Perceptions And Attitudes Of Tourism Students Psychology Essay

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1st Jan 1970 Psychology Reference this

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The perceived nature of an industry is a key factor that determines the attractiveness of an industry. Many studies have projected a two- side image of the tourism industry. One was an image of glamour, reflected in aspects of the work such as associating with people, the opportunity to travel, using foreign languages and diverse job tasks (Szivas, Riley, & Airey, 2003). The other was portraying a negative image whereby jobs were perceived as low status and low skilled (Szivas & Riley, 1999).

Students’ awareness of the main features of tourism jobs, such as low pay and unsociable working hours, may exert a negative influence on their behavioral intention, and force them to prematurely leave the industry (Parsons & Care, 1991). Exposure to the industry through practical work experience help students to gain a better understanding of the tourism industry. They could see the advantages and shortcomings of tourism careers and obtain a clearer picture of what they liked or disliked about tourism jobs. Subsequently, enhancing their career decision making process.

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2.2 Perceptions and attitudes of tourism students

2.2.1 Tourism programme

It is worthwhile and logical to firstly, comprehend students’ perceptions and views towards choosing tourism programme before attempting to shed light on their attitudes towards a tourism career. Table 1 there, represents the studies of various authors concerning the attitudes and views of students vis- à- vis the selection of tourism programmes, in a summarized form.

2.2.2 Tourism as a career choice

Over the years, many studies have been conducted and much attention have been awarded to understand the perceptions and attitudes of young people or those individuals who are potentially likely to pursue a career in hospitality workforce in the future. Table 2 is a summarized version of the numerous studies carried out.

2.2.3 The concept of Career Intention and Choices

Walton and Mallon (2001) commented that careers were regarded as chosen professions in particular areas or manifestation of career choices. These terms are appropriate as they relate to students’ degree of uncertainty over career intention, choice and commitment to a future career. In other words, making a career choice through pursuing the appropriate programme of studies may be a function of behavioral intention.

A theory put forward by Ginzberg (1951) proposed that the ultimate decision regarding career choice is not reached at a single moment of time, but through a series of decisions taken over a period of many years as part of the process of mental and physical maturation.

One stage which fits this study is the tentative period whereby, the young adult at the university level is steadily broadening their consideration and understanding of the factors underlying their emerging career choices. At first, their interest serves as the major (often the sole) basis for their choice. But, as time passes, new elements intervene, either internal or external and the students become aware that their interests have altered or new ones have emerged.

Indeed, often before entering the university they have to decide on a particular career choice supported by the selection of an appropriate programme of study, plus there is pressure because of peers, parental concern, mature interest and other forces.

Eventually, it is during their senior university level that the students might reconsider their choices, or support their initial career decisions. In the realistic period, a choice is made with the intention of realizing it.

2.2 The Theory of Planned Behavior

Ajzen developed the Theory of Planned Behavior in 1991 as an extension of Ajzen and Fishbein’s 1975 Theory of Reasoned Action. The TPB has four components: attitudes (i.e. the individual’s positive or negative feelings about performing a behavior), subjective norm (i.e. the individual’s perception of whether people important to the individual think the behavior should be performed), perceived behavioral control (i.e. The individual’s perception on the self skills and ability of performing a behavior) and behavioral intention (i.e. an individual’s readiness to perform a given behavior)

Ajzen stated that for nonhabituaI behaviors that are easily executed by almost everyone without special circumstances, the theory of reasoned action was adequate. When behaviors are more difficult to execute, and when a person needs to take control over needed resources in order to act, the theory of planned behavior is a better predictor of behavior than the theory of reasoned action. In the theory of planned behavior, control is taken into account as a variable labeled “perceived behavioral control,” which is defined as a person’s perception of how easy or difficult it would be to perform the action. The theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) has been since its development some 20 years proved to be a powerful approach to explain human behavior.  

The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) predicts that planned behaviors are determined by behavioral intentions which are largely influenced by an individual’s attitude toward a behavior, the subjective norms encasing the execution of the behavior, and the individual’s perception of their control over the behavior (Ajzen, 1975). In simpler terms, behavioural decisions are the result of a reasoned process in which the behavior is influenced by attitudes, norms and perceived behavioral control.

2.3 The Theory of Planned Behavior: Model

Icek Ajzen’s revised model (1991) is expressed in the diagram (figure 2) below:

Figure 2: Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior

The theory of planned behavior postulates three conceptually determinants of intention.

2.4 Determinants of Behavioral Intention

Attitude towards behavior

Attitudes represent an individual’s likes, dislikes, beliefs and opinions regarding a particular behavior. It represents a summary of evaluation of psychological object captures in attribute dimensions of good- bad, harmful- beneficial, pleasant- unpleasant, and likable- dislikable (Ajzen; 2001)

Rosenberg and Hovland (1996) viewed attitude as a ‘multi-component’ construct and made the following statement ”all responses to a stimulus object are mediated by the person’s attitude towards the object.”

Ayres (2008) claims that traditionally there have been a career-for-life philosophy adopted by workers, whereby workers will spend their entire working life working in one industry, and, in many cases, one organization.

This philosophy has in recent times, coinciding with Generation Y entering the workforce, been replaced by a more uncertain career structure, with employees frequently changing employers within their industry and many also pursuing work in different industries (Inkson, Anhur, and Pringle, 1999). Morton (2002) stated that Generation Y employees show a tendency towards valuing equality in the workplace and they seek positions that offer reasonable wages and good opportunities for training. Morton (2002) also claimed that they respect managers who empower workers and who are open and honest with employees. Martin (2005), who calls this generation “Yers”, describes eight main characteristics shown by Generation Y towards their careers. These eight characteristics include the Generation Y employee being self-reliant and independent, technosavvy, entrepreneurial, seeking flexibility, having an urgent sense of immediacy, wanting increasing responsibility, having a “get off my back” attitude and adopting a free agency attitude.

Oliver (2006) claims that recent interest in the Generation Y worker has intensified in recent years, and while generalizations are plentiful, he claims that the Generation Y worker is uninterested in a job for life, instead seeking flexibility and work-life balance. Oliver (2006) states that, overall, Generation Y workers are seen to have much higher expectations of a job than previous generations, including high expectations of pay, conditions, promotion and advancement.

A study conducted by Kusluvan and Kusluvan (2000) found that some of the factors that seemed to account for the negative attitudes towards careers in tourism, formed after students had undertaken a practical work assignment, are stressful jobs, lack of family life owing to the nature of the work, long working hours, exhausting and seasonal (unstable) jobs, low social status of tourism jobs, unsatisfactory and unfair promotions, low pay and insufficient benefits, unqualified managers, poor attitudes and behavior of managers towards employees, unqualified coworkers and poor attitudes and behavior of coworkers and poor physical working conditions for employees.

Subjective Norms

Subjective Norms is the degree to which someone wants to conform to other’s behavior or expectations. Usually, ‘others’ are individuals (family and friends) whose preferences on a subject matter are important to him or her. This concept was introduced into theory of planned behavior to accommodate the non volitional elements inherent, at least potentially, in all behaviors (Ajzen, 2002).

Although schools, peers and the student’s community all have an impact on the young adult’s self- identity and career choice, the parents’ expectations and perceptions of vocational fit for their children have been found to be the key roles in shaping their career choices (Ferry, 2006).

In one study (Creamer and Laughlin, 2005), this influence has been so strong as to override the influence of teachers, faculty, and career field in question but were not as well- known and or trusted as to students’ parents for this type of decision.

In an era where 49% of UK workers report that balancing work and family responsibilities is an issue of significant concern to them (IP Morgan Fleming, 2003), the influence of family and personal life and career decisions is receiving increasing amounts of media attention. Today’s business school graduates are ”looking for a work style to go with their lifestyle”, claims the HR consultancy Hay Group (The Economist, 2006). ”Generation X and Generation Y workers who are younger than 40, are more likely than boomers to say they put family before jobs,” says an article in USA Today (Elias, 2004). ”Today’s younger employees are working to live rather than living to work,” states a newspaper manager in the journalism newsletter Fusion (Williamson, 2006).

Thus, the second hypothesis formulated:

Perceived Behavioral Control

Perceived Behavioral Control (PBC) refers to a person’s perception of the ease or difficulty of performing a particular behavior. According to Ajzen (2002), PBC is used to deal with situations where people do not have complete volitional control (i.e. external influences) over the particular behavior in question.

An employee’s perception to any industry will, no doubt, be determined by their commitment, perceptions, and attitudes towards working in the industry as well as the types of jobs available in the industry. It is argued that this is particularly pertinent to tourism and hospitality as it has been reported that potential recruits have a negative image of working in the industry (Aksu and Koksal, 2005; Brien, 2004; Getz, 1994, Kuslavan and Kuslavan, 2000).

Several researchers have also studied the perceptions of undergraduate tourism and hospitality management students. Barron and Maxwell (1993) examined the perceptions of new and continuing students at Scottish higher education institutions. They found that in general the new students had positive images of the industry, whereas the students with supervised work experience were much less positive in their views.

Baron and Maxwell (19930 found significant differences between the new students’ perceptions of the industry compared with the students who had undertaken their industry placement. The marked differences in the perceptions of new students compared with those post placement students and graduates lie in the difference between perception and experience in the industry. West and Jameson (1990) agree and claim that the more exposure hospitality students have to the industry, the less commitment they show.

2.5 Behavioral Intention

Intention is an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions; in the words of Ajzen, ”an indication of how hard people are willing to try, of how much effort they are willing to exert in order to perform the behavior. Therefore, the stronger the intention to engage in a behavior, the more likely should be its performance.” (p. 181) TPB states that people act in accordance with their intentions and perceptions of control over their behavior, while intentions are influenced by attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms and perceptions of behavioral control (Ajzen, 1985).

Lam and Xiao (2000) found that young and new recruit employees had a high intention to quit the job, or leave the hospitality industry when they found that the salary package of the industry was not as competitive as others, and the pressure at work was unexpectedly high. Tempted by better conditions, higher salaries and increased opportunities for career progression, the young hospitality graduates were turning their backs on the industry and being recruited by large retailing companies (Leslie, 1991)

Behavior

Hsing (2002) defined behavior as the performance of an action at a certain time, in a certain context and with a certain purpose.

Generally, the more favorable the attitude and subjective norm with respect to a behavior and the greater the perceived behavioral control; the stronger an individual’s intention should be to perform the behavior under consideration (Ajzen, 1991). However based on varying behaviors and situation, the relative importance of attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioral control is expected to be different.

2.6 Indicators of Behavioral Intention

For the TPB to predict behaviour successfully or for maximum prediction, intention must be measured as closely as possible in time to the observation of the behaviour. The longer the interval between measurement of intention and behaviour, the greater the likelihood that an unforeseen event will occur that will lead to changes in intention and be less predictive of actual behaviour. Nevertheless, this study is not working on actual behaviour, but rather on attitudes and beliefs about the behaviour of choosing a particular career.

2.6.0 Variables of Attitude towards behavior

Thus, to measure student attitudes toward behaviour, which in this context meant choosing the programme and direction, or intention to seek a career in hospitality, questions were constructed in such a way so as to shed light on the attitude and beliefs of the undergraduates:

2.6.1 Variables of Subjective Norms

A second major predictor of intention in this study is the influence of important people in an individual student’s life as encouragement and support to perform the behaviour intention. Subjective Norm refers to a favourable or unfavourable student perception of social pressure and the relative importance of different sources of social influence on their intention (decision) to choose a programme and hospitality career. Such social influence might come from immediate family members, peers and friends, teachers and other individual and groups. As stated by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) an individual will perform or operationalise their behaviours that they perceive as favoured by other people who are important to them. In the present study, there were items used to obtain a direct measure of students’ perception of significant others and the degree to which they influenced the decision to take a tourism management course. Questions which relate to parents, friends, brothers and sisters and school teachers were constructed to indicate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with such statements. Such questions were:

However, according to Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) any relationship between the respondents and the referent (s) will be more or less stable over time. To assess the actual career influencer parallel to those of the students’ intention, an open ended question was asked:

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