BEST Education Network
|Industry||Travel & Tourism|
|Dagmar Lund-Durlacher (Chair)
Tina Tiller (Secretary)
BEST Education Network (BEST-EN), headquartered at Modul University Vienna, Austria is an international consortium of educators committed to furthering the development and dissemination of knowledge in the field of Sustainable tourism. The organisation is dedicated to developing innovative sustainable travel and tourism practices that enhance and develop current industry, academic and traveller practices.
The BEST Education Network emerged from a broader initiative known as Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel, which was founded in 1998. The primary objective of BEST was to develop and disseminate knowledge in the field of sustainable tourism. In 2003 BEST went through organisational changes and the group overseeing the educational and curriculum aspects of the organisation became independent and renamed itself the BEST Education Network. A key success factor of the BEST Education Network Think Tanks is their ability to provide excellent opportunities for people to network and to get to know each other and workshops that enable both academics and practitioners to interact in a stimulating and thought-provoking environment.
The BEST Education Network is coordinated by an international Executive Committee of academics with expertise in sustainable tourism. The committee is currently chaired by Dr. Janne Liburd. The executive committee is supported by an International Advisory Committee of senior tourism academics.
BEST-EN holds annual Think Tanks at various universities around the world, during which research is presented, sustainable tourism topics are discussed, and curriculum modules for undergraduates are developed. Research and module development sessions enable delegates to discuss the theme for each Think Tank in relation to learning objectives and a research agenda. The BEST Think Tanks draw together educators, researchers, consultants and practitioners from the tourism industry. Their knowledge and experience are incorporated into the design of various topic curriculum modules on sustainable tourism for use in university curricula worldwide so that future managers will have the skill and knowledge needed to manage tourism in a sustainable manner.
The Think Tanks are typically held at a university where sustainable tourism is taught and researched. They consist of research presentations, keynote speakers, a research agenda, and curriculum development sessions. Each year the Think Tank has a particular theme and seeks to provide vision and cutting-edge insight to the topic at hand. Past themes have included:
- Think Tank X: Networking for Sustainable Tourism, MODUL University Vienna, Austria, June 27-30, 2010
- Think Tank IX: The Importance of Values in Sustainable Tourism, James Cook University, Singapore, June 15–18, 2009
- Think Tank VIII: Sustaining Quality of Life through Tourism, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey, June 24–27, 2008
- Think Tank VII: Innovations for Sustainable Tourism, The Northern Arizona University, USA, June 21–24, 2007
- Think Tank VI: Corporate Social Responsibility for Sustainable Tourism, The University of Girona, Spain, June 13–16, 2006
- Think Tank V: Managing Risk and Crisis for Sustainable Tourism: Research and Innovation, The University of West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica, June 16–19, 2005
- Think Tank IV: Sustainability and Mass Destinations: Challenges and Possibilities, The University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark, June 30 - July 4, 2004
- Think Tank III: Strategic Management and Events & Meeting Management, Alajuela, Costa Rica, July 8- July 11, 2003
- Think Tank II: Tourism Transportation and Tourism Operations, University of Hawaii, School of Travel Industry Management, April 9–12, 2002
- Think Tank I: Tourism Marketing, Tourism Planning, and Development and Human Resources Management, Bongani Lodge South Africa, February 24 - March 2, 2001
Each Think Tank provides an opportunity for researchers to present their work. A Call for Papers goes out at the end of the previous year and papers are invited and then blind reviewed by an academic review committee. Key experts in the field are also invited as keynote speakers to share their knowledge on topics related to the overall theme of the Think Tank. The Think Tanks are open to academics, educators, researchers, government officials, industry experts, sustainability experts, environmental, economic, community and cultural experts in the tourism field.
Each Think Tank provides an opportunity for participants to highlight and explore topics that will be the focus of tourism research in the coming years. Interested researchers are invited to participate in workshops to identify 'hot topics' in sustainable tourism. These research workshops will run in parallel with the curriculum development workshops. For selected hot topic areas, participants will develop a research agenda. This agenda will include identification of the specific problems that require research to be undertaken, exploring the types of approaches that can be taken to develop 'cutting edge' research in these areas, discussion of the likely outcomes of the research, its implications for stakeholder decision making and its policy significance.
BEST EN has focused on the development of teaching modules that would fit into existing undergraduate hospitality and tourism management courses. These modules are developed at BEST EN Think Tanks and are usually preceded by framing papers presented by invited speakers to provide background information and stimulate the audience's thinking. Participants then form breakout groups around key topics and develop key learning objectives outlines of content. Detailed modules are usually written by a smaller group of academic volunteers after the think tank and these are made available to educators through the organisation's website. Many of the modules from past Think Tanks have been included in an academic reference book titled 'Understanding the Sustainable Development of Tourism' 
In 2007, BEST EN launched the Tourism Education Futures Initiative (TEFI), which seeks to provide vision, knowledge and a framework for tourism education programs to promote global citizenship and optimism for a better world. An important outcome of the TEFI process is a set of five values-based principles that tourism students should embody upon graduation to become responsible leaders and stewards for the destinations where they work or live. The five value sets are: 1. Ethics, 2. Stewardship, 3. Knowledge, 4. Professionalism and 5. Mutuality, and are portrayed as interlocking Value Principles because of their interconnectedness and their permeability.
BEST EN has also been involved in the development of the INNOTOUR platform. INNOTOUR is a WEB 2.0 platform for education, research and business development in tourism and is an experimental meeting place for academics, students and enterprises. Launched in 2009, INNOTOUR is based on content created by the users. The platform is designed to facilitate international interaction and knowledge dissemination between students. New educational and scientific collaborative practices are developed to build interdisciplinary bridges between international campuses.
- Liburd, J. & Edwards, D. (2010). Understanding the Sustainable Development of Tourism. Goodfellow Publishers