Tuesday, 28 February 2012


If you follow me on Twitter or have bothered to check out my company’s website, then you have probably noticed that I toss the term “edutourism” around quite frequently.  No, it is not a spelling error that I keep making over and over again thank-you- very-much Microsoft spellchecker so you can put away your little red squiggly line that I find rude and obnoxious every time I type out my middle name.

“Edutourism” was born through a quirk of marketing activity.  Having developed a new kind of travel program, and failing to find a word that currently existed in the Webster dictionary to describe it, “edutourism” was invented.  A basic definition of edutourism is when someone travels to a unique location for the purpose of formal or informal learning.  If Webster was to pick up this new word though, I imagine the entry would look something like this:

Edutourism - [ej-oo-toor-iz-uhm]
Derived from the Latin word ēducātiōn from which English gets its’ word for education and the combination of the Greek word tómos meaning circle from which comes the word tour and Greek suffix –ism which when used with a noun denotes an action, edu-tour-ism is the action of travelling with the intended purpose of learning a new skill or engaging in an activity that is otherwise unfamiliar with the goal of gaining educational and cultural insight into the occupation.

And for those of you who do not enjoy etymology (the study of words), here is the Urban dictionary definition:

Edutourism - [ej-oo-toor-iz-uhm]
The act of being a tourist and actually learning something about a skill or activity found locally in your destination instead of walking around completely oblivious to the culture that surrounds you.

Examples of Edutourism
  •          ecotourism
  •          agricultural tourism
  •          medical tourism
  •          cultural/historic tours
  •          language courses
  •          culinary training
  •          short/long term academic programs
  •          internships
  •          courses, conferences, seminars, colloquiums
  •          sabbaticals or employee exchanges
  •          sports tourism
  •          special interest tours

Edutourism, though it sounds similar to “ecotourism” is actually quite different since people who choose one type of travel program over the other have very different outcomes in mind.  Ecotourism focuses on travelling in a green conscious manner in order to enjoy the scenery and landscape while leaving behind the lowest ecological footprint possible.   Edutourism, while it can involved ecotourism, is all about engaging in the local culture and activities.  It is about travelling abroad in order to gain new skills and insights.  Instead of being a passive observer with a camera ready to take snap shots of whatever happens to come along, edutourism is about digging in and getting your hands dirty metaphorically and literally speaking to create photo worthy moments that you can remember for all times as you go back home and proudly demonstrate to your friends and family just how to do the “crane” as part of the water ballet routine you learn while down in Cuba alongside professional synchronized swimmers.

Now, since it is a made up word that has yet to entirely catch on (I think I am the only one who uses it frequently and my efforts to make it a trending topic on Twitter failed miserably) there are very few travel companies that offer edutourism programs. 

But for those companies that do, here is what you can expect. 
  • Choose your destination. Destinations can be anywhere in the world that you were already planning on visiting so it isn’t like you are going to have to make a special, unplanned trip to participate.

  • Choose the skill you would like to learn.  Skills vary by country and typically feature activities that are local to that area such as silk making in Thailand, porcelain making in Japan and mixed drink artist in Cuba.

  • Choose your program length.  You need to spend at least a week completing your program as most programs go deep into the cultural traditions and history behind the skill that you are learning.  In Thailand for example, you won’t just make the silk, you will learn how the silk worm hatcheries work, how the material is harvested, dyed, woven and then sewn into elaborate kimonos. 

  • Expect to spend the first few days in your destination country learning some of the language basics just so that you will be able to get around the country without too much trouble and random hand gestures.

  • And do expect some down time where you will get to play the role of tourist.  Edutourism programs are designed to allow you plenty of opportunity to be a tourist and engage in the local customs, culture, eat the local cuisine, meet the people and relax.

 What types of edutourism programs would you be interested in participating in?  Have you ever participated in a similar program?  I’d love to hear about your experiences so drop me a comment.  We might get “edutourism” into the Webster dictionary after all.


[ Edited: "Edutourism" has officially been added to the Urban Dictionary.  The definition for edutourism can now be found here: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=edutourism ]


  1. Edutourism as a new concept has not gained much acceptance. But in our country (India) many companies/institutions have been making use of the concept for quite some time. Be it to attarct students from lesser developed nations or to attract working class for higher proffessional certifications, we have been doing good for last two three decades.
    We offer IT certification training packages combined with accommodation and local sight seing. Being based in "God's own country- KERALA' has given us its advantages. Being described has "One of the 10 paradises of the World" by " National Geographic Travel " when combined with the low cost of training in India has given much mileage to this concept. More details about how IPSR successfully operates this concept of "EDUTOURISM" can be read at

  2. Edutourism is definitely a newer concept that is having to fight for recognition. A lot of people travel and participate in activities without even realizing that what they are doing counts as an "edutourism experience".

    The IPSR Global IT program looks like a great training opportunity for all types of international students. Good work!

  3. Edutourism is not a new concept in practice but new in theory. Researchers and international organisations in the field of tourism management need to encourage research in this promising and sustainable specialised tourism. I am currently doing my ph.d research in this direction.But realised that no much academic research had being done in this area. We as tourism researchers need synergy to overcome this academic challenge. You may also contact me for any information and where applcable I will appreciate any information that will help me in my reseach- Bello.yekinni@yahoo.com (UPM Malaysia.)