in this analysis was to identify the compar-
ative perceptions of the inﬂuence of travel on skill development
versus the effects of education alone on skill development. To make
this comparison the students who had not travelled internationally
were asked to rate changes in skill development but this time on
the basis of their university education on the same 4 point rating
scale (1 ¼no change to 4 ¼greatly improved). The data from these
students were compared with the data from the experienced
travellers (four or more international trips) as identiﬁed in the
previous section. The descriptive comparisons are presented in
Table 2. It is not technically appropriate to provide a statistical
comparison of these scores since the meaning of the dependent
variable is subtly different; one emphasizes travel effects, the other
educational inﬂuences. The data provided can however offer a type
of benchmark for the effects of travel. For all 20 skills the interna-
tionally well-travelled students consider the impacts of travel to be
more powerful than the non-travelled students’views of the
impacts of classroom education on skill development.
Additional information to help interpret the effects of travel on
the perceived beneﬁts to skill development is identiﬁed in Table 3.
The data provided in Table 3 separate the international students
in the sample from domestic United States students who have
travelled internationally. The data were analyzed using a ttest for
independent samples. Since international students not only travel
internationally but also reside in the country in which they study,
the effects of acculturation may be seen to magnify the travel
effects. The data in Table 3 consistently show this perceived
Skill development comparison between non-travellers assessing educational based
skill development and students who have travelled four or more times assessing
travel based beneﬁts.
Skill Non-travellers Well-travelled
NMean score NMean score
Effective communication 90 2.83 83 3.12
Being open-minded 90 3.09 84 3.42
Self-conﬁdence 90 2.69 85 3.27
Decision-making 90 2.86 84 3.18
General Knowledge 90 3.11 83 3.29
Understanding and awareness 90 2.90 85 3.32
Feeling comfortable around all
types of people
89 2.87 85 3.32
Adaptability 90 2.90 84 3.38
Tolerance 90 2.86 85 3.11
Independence 89 3.03 85 3.53
Forward thinking 90 2.76 85 3.29
Management of ﬁnancial resource 90 2.66 85 3.18
Self-motivation 89 2.69 85 3.15
Self-evaluation 90 2.78 85 2.96
Dealing with pressures, emotions
88 2.55 85 3.05
Interpersonal understanding 89 2.67 84 3.13
Responsibility 88 2.92 84 3.30
Patience 89 2.60 84 2.95
Observing caution and vigilance 89 2.73 82 3.06
Making and maintaining relationships 89 2.77 84 3.05
Statistical comparisons are not provided because of the subtle differences in the
dependent variable. The skill development means score ratings were on a scale of:
1¼no change, 2 ¼improved a little, 3 ¼moderately improved, 4 ¼greatly
Perceived importance of international travel to skills development by students with different levels of international travel experience.
Skill Development Amount of travel experience (number of international trips)
12345or more Sig
NMean Score NMean Score NMean Score NMean Scores NMean Score Probability F
Effective communication 55 2.49a 54 2.74a 22 2.77a 18 3.11b 64 3.11b 0.006**
Being open-minded 57 3.26 54 3.15 22 3.05 17 3.29 66 3.44 0.147
Self-conﬁdence 57 2.72a 54 2.59a 22 3.00a 18 3..33b 66 3.24b 0.000**
Decision-making 57 2.67a 54 2.69a 22 2.68a 18 3.11b 65 3.18b 0.007**
General knowledge 57 3.05 53 3.21 22 3.05 18 3.28 64 3.30 0.453
Understanding and awareness 57 2.96a 54 3.09a 22 2.82a 18 3.28b 66 3.33b 0.004**
Feeling comfortable around
all types of people
55 2.98a 53 2.89a 22 3.00a 18 3.11b 66 3.36b 0.032*
Adaptability 57 2.90a 54 3.02a 22 3.00a 18 3.28b 65 3.40b 0.017*
Tolerance 57 2.82 54 2.70 22 2.91 18 2.94 66 3.14 0.209
Independence 57 3.02a 53 2.87a 22 3.27b 18 3.44b 66 3.55b 0.001**
Forward thinking 55 2.65a 53 2.74a 22 2.82a 18 3.22b 66 3.32b 0.000**
Management of ﬁnancial resource 57 2.77a 54 2.54a 22 2.61a 18 3.22b 66 3.17b 0.002**
Self-motivation 57 2.67a 54 2.67a 22 2.77a 18 3.22b 66 3.14b 0.011**
Self-evaluation 56 2.54a 54 2.52a 22 2.64a 18 2.83a 66 3.00b 0.059*
Dealing with pressures, emotions
55 2.53a 54 2.65a 22 2.59a 18 3.00b 66 3.06b 0.001**
Interpersonal understanding 55 2.51a 54 2.59a 22 2.73a 17 3.12b 66 3.14b 0.001**
Responsibility 56 2.77a 53 2.96a 22 3.14a 18 3.39b 65 3.26b 0.023*
Patience 56 2.51 53 2.58 22 2.82a 18 2.61 65 3.05 0.072
Observing caution and vigilance 57 2.77 53 2.83 22 2.77 17 3.00 64 3.08 0.173
Making and maintaining relationships 57 2.68 54 2.81 21 2.71 18 3.28 66 3.08 0.087
The skill development means score ratings were on a scale of: 1 ¼no change, 2 ¼improved a little, 3 ¼moderately improved, 4 ¼greatly improved.
*¼95 percent conﬁdence level.
** ¼99% conﬁdence level.
Means with the same notation a or b are not signiﬁcantly different using. Scheffe post hoc tests.
J. Scarinci, P. Pearce / Tourism Management 33 (2012) 380e386 383
additional effect for the positive generic skill beneﬁts for 17 out
of 20 items.
The fourth and ﬁnal objective of the study was to identify if
there are any particular sub-sets or individual business related
generic skills perceived to be more strongly developed by travel
experiences. The descriptive information provided in the three
tables but most directly in Table 1 identiﬁes 18 skills as consistently
considered to be in the range moderately improved to greatly
improved by the most experienced travel groups. These skills
perceived to be the most inﬂuenced by international travel are
independence, being open-minded, adaptability, feeling comfort-
able around all types of people and understanding and awareness.
Communication is in the list of moderately improved items but is
not one of the ten leading items considered by the student sample
to be inﬂuenced the most.
The information provided in the three tables of the results
section provides a number of clear answers to the objectives which
have directed this study. In relation to the ﬁrst question, which
addressed how students with different levels of travel experience
perceive the role of travel in developing business relevant generic
skills, it was established that the experience levels do make
a signiﬁcant difference for fourteen of the twenty skills. Using
ANOVA tests it was concluded that greater levels of travel experi-
ence reinforce and strengthen the view that travel builds business
The second objective raised in the study was concerned with the
same issue but sought to establish exactly how much travel expe-
rience made a difference to these perceptions. One distinctive
ﬁnding of this study was that four or more such international trips
were necessary before students reported higher levels of perceived
inﬂuence. When these results were compared with attitudes held
by non-travelling students towards the building of business skills in
the education process the descriptive evidence provided in the data
suggested that travel was seen as more likely to inﬂuence some 16
business skills. The few generic skills which were not identiﬁed as
being particularly developed by travel were general knowledge,
making and maintaining relationships, self-evaluation and toler-
ance. By way of contrast the detailed descriptive material presented
in the data highlighted independence, adaptability and feeling
comfortable with all types of people as key skills with some of the
highest perceived scores developed by travel experiences.
There is ample opportunity to challenge and further explore
these ﬁndings. As reviewers of this paper have pointed out, the
number of trips and the effects of such trips on skill development
may be related to the wealth and afﬂuence of the student travellers.
Students with more money may travel further and for longer
periods of time or possibly be more predisposed to build more skills
because of who they are and the life opportunities they have
experienced because of their social positions. It is not possible to
sort through these explanations for the present data. It is possible,
however, to propose a set of studies to disentangle the effects of
individual and demographic differences by using repeated
measures designs or matched samples. Naturally occurring groups
may offer educators and researchers the opportunity to study these
inﬂuences such as when some classes of students go on study
abroad programs or extended ﬁeld trips while their peers do not
venture beyond their own state or national borders. What remains
of particular enduring value from the present ﬁndings is that the
pivotal number of 4 trips has been established empirically in one
case and can now provide a benchmark for further analysis and
There are several links which can be made to integrate these
results with previous work and the overall arguments about the
building of generic business skills through travel. Since the skills
assessed in this study were built on the work of Pearce and Foster
(2007), it is possible to provide a cross national comparison with
the skills development data collected in that study of young budget
travellers. The top eleven skills developed in the Pearce and Foster
study judged on the same kind of 4 point scale (1 ¼no change,
4¼greatly improved) can be juxtaposed with the results from this
study. The direct comparisons can be presented as follows with the
Pearce and Foster scores ﬁrst: independence 3.41:3.53, dealing with
pressures emotions and stress 3.31:3.05, tolerance 3.29:3.11,
International students versus domestic students who have travelled: assessing the importance of travel for skill development.
Skill Development International students Domestic (US) students Probability t test
NMean Score NMean Score
Effective communication 97 2.99 99 2.66 0.026*
Being open-minded 98 3.27 101 3.19 0.487
Self-conﬁdence 99 3.19 101 2.71 0.000**
Decision-making 98 3.14 101 2.58 0.000**
General Knowledge 97 3.21 99 3.21 0.659
Understanding and awareness 99 3.14 101 3.12 0.184
Feeling comfortable around all types
98 3.23 101 2.88 0.008**
Adaptability 98 3.30 99 3.03 0.004**
Tolerance 99 3.09 101 2.77 0.014**
Independence 98 3.49 101 2.86 0.000**
Forward thinking 99 3.08 98 2.80 0.006**
Management of ﬁnancial resource 99 3.08 101 2.57 0.000**
Self-motivation 99 3.00 101 2.65 0.006**
Self-evaluation 99 2.88 100 2.51 0.045**
Dealing with pressures, emotions and stress 99 3.00 99 2.55 0.000**
Interpersonal understanding 97 3.10 100 2.59 0.000**
Responsibility 99 3.22 99 2.84 0.004**
Patience 99 2.98 100 2.61 0.002**
Observing caution and vigilance 96 2.99 100 2.80 0.048*
Making and maintaining relationships 99 3.04 102 2.77 0.021*
The skill development means score ratings were on a scale of: 1 ¼no change, 2 ¼improved a little, 3 ¼moderately improved, 4 ¼greatly improved.
*¼95 percent conﬁdence level.
*¼99% conﬁdence level.
J. Scarinci, P. Pearce / Tourism Management 33 (2012) 380e386384
understanding and awareness 3.28:3.32, self-conﬁdence 3.25:3.27,
effective communication 3.24:3.12, adaptability 3.24:3.38, manage-
ment of ﬁnancial resources 3.18:3.18, feeling comfortable around all
types of people 3.16:3.32, being open-minded 3.12:3.42 and decision
making 3.00:3.18. There are clearly close parallels in many of these
speciﬁc results with the highest values in bothdata sets being that of
independence and very closely matched results for building under-
standing and awareness, self-conﬁdence and the management of
ﬁnancial resources. These closely aligned results suggest that there
are some cross national and cross situational similarities in the
perceived generic skills beneﬁts of travel.
One skill of particular interest in this study which has been
identiﬁed in previous research as pivotal to business employers is
that of effective communication (Clarke, 1997; Gursoy & Swanger,
2005). Eighty-four percent of the travellers in the Pearce and
Foster study considered that this was the skill most commonly
developed by travellers although they did not consider that it was
one of the skills developed by one of the largest amounts. The
results of the present study conﬁrm this kind of distinction since
effective communication was assessed as only a little more than
moderately improved by the well-travelled students. The most
powerful improvements in the perceived skills in the present work
revolve more around self-conﬁdence and being comfortable with
different groups rather than especially highlighting a communica-
tion competency. One possibility which explains this minor
discrepancy in the power of travel to inﬂuence generic skills might
lie in the destinations of the travellers. Students travelling to
Mexico, French Canada and Europe (the dominant destinations of
the North American student sample) may well have struggled with
international language communication issues and are thus refer-
ring to a different kind of communication than that envisaged by
Additionally, further research questions can be generated by
closely monitoring the motives of the travellers, as in the Pearce
and Foster study, but also future studies should consider the travel
party inﬂuences. It can be proposed following some of the argu-
ments outlined in the work of Murphy (2001) and Gmelch (1997)
that individual travel may be more powerful in fostering skill
development than student or friendship-based group tours. As
a brief discussion of these variables and inﬂuences reveals, there is
plenty of material to consider in delineating the educational value
of travel. The increasing diversity of international travel and study
opportunities is an encouraging sign that many stakeholders
consider that there are solid skill building options awaiting
enthusiastic travellers (Wearing, 2001, 2004).
A different kind of extension to thework on the building of skills
can also be proposed. It is clearly the case that the present study as
well as that of Pearce and Foster and several previous research
efforts in this ﬁeld all build their understanding of learning
outcomes on the perceptions of the participants. The perceptions of
others might serve as alternate sources of information. How do the
families and friends of travellers see those who travel after
extended periods of touring? Can they detect differences and, if so,
do the skill beneﬁts or learning outcomes which they identify relate
to the travellers’own perceptions of their self assessed changes? It
can be suggested that initial work attacking these questions might
still use the listing of generic skills employed in this study as
a framework but at least in the ﬁrst instance some detailed inter-
views and conversations with other parties might be insightful
There are several implications arising from this kind of work.
Continued support for the educational beneﬁts of travel are of
considerable interest to tourism researchers and commentators as
the very phenomenon of tourism changes with new specialized
tourism forms (Bowen & Clarke, 2009; Cohen, 2004). The experi-
ence of travel may provide a chaotic curriculum as De Botton (2002)
suggests, but it nevertheless seems to be capable of being
a powerful educational tool.
For University staff and administrators, the kinds of results
presented in this and allied research begin to constitute an
empirical justiﬁcation for international study tours and ﬁeld trips
as a formal mechanism for expanding the skills of students. A third
party to whom the results and implications are of interest are
business professionals and employers because the evidence pre-
sented here suggests that those who apply for jobs and who have
travelled extensively may have some additional skills to supple-
ment those obtained through their formal qualiﬁcations. In the
larger debates about how to develop generic skills for students
there is often much attention paid to work experience and
internship programs. While these programs have an established
usefulness, the present study suggests that international travel
experiences alone can also contribute a good deal to out of the
classroom business education. Consolidation of the present work
and further studies assessing the kinds of travel involved may
eventually lead to clear decision rules for selecting young profes-
sionals. Such rules may be of the type: When two candidates of
equal academic ability present themselves to an employer, pick the
one who has travelled, provided that the travel is international and
has occurred on at least four occasions.
Finally, three clear conclusions can be formulated from this kind
of study of learning skills through tourism. First, detailed and
systematic approaches to assessing perceived skill development
amongst travellers can be built on the 42 generic attribute items
developed by Pearce and Foster (2007). Second, using this exten-
sive list of skills as a basis the present research from college
students in the United States highlighted that a minimum amount
of travel (in this instance four international trips) may be required
to provide sufﬁcient experiences for skill based travel learning to
take place. Evaluating the commonality of this ﬂoor or threshold
effect in other contexts may stimulate other research in this area.
Finally, but not unimportantly, the most valued generic skill of
effective communication ability may not always be strongly
developed when the travel involves coping with other language
groups. Nevertheless, the broader issues of feeling comfortable
with different kinds of people and understanding oneself may be
both signiﬁcant personal and business related outcomes for
younger travellers who journey across countries and continents.
The authors acknowledge the assistance of Angela Phelps,
Shanika Hapuaraachchi, Sang Ho Lee, Northwood University and
Tingzhen Chen, James Cook University.
Appendix. Supplementary data
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