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Tourism Management Perspectives 11 (2014) 58–62

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Tourism Management Perspectives

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Case study

Motivational factors for educational tourism: A case study in

Northern Cyprus
Abubakar Mohammed Abubakar a,b,⁎, Belal Hamed Taher Shneikat a, Akile Oday b
Dept. of Economics and Business Administration, Eastern Mediterranean University, P.O. box 95, Famagusta North Cyprus via Mersin 10, Turkey
School of Computing and Technology, Eastern Mediterranean University, P.O. box 95, Famagusta North Cyprus via Mersin 10, Turkey

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Recent trends and reverse innovations have led to a rapid growth in educational tourism (edu-tourism). North
Received 28 February 2014 Cyprus has emerged as an edu-tourism destination. The purpose of this study is to better understand the motives
Received in revised form 2 April 2014 of students seeking education in countries other than that of their normal residence. Equally the findings are
Accepted 8 April 2014
contextualized within this Mediterranean Island. The results of the study have generated a comprehensive list
Available online xxxx
of motives behind the demand for edu-tourism, and the managerial implications of edu-tourism and its conse-
quences are discussed.
North Cyprus © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction education has enhanced the performance of tourism industry (Lam,

Ariffin, & Ahmad, 2011) (Fig. 1).
Tourism or voyage originally means movement with the intention of
trade and conquest. In the modern day this phenomenon has experi- 1.1. Theoretical background and purpose
enced a drift toward pleasure which serves as a symbol of social status.
Influenced by hypermedia like social networks, web-based promotions, The notion of traveling for the purposes of acquiring knowledge is
and greater leisure awareness, tourism has become one of the fastest not new (Gibson, 1998; Holdnak & Holland, 1996) but little research
growing industries in the world (Holden, 2000). Transformation of or- has been done on this topic explaining why the literature appears inco-
ganizational structures from primordial to purposively constructed herent and scattered. Similarly, Jason, Ahmad, and Azhar (2011) added
ones (James, 1993) has led to an increase in disposable income, longer that educational tourism has been discussed by very few tourism acade-
free time, greater political freedom and the growth for mass tourism micians and this is reflected in the lack of research and data in this area.
(Mieczkowski, 1995). There are different forms of tourism; we intend Paul (2010) added that there is limited understanding of educational
to focus on educational tourism (edu-tourism). Edu-tourism is any tourism constructs as well as an absence of research into the diverse in-
type of program in which participants travel to a location either individ- tellectual tourism market segments. Furthermore, this study attempts
ually or in a group with the primary motive engaging in or having a to elaborate on one of the 4 L tourism (landscape, leisure, learning and
learning experience (Rodger, 1998). Educational tourists (edu-tourists) limit) elements.
are “individuals or groups who travel to and stay in places outside their The relevance of decision making is prevalence in management and
usual environment for more than 24 h and not more than one year” for businesses; the phenomenon has led to the development of
purposes including study, business, leisure and other activities (World consumer behavior theory (Felix & Steve, 2007). Kotler (2003)
Tourism Organization, 2012). Research on the interplay between digital proposed a five-stage process in decision making: the recognition of a
equity, empowerment and flexible learning in an educational tourism problem requiring a remedy, the search for information, an assessment
environment could yield greater understanding on how these factors of alternatives, making the buying decision and finally assessing the
influence learners (Joyce, 2012). The combination of tourism and acquisition decision. Generally, the decision making concept is every-
where; hence consumer behavior theory can be applied to education
(Moogan, Baron, & Harris, 1999). Edu-tourism is intangible in nature;
⁎ Corresponding author at: Dept of Economics and Business Administration, Eastern as such it is bounded with risk, prosperity ambiguities and an unfore-
Mediterranean University, P.O. box 95, Famagusta North Cyprus via Mersin 10, Turkey.
Tel.: +90 5428766882; fax: +90 3923651574.
seen likelihood of success in the course, family disruption and missed
E-mail addresses: (A.M. Abubakar), opportunities back home. Although a certain number of benefits are (B.H.T. Shneikat), (A. Oday). associated with edu-tourism, high level of uncertainty exists. Felix &
2211-9736/© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
A.M. Abubakar et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 11 (2014) 58–62 59

predispose them to travel; on the other edge the pull factors are those
parameters that attract them to a given destination. Similar studies
like Uysal & Hagan (1993) and Yuan & McDonald (1990) supported
Dann's theory. A few decades ago Agarwal and Winkler (1985) conduct-
ed a study about the demand for international education in the USA;
Educational they found that the demand for education depends on the per capital in-
Tourism Tourism Education come of the home country, education opportunities at home, benefits of
studying abroad and tuition fee. Subsequently, McMahon (1992) con-
ducted a research to determine the flow of international students
from developing countries to developed countries between 1960 and
1970. He found a negative correlation between studying abroad and
prosperity, lamenting that higher levels of education lead to prosperity.
In his views the push factor was basically the level of economic wealth,
global political involvement of the home country and available educa-
Fig. 1. Two main component of edu-tourism.
tion opportunities. The pull factors include economic cooperation
between the host and home country. He found a positive correlation be-
Steve (2007) and Moogan et al. (1999) found that universities do not tween the size of the host nation economy and that of the home nation
help students make informed decisions and it is difficult to maintain ob- economy.
jectivity while deciding about the intended course of study and which Heider (1958) proposed that attribution theory (AT) is the
university to apply to. Often, an emotional and subjective judgment prejudiced conception of causality rather than reality, which affects an
interferes with the decision-making process; hence wearing out the individual's behavior. Cort, Griffith, and White (2007) added that AT
factual and objective assumptions governing institution selection. concentrates on a person's recognized reasons of progress and their
Edu-tourism describes the event in which people travel across inter- immediate and related impacts on the resulting conducts. Thus, our
national borders to acquire intellectual services. In a globalized world study is grounded on this theory. In their influential studies (Felix &
where our daily life becomes more and more competitive, where the Steve, 2007) noted that the number of people studying abroad and
access and offer of educational services increases and where knowledge who originated from African has increased from 2580 in 1970 to over
sharing methods takes similar shapes, the importance of novelty gains 1.8 million in 2002 and the push factors for African students include
essential meaning. People are looking for something new, new experi- economic, political and host country capacity. They stressed that these
ences, social norms and cultures. Countries around the globe are factors are further influenced by media, friends, private agencies and
channeling more funds in education for the purpose of tourism; most word-of-mouth. The pull factors include those attractive infrastructures
of the institutions tend to launch their programs using the English or resources available in the host country, in other words pull factors
language in order to increase their market share. Since, the demand from the host county perspective e.g. easy application, international
for advanced tutoring tends to be competitive if it is offered in English. recognition in terms of higher education and a safe environment,
Ushering educational programs in English opens an institution increases whereas the pull factors from the institution perspective include course
competitive advantage and serves as a gate way to reach more audi- availability, teaching expertise, accommodation cost and availability,
ences (Rico & Loredana, 2009). post-qualification employment data and labor market data (Felix &
The majority of top ranked universities around the world are found Steve, 2007). Students are influenced by cultural links, economic
in Anglo-Saxon countries like the US, UK, Australia, etc. With the in- growth and public infrastructure; host country political interests in
creasing mobility and the co-integration of the intellectual market, the home nation through monetary aid, tuition fee waiver programs,
those seeking to learn are migrating to the leading addresses (Rico & and merit-based scholarships and other form of assistances (Jason
Loredana, 2009) for better education and experience. Consequently, et al., 2011; Lee & Tan, 1984). In addition Jason et al. (2011) stated
Cubillo, Cerviño, and Sánchez (2006) stated that many institutions that edu-tourist motivations are widely influenced by the commonality
face several challenges to promote or advertise themselves in the of language, historical or colonial links between the home and host na-
marketplace, thereby, leaving no options for tertiary institutions other tions, geographic proximity and the accessibility of science and
than adopting inter-nationalization strategies. Regional and local gov- technology-based programs. Consequently, Mazarrol, Kemp, and
ernments are becoming keen in marketing their schools as intellectual Savery (1997) asserted that the institution's reputation for quality and
development destinations, attracting foreign students who are active, marketing efforts, staff expertise, varieties of courses, alliances, technol-
keen to leave home, and willing to travel and experience new cultures ogy and general resources tend to influence the students' decision in
(Blight, 1995). In addition, countries offering edu-tourism were found selecting a host country for edu-tourism.
to be wealthy and highly competitive in the tourism sector; it was Nevertheless, the quartet reasons why mankind changes location
concluded that educational tourism is related to wealth of host country with a purpose as described by Brown and Lehto (2005) are altruism,
(Rico & Loredana, 2009). Learning tourism can be viewed as a continu- in other words the desire to give back, affinity, cultural immersion and
um ranging from general interest learning or exposure while traveling family. Rehberg (2005) added three set of motivational factors namely;
to purposeful learning and travel (Ritchie, Carr, & Cooper, 2003). “achieving something positive”, “quest for the new”, and “quest for one-
Etymologically “motive” originated from a Latin word “movere” self”. The first group of motives focalizes more on the ethical values and
meaning to move (Dann, 1981). Motivation refers to the internal factors determinations, and the second ground emphasizes on friends, culture
that enjoin and integrate a person's or group's behavior for potential and fresh experiences. The third one stresses more on self-interest mo-
satisfaction (Iso-Ahola, 1982; Murray, 1964). A few decades ago, tives, basically on professional, intellectual and career purposes. Similar-
Cohen (1972) classified tourists into four categories; he divided them ly, previous studies have shown that international students choose
using their various motivations: the explorer and the drifter seek Great Britain over other potential destinations as they value the
new experiences and novelty, while individual or mass tourists seek culturalization opportunities (Times Higher Education, 2009) with so-
acquaintance or in other words familiarity. Hence, tourist motivations cial and economic benefits (Paul, 2010).
explain why an individual or group has behaved in such a way (Dann, The edu-tourism sector is one of the unnoted sub-sectors of the
1981). Further, Dann (1977) developed the concepts of “push” and United Kingdom tourism market (Ritche, 2003). This is largely due to
“pull”. He further explains that the push factors are the socio- a lack of understanding about the concept of educational tourism, its
psychological constructs of tourists and their home environment that value to the visitor economy and associated impacts (Ritche, 2003).
60 A.M. Abubakar et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 11 (2014) 58–62

Since its popularity in the tourism market is only expected to proliferate Table 1
(Gibson, 1998; Holdnak & Holland, 1996) there is need for additional Motivations.

research, in order to fill up the gap and to provide a framework for Themes Categories
this phenomenon. For example Joyce (2012) noted that research has
Motivations • Accreditation, reputation, future job prospects and English as
probed into some areas of the economic and developmental effects of teaching medium (27)
edu-tourism; a comprehensive, systematic model of how these ele- • Quality of education (23)
ments interact has remained elusive. As such this study embarks to fill • Failing in entrance exam in the home country (14)
• Culture, new language, travel and welcoming attitudes of
the gap in order to have comprehensive framework regarding the moti-
the locals (16)
vations of edu-tourists. • Tuition fees and Scholarships (10)
• Safety and Low rate of discrimination in host country (10)
• Quality of life and living expenses in the host country (9)
2. Methodology
• Political instability in the home country (7)
• Easy to get visa (7)
The current study is qualitative and explanatory in nature because • Easy admission (6)
the quantitative approach and quantitative method cannot provide • Recognition in the home country (5)
• Qualified and friendly academic staff (4)
comprehensive descriptive data. Silverman (2000) added that qualita-
• Natural and environmental factors (3)
tive methods allow deeper understanding of the phenomena. Semi- • Lack of availability of program in the home country (3)
structured in-depth interviews were conducted with international • Closeness to the home country (3)
students at Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU). Open-ended
questions were used to enable the participants to openly express
because English is the medium of instruction. For instance, some of
their motivations and aspirations. A quota sampling methodology
the respondents stated that
was adopted; the interviewees were international students from
Azerbaijan, France, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Palestine,
“… the people that do best in his home country studied abroad in-
Russia and Tanzania studying in various fields. A quota sampling tech-
cluding those in financial areas and so we choose to be like them, be-
nique was used to avoid selective bias. The data collection modus
cause it's better to learn more” (#4 From Nigeria)
operandi was useful in exploring primary motives, how and why people
Similarly, “… people study abroad because of quality and job pros-
choose to study in foreign countries; precisely North Cyprus. Prior to
pects and English language. In my case I was here before as exchange
data collection, the prospective interviewees were informed and as-
student ….” (#23 from Russia)
sured of their confidentiality and anonymity; this was done to minimize
“People study abroad for greater opportunity …. If you come from
the social desirability bias of the respondents. Open ended questions
Middle East you get paid more” (# 17 from France).
asked includes ‘In your opinion why do you think people study
“It has high ranking, ABET on the certificates, quality in education”
abroad?’; ‘why did you choose to study abroad?’; ‘why did you choose
(#18 from Jordan)
to study in North Cyprus?’ and ‘what are the reasons you chose to
study in EMU?’.
We conducted a pilot study with 4 students to see if there is any am-
biguity in our questions. At the end no changes were made and a total of 3.2. Quality of education
31 interviews were observed. The recruitment of respondents came to
an end when information saturation was reached because no additional The second most mentioned factor by twenty three (23) respondents
data/information was recorded. Hence, the interview was stopped was quality of education. They stated that one of the important factors
(Strauss & Corbin, 1998). These interviews were tape-recorded and that motivated them to study abroad was to have access to higher quality
then transcribed into text (Lo & Lee, 2011) and further inserted into of education as well as science and technological facilities.
qualitative analysis software (Aquad 7) for content analysis.
“… the education level abroad is better … reputability, the teaching
language is English ….” (#13 from Jordan)
3. Findings “… there is a perception that if you go abroad there is a better quality
of education” (#14 from Tanzania).
The research includes 31 participants, from Azerbaijan (1), France “I came here because good education and quality than in ***”
(1) Iran (6), Jordan (8), Kazakhstan (2), Lebanon (1), Nigeria (#24 from Russia)
(7), Palestine (2), Russia (2) and Tanzania (1) respectively. The demo- “Generally I think people go abroad because they pursuing better
graphics set up include ages ranging between 19 and 30 years. Fourteen quality in education ….” (#27 from Iran).
(14) of them were female and the rest males. Seventeen (17) of them “… the degrees from here are recognized in Jordan, they have good
were undergraduates and the rest were post-graduate students (masters quality” (#29 from Jordan).
and PhD). Themes and categories came to light through content analysis
of the interviews. Merriam (1998) noted that “content analysis is the
simultaneous coding of raw data and the construction of categories 3.3. Failing in entrance exam in the home country
that capture relevant message”. We broke down the interviews into
text units; text unit is a phrase or sentence that represents a point Sixteen (14) of the respondents mentioned that they were unable to
made by the respondent. This procedure was repeated twice to gain con- meet the cut-off requirements to be admitted in their home country.
sistency in finding the themes of motivations from the transcriptions. They experienced difficulties getting admission into the home universi-
Table 1 presents the themes and equivalent count of the text units. ties. For example some of the respondents said.
“… in my country to study engineering you have to get 80 in high
3.1. Accreditation, reputation, future job prospects and english school, here they accept less than 80%” (#7 from Jordan).
Similarly, “to study in your country you have to get high score in the
The most mentioned factors by twenty seven (27) of the respon- high school exams” (#8 from Palestine).
dents was future job prospects either in the host or home country, In my country, the barrier for entrance examination is very high.
due to the reputation of foreign degrees in the home country. They People have difficulty passing that exam, only rare people are selected
chose their universities due to the number of accreditations, and (#31 from Iran)
A.M. Abubakar et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 11 (2014) 58–62 61

3.4. Culture, new language, travel and welcoming attitudes of the locals 3.9. Ease of getting visa

Twelve (12) of the respondents mentioned; cultural altruism, novel- Twenty two percent (22%) of the respondents stated that they were
ty to travel, experiencing new things, learning new language and motivated to study in North Cyprus due to ease of visa. Some of them
meeting new people. have free visa access to North Cyprus while some required a visa but it
is easy to get and they don't need to go through long processes. For
“People study abroad because they want to experience new culture”
example some of them mentioned that.
(#1 from Nigeria)
“People travel abroad to meet new people and culture ….” (#3 from “… and ease of visa.” (#2 from Nigeria)
Nigeria) “… visa is easy….” (#31 from Iran)
“… meeting new people, learning new cultures” (#6 from Nigeria)
“From my point of view and ideas, people study abroad for having
international experience” (#25 from Azerbaijan) 4. Conclusion and future research

The preliminary outcome of the study provides initial motives de-

3.5. Tuition fees and scholarships
scriptions for edu-tourists. The study identified fifteen (15) factors
that motivate student to travel abroad for the purpose of learning as
In general tuition fees and the availability of scholarships tend to be
presented above in Table 1. Given that only few studies have examined
among the critical factors in decision making regarding the destination
the motivations of edu-tourism. This study has addressed this research
for edu-tourism. In addition the universities in North Cyprus especially
gap. Considering that a quota sampling technique was employed and
EMU often offer scholarships to foreign students.
the research was conducted in North Cyprus, there were difficulties
“… the university is doing well and the tuition fee is important” experienced in reaching the whole international student population.
(#19 from Kazakhstan)“… tuition fee is conducive ….” (#2 from Secondly, there was a lack of adequate literature review related to
Nigeria) student motivations. The generalizability of the results appears to be
“… the tuition fee is attractive and subsidized ….” (#4 from questionable to other countries. For managerial practitioners in
Nigeria)“… it is reasonable given the tuition fee” (#15 from Iran) Northern Cyprus this study can increase their insights and ideas regard-
ing the motives of international students. Countries hoping to be edu-
tourism destinations can also benefits from the outcome of our study
3.6. Safety and low rate of discrimination in host country except that they and their politicians should take note about the impli-
cation of discrimination. For example, one of the respondents stated
North Cyprus is worth visiting due to its natural beauty, calm and that in other countries like *** the level of racism is high whereas in
safe environment as well as its law abiding citizens. It has a tough and North Cyprus it is less pronounced. Similarly another respondent said
strict criminal justice system and the rate of crimes is very low com- that North Cyprus is good because people here are tolerant and don't
pared to other European countries. People often sought peaceful places discriminate.
to live and study. For example some of the respondents stated that In addition, other universities in North Cyprus should pay more
“… people here are tolerant and don't discriminate ….” (#3 from attention to the quality of education and accreditation because, some
Nigeria) of the respondents declared that EMU has highly qualified staffs and
“… very safe country ….” (#28 from Jordan)“… safe country ….” accreditations. One of the interviewees asserted that “I was at ****
(#30 from Palestine) university, after that I decided to transfer to EMU because it has better
quality of education, the environment and the university recognition
is much more broader than the one at **** university”. Finally, tourism
3.7. Quality of life and living expenses in the host country industry managers should collaborate with tertiary institutions to pro-
ject reputable images of the destination, both as an attractive, prosper-
The quality of life and living expenses is another motivating factor ous and cultural destination, and as a place to acquire a quality learning
that encouraged students to study in North Cyprus. Some of the respon- experience (Ritche, 2003).
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