Innovative Training Curricula for EU Tourism Sector

How to efficiently support the development and growth of tourism companies through workplace vocational education?

In many European countries the tourism industry plays an important role for the national economy, accounting both for an important contribution to the GDP and to employment. Despite of this, many tourism services are in the hands of unskilled young people, which means that the companies cannot exploit to the best their potential. The TTRAIN study seeks to analyze the present situation of the tourism industry in four European countries: Iceland, Finland, Italy and Austria. Based on this, it collects information about current vocational education for tourism employees and knowledge and skills needed for on-the-job trainers in tourism companies. Eventually, it develops and tests a training curriculum for vocational instructors in the tourism sector, which can be also adapted to other European countries.

Current situation of the tourism sector

In the countries analyzed in the TTRAIN study, the tourism sector makes up between 2.5% and 14.8% of the GDP. The development in the last years differs widely in the countries, although it can be stated that tourism industry has a big potential in all countries. An impressive growth can be observed in Iceland: in the last seven years the number of foreign visitors has grown on average by 20% each year. In Finland, tourism is based mainly on domestic tourism; however, in recent years foreign tourism has become more important leading to an increase of 38% of foreign overnight stays in 2014 (compared to an increase of 14% of domestic overnight stays in the same year). In Italy, the tourism industry has been developing to a very high level of tourism arrivals, ranking fifth of all international tourism destinations. However, there is not a homogeneous picture throughout the Italian regions, and especially the Italian South has still a great potential for growth, staying far behind the number of visitors in the Northern part of the country (although having equally a rich heritage of cultural and natural resources). In Austria a mixed picture can be found: the country attracts on the one hand cultural tourists, visiting mostly Vienna (and, far behind the capital, Salzburg), on the other hand winter sport tourists. While the tourism industry has slightly grown in recent years, particularly the rural areas struggle with their seasonal dependence.

Regarding the labour market in the tourism sector, a similar situation can be found in all countries in terms of a high percentage of young people working in tourism business; similarly, many unskilled staff works in this sector. A problem especially observed in Austria and Iceland is the high fluctuation rate of staff, which is another reason why there is a lack of qualified personnel. In Italy and Iceland politics already addresses these issues with strategic plans for the tourism sector; in Finland and Austria no specific policy in this field could be found.

Formal education programmes in the field of tourism

Many training programmes in the field of tourism exist on several levels in the partner countries .Students or adults on secondary level have on-the-job training either during initial education or in working contexts in all the partner countries. On tertiary level, the universities or universities of applied sciences mostly offer leadership or management programmes in the field of tourism, leisure and sports.

In-house trainings exist in Iceland or in Austria in the frame of apprenticeships. Young people are trained by a member of the company, while they are already working during their education. For further education, VET centres offer special courses. So far, in-house trainings by colleagues are not part of the education system for tourism in the partner countries, but there is potential, as practical trainings are part of the courses and work-related skills are essential for occupations in this field.

On-the-job training in tourism and required skills for employees

Interviews with tourism professionals revealed quite a mixed picture regarding their educational background and training provided directly on the job, depending also from the size of the companies professionals work at. While in bigger tourism companies (e.g. hotels being part of a larger hotel chain), a well-structured training curriculum is offered for employees, small and micro companies often do not follow a specific training programme. Some of the latter ones try to formalize the training of employees, however, through the organisation of regular staff meetings and updates about current developments in the tourism sector. Particularly in Austria, a wide range of VET training activities were mentioned by the tourism professionals – from specialized courses for patisserie over management, service and language courses to courses concentrating on soft skills, such as communication, time management etc.

Asked for the most important skills tourism employees should have, a number of various skills were mentioned by the interviewed tourism professionals and tourism training providers. Skills that were mentioned in more than one of the countries were:

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Language skills
  • System and IT knowledge
  • Customer orientation
  • Concern for safety
  • Time management
  • Stress management
  • Quality focus

Recommendations for effective tourism training

Tourism professionals in the different partner countries highlighted that the training for employees should be short, work-related and practical. From the “good practices” collected in the four countries, the following training approaches seem to be most promising:

  • Training developed with companies and stakeholders
  • Blended learning structure (online and face-to-face)
  • Communicative exchange between trainer and trainee
  • Flexible structure - adapted according to the experience and previous knowledge of each employee
  • Self-directed training

Involvement of companies, stakeholders and professionals in form of collaboration and recommendations can add value to the development of training material. Blended learning structure for the course developed includes the advantage of cost reduction and, at the same time, has a greater coverage, which allows involving and reaching companies in different regions. At the same time, the relationship between trainer and trainee should be close and based on open communication. A flexible structure, adapted according to the experience and previous knowledge of each employee, can be a challenge. A possible (partial) solution is the self-directed training approach. In this practice, there are both compulsory and voluntary parts, which are selected according to the specific interests and needs by the employees.

To learn more

TTRAIN - Tourism training the trainers

[su_tabs active="1" vertical="yes"]What does it support [su_tab title="Objectives"]

  • To provide unskilled personnel in the tourist sector with special designed vocational training and boosting the opportunities of further education
  • To create, test and implement a tailor made learning model/curriculum for training on-the-job-trainers in the tourism sector
  • To map the state-of-the-art and compare the learning need requirements of the target group


[su_tab title="Activities"]

  • Delivery of training that improves the competitiveness of the involved tourist companies by educating the staff to be more satisfied and qualified and thus increases the companies’ profit and image
  • Developing a detailed curriculum plan using the “Stepping-Stone” model as a platform, including content, number of learning hours and practical guidance for the vocational instructors
  • Delivery of joint staff training events
  • Promotional workshops with regional key stakeholders


[su_tab title="Results"]

  • TTRAIN curriculum (learning model)
  • GAP Analysis Report - The mapping will consist in the following:
  1. Existing training for tourism sector
  2. Available channels, mediums and networks to cooperate with
  3. Available research and reports on the topic (Literature review)
  4. Needs and preferences of trainers and stakeholders on training content
  • TTRAIN Learning Portal - Open Educational Resource (OER)


[su_tab title="Partners"]

  • Coordinator: Haskolinn a Bifrost (Iceland)
  • BEST Institut für berufsbezogene Weiterbildung und Personaltraining GmbH (Austria)
  • Samtök Ferðaþjónustunnar (Iceland)
  • Kajaanin Ammattikorkeakoulu Oy (Finland)


[su_tab title="Info & contacts"]

Follow the project IN ACTION

Date of project: 01/11/2015 - 01/11/2017

DG of reference: DG EAC, Erasmus+ Key Action 2, Strategic Partnership in the field of VET

Contact: CESIE: