TEFL tourism is the conceptual amalgamation of tourism and TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language). It is essentially the experience of teaching English overseas, whilst partaking in a substantial amount of tourism-based activities and can be defined as;
‘A person who travels outside of their usual environment to teach English as a foreign language, whose role shifts between tourist, educator and educatee at various points in their trip’ (Stainton, 2017)
TEFL tourism can be part of a wider trip, such as a gap year, philanthropic project or service learning and can vary in duration. It can be paid or unpaid and there are close ties between unpaid TEFL tourism projects and volunteer tourism.
The degree to which the focus is put upon tourism or on teaching practice can vary considerably; some TEFL tourists may find that teaching is the dominant part of their experience and others may find that their trip focuses mostly on the tourism elements. For some, teaching is a means to enable exploration through travel as a result either of the geographic location of the project or the money acquired from their work. For others, tourism may be a consequence of their experience, where elements such as skill development or to gain a qualification are primary motivational factors. Some TEFL tourists may switch between being a ‘teacher’ during weekdays to being a ‘tourist’ at weekends. TEFL tourists are not homogenous and tourist types, their motivations, the activities they undertake, their placement type etc vary significantly between different contexts.
TEFL tourism can be facilitated through a number of means. Some teachers may source employment themselves, others may utilise an employment company and some choose to use TEFL agencies replicable of a tour operator. TEFL packages are increasingly common nowadays, where tourists are frequently provided with accommodation, transportation and a TEFL qualification amongst other benefits, replicating a post-modern form of package tourism.
Growing requirements for English language capabilities and an insatiable demand for TEFL teachers in many parts of the world, coupled with increasing desire for new and alternative tourism experiences and the ability to ‘give something back’ has seen the emergence of TEFL tourism in recent years. As tourism operators, both large and small, continue to capitalise on such demands it is expected that the TEFL tourism industry will continue to grow at rates similar to other alternative tourism experiences such as volunteer tourism or orphanage tourism.
This brings with it a whole new realm of possibilities for industry practitioners, host communities and tourists, both positive and negative. There is, therefore, an urgent need for TEFL tourism to be explicitly scrutinised, in ways that other major niche tourism forms have, in order to facilitate the careful management and sustainable future of the industry. If you are reading this then you too are helping to move this industry forward, if by doing nothing more than creating awareness-thank you!
You can read more about TEFL tourism and associated research projects by taking a look at the recent publications.