TEFI came together as a network in 2006 as a result of concerns over the “seismic changes” taking place in higher education. Professors Pauline Sheldon and Dan Fesenmaier convened the first conference at Modul University, Vienna, with a focus on the need for change:
Tourism educational programs need to fundamentally retool and redesign—not incrementally by adding new courses or simply by putting courses on-line—but by changing the nature of what is taught and how it is taught” (Sheldon et al., Chapter 2).
From these beginnings, TEFI quickly found wide-spread support, not only because the need for change resonated with a large number of tourism scholars and industry players, but also because of the vision, passionate commitment and tireless energy of a few early “TEFI-ites”.
The early “TEFI–ites” did not put the idea of radically re-examining tourism education aside as being ‘too hard,’ Instead, they incubated their ideas into discussion points that could be shared, debated and critiqued by other tourism educators. The other dynamic which has seen TEFI gain momentum year on year is that TEFI is a continuously evolving collective of passionate and committed tourism educators from many different countries. It is inclusive, diverse and represents a progressive and creative cohort of researchers and practitioners.
The depth and breadth of TEFI-inspired projects have grown over the years mirroring the growth and global distribution of the TEFI community. TEFI conference themes over the years illustrate this ongoing commitment:
2007 Tourism Education Futures, Vienna,
2008 Promoting an Academy of Hope, Honolulu
2009 Development for a Values-Based Tourism Curriculum, Lugano
2010 Tools for Change and New Challenges, San Sebastian
2011 Activating Change in Tourism Education, Philadelphia
2012 Transformational Leadership for Tourism Education, Milan
2013 Tourism Education for Global Citizenship: Educating for Lives of Consequence, Oxford
2014 Transformational Learning: Activism, Empowerment and Political Agency in Tourism Education, Guelph
2016 The Disruptive Power of Caring, Kamloops
2017 Building our stories: Co-creating tourism futures in research and practice (Off-year conference)
2018 Knowing with Nature: The future of tourism education in the Anthropocene, Finland
Unthinking reproduction of past solutions and tourism models is not an option in a fast moving, competitive and disruptive world. We need new creative initiatives to address a range of challenges that we are not yet able to fully appreciate.
The dual task for tourism education is to equip learners with the necessary skills and expertise to confront a changing world, and to assist in the moral development of professionals so they can make responsible decisions. This is why it is important to develop shared understandings, to nurture spaces of co-created learning, and to work together for a better tourism future.
The fluid nature of the challenges before us mean that TEFI is not a static organisation. It seeks to be agile, organic and dynamic, where we work to unlock both individual talents and creativity and the collective power needed to shape the future of tourism. The intention of TEFI is not only to critically review and refine current paradigms and practices, but also to agitate and use the power of positive disruption in mindful and innovative ways to create new ways of making a difference.
Prebezac, D., Sheldon, P. & Schott, C. (2014). The Tourism Education Futures Initiative: Activating Change in Tourism Education. Routledge: Abingdon.
Dredge, D. & Schott, C. (2013). The Tourism Education Futures Initiative – the Way Forward. Chapter 21. In Tourism Education Futures Initiative: Activating Change in Tourism Education. Sheldon, P., Schott, C. & Prebezac, D. (Eds). London: Routledge.