Sandra Macher, from the Institute of Health and Tourism Management at FH Joanneum, has pointed to largescale job losses in the global tourism sector in the wake of the Covid-19 -pandemic as underlying low enrolment numbers in tourism education. “Prospective students have witnessed the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the tourism sector, and layoffs and widespread job-losses underlies fears that they could suffer a similar fate in the event of another pandemic,” Macher said.
The Austrian researcher visited NUST during the 2022 second semester on an Erasmus+ funded staff exchange. She travelled to Namibia to engage academics in NUST’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism on potential joint research projects, co-teaching and student and staff exchanges.
NUST and FH Joanneum established a formal partnership in 2010, and since then numerous staff and students have undertaken exchanges between the two institutions.
Macher, who is based at FH Joanneum’s Bad Gleichenberg Campus, indicated that her home institution incorporated fields like Event Management and Health Tourism in its curriculum in an endeavour to boost enrollment in its Tourism Management Programme. “We have aimed to make tourism more inclusive, and have added to our Master of Tourism Programme a focus on human wellbeing, diet, exercising, sleep and mental health,” she said. In this regard FH Joanneum looks to equip Tourism managers with the skills and knowledge to cater to and provide these services.
The staff exchange to Namibia opened Macher’s eyes to the extent that operators, service providers and accommodation establishments in the Namibian tourism sector have embraced the use of technology in their operations. “I have found that in Namibia there is a much higher uptake and use of modern technology in tourism operations than in Austria. The use of online booking tools for accommodation is not as widespread in Austria,” she said. Macher highlighted the accessibility of online systems used by Namibian businesses as very impressive.
The Covid-19 pandemic affected internationalization of higher education across the world in 2020 and 2021, bringing student and staff exchanges to a standstill. International exchanges picked up pace again in 2022, as students and academics from NUST’s partner institutions in other parts of the world again began travelling to Namibia.