Are the tuning meda generic competences useful for tourism graduates in Bethlehem-Palestine?
Hashem Abusenenh-Assistant Professor – Palestine Ahliya University
Bethlehem – Palestine
This study aimed at measuring the usefulness of the Tuning meda generic competencies for the tourism graduate in the city of Bethlehem in Palestine. To understand this relation, this paper mainly tried to figure out whether these competences affect the employers’ choice of the employees. Two questionnaires were designed to understand the view point of the employers regarding these competences. The first one was designed to arrange the competencies from the most important to the least important, the second one aimed to know how important these competencies are for the applicants’ to be offered a job in hotels in Bethlehem and was used to examine the hypothesis and answer the study’s questions. 50 questionnaires were distributed; the result showed that the top five competences are: communicate orally and in writing with different audience, identify and resolve problems, work in an interdisciplinary team, communicate in a second language, be self motivated. Employers in hotels show their well to hire applicants with some or all T-meda generic competences as they see these competences a key element if providing a better service for the customers.
Key words: tunning meda – generic competences- tourism – Bethlehem – employment
تهدف هذه الدراسة إلى قياس مدى الاستفادة من الكفاءات العامة المنبثقة عن برنامج توننغ للشرق الاوسط ,وشمال افريقيا على خريجي تخصص السياحة في مدينة بيت لحم في فلسطين. لفهم هذه العلاقة ، حاولت هذه الورقة بشكل أساسي فهم ما إذا كانت هذه الكفاءات تؤثر على اختيار أصحاب العمل للموظفين. تم تصميم استبيانين لفهم وجهة نظر أرباب العمل فيما يتعلق بهذه الكفاءات. تم تصميم الأولى لترتيب الكفاءات من الأكثر أهمية إلى الأقل أهمية ، والثانية تهدف إلى معرفة مدى أهمية هذه الكفاءات بالنسبة للمتقدمين للحصول على وظيفة في الفنادق في بيت لحم وهل يؤثر امتلاك المتقدم لواحدة او اكثر من هذه الكفاءات على اختياره وهي التي تم استخدامها في تحليل الفرضيات والاجابة على اسئلة الدراسة. تم توزيع 50 استبانة؛ أظهرت النتائج أن أفضل خمس كفاءات هي: التواصل الشفهي والكتابي مع انواع مختلفة من الجمهور، وتحديد المشكلات وحلها، والعمل في فريق متعدد التخصصات، والتواصل بلغة ثانية ، والتحفيز الذاتي. أظهر أصحاب الفنادق ومدرئها رغبة لتوظيف المتقدمين الذين لديهم بعض أو كل الكفاءات العامة لـ T-meda لأنهم يرون أن هذه الكفاءات عنصر رئيسي لتقديم الخدمات بشكل افضل للمنتفعين.
الكلمات المفتاحية:تونينغ ميدا – الكفاءات العامة – السياحة – بيت لحم – عملية التوظيف
Tourism has always been an important source of income for Palestinians, especially those who live in the city of Bethlehem. In 2017, 1,020,702 tourists visited Bethlehem(PCBS,2018).According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, more than 3.2 million visits were made to tourist and leisure sites in the west bank, including the city of Bethlehem. Bethlehem city is one of the most important tourist destinations not only in Palestine but also in the Middle East. It acquired its importance as being the city where Jesus Christ was born. Historically, about 30% of all tourists who visited Palestine visited Bethlehem. Between the years 2009 and 2017, around 10 million tourists visited Palestine in the first half of each of those years(ministry of national economy,2018) creating a huge opportunity for Bethlehem residents to start their own businesses in the tourism sector. Several hotels, souvenir shops, and travel agencies were opened in Bethlehem to serve the influx of tourists. The tourism sector in Bethlehem began flourishing in the eighties and nineties and continues to be a robust sector for the city. In 2014, the tourism sector contributed around 14% of gross domestic product (GDP), an increase of 5% since 2007 (the ministry of national economy, 2018).
The Palestinian tourism sector faces strong competition, whether from surrounding countries, especially Jordan, or from the tourism organizations working on the Israeli side. As such, owners of the tourism facilities in Palestine (specifically in Bethlehem) had to distinguish themselves and create their own competitive advantages. The human resource was recognized as a crucial factor in this competition. Bethlehem University, one of the major higher education institutions in Palestine, realized the need for qualified staff. The university started investing in the human resource asset by offering a diploma in tourism and hotel management. It now offers degrees in tourism including a Masters degree in Tourism Studies, Bachelor degree in Hotel Management, Diploma degree in Hotel Management, Diploma in Travel Agency Management and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Foundation Course Diploma, and Diploma for Tour Guides.
This research aims to understand the impact the generic competencies gained from the Tuning Middle East and North Africa (TMEDA) project on hiring new tourism graduates in Bethlehem, Palestine. The data used in the research was collected in the city of Bethlehem, Palestine in the fourth quarter of the year 2019 and the paper was finalized in the first quarter of 2020.
The problem of the study
This study aims at finding the impact of the generic competencies resulted from the TMEDA project on the hiring process of the employees in the tourism sector. Despite the importance of the tourism sector, some of the organizations do not have certain criteria or competencies to use in the hiring process. This study introduced the generic competencies resulted from TMEDA project to employers and analyzed their responses to the importance of these competencies in the hiring process. This study aims at answering the following questions:
- Do the current graduate competencies comply with the generic competencies developed by TMEDA?
- Are students with one or more T-meda generic competences, more capable to express and present themselves in job interviews?
- Do employers believe that the generic competencies are important to be acquired by their employees?
- Will employers give priority to graduates who have the generic competencies when hiring a new employee?
Importance of the study:
This study derives its importance from the importance of the tourism sector in Palestine. Tourism is a very important sector for people in Palestine. Around 360 touristic companies are operating in Palestine, this number includes: hotels, souvenirs shops, and travel agencies, this sector has 3,032 employees in hotels (dissemination and documentation department, 2018)
This study is also important because it is the first study in Palestine to explore the generic competencies of Tuning and measure their impact on graduates, employers, and the hiring process.
This study will create awareness among the higher education institutions about the importance of the generic competencies and their role in building better graduates’ personalities.
TMEDA one of the Tuning Academy projects started on December 1st 2013 and was coordinated by Deusto University. Thirty three universities participated in this project from Spain, Netherlands, United Kingdom ,Greece ,France ,Italy ,Malta ,Cyprus ,Algeria ,Morocco ,Egypt ,Palestine ,Syria ,Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Libya. TMEDA project had the general objective to implement Bologna tools in southern neighboring area (SNA) universities by building a framework of comparable, compatible and transparent programs of study. Other specific objectives for the projects were the following:
- To apply the Tuning methodology in universities of the SNA in four subject areas; Law and Good Governance including Human Rights, Healthcare and Nursing, Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture, and Tourism
- To develop Tuning reference points in four subject areas
- To develop, implement, monitor and improve degree programs for the first cycle
- To promote regional and international cooperation between SNA and EU universities
Five meetings were conducted in Jordan, Spain, Cyprus, Malta, and Spain during the period of this project. These meetings used group work, brainstorming, presentations and discussion to conclude its final results. TMEDA ended on November 30th2016, resulting in several specific and generic competencies being developed for graduates in four subject areas: law, nursing, architecture, and tourism. (TMEDA report, 2016)
As this article focuses on the generic competences resulted from the TMEDA project, I will list these competences below:
The ability to
Manage time effectively – Communicate orally and in writing with different audiences – Maintain continuous education – Have critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis – Identify and resolve problems – Make logical decisions – Work in an interdisciplinary team – Lead effectively – Work autonomously – Maintain quality of work – Act ethically with social responsibility – Apply knowledge in practical situations – Communicate in a second language – Be innovative and creative – Be flexible and adapt to different situations – Empower others – Search for information from a variety a sources.
The protection and preservation of the environment – Human rights – Health and safety procedures – The preservation of cultural heritage and values.
Organizational skills – Sense of dedication – Respect for diversity and multiculturalism – Skills in the use of information and communication
Initiative – Self-motivated – Assertive
Today, tourism sector is growing rapidly. Its economical impact worldwide is tremendous. The total contribution of travel and tourism sector to GDP was USD 8. 27 billion (10.4% of GDP) in 2017, and is forecast to rise by 4% in 2018and to rise by 3.8% to USD 12,450 billion (11.7% of GDP) in 2028. Additionally, the total contribution of this sector to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry, was 9.9% of total employment (313,221,000 jobs) in 2017. This is expected to rise by 3% in 2018 to 322,666,000 jobs. (Wttc, 2018)
The year 2017, witnessed the highest growth in international tourist arrivals in seven years since 2010. The total number of the international tourist arrivals was 1,326 million with an increase of 7% since 2010. The table below shows the distribution of these international arrivals by regions. (UNWTO, 2019)
International tourists arrivals(millions)
Market share (%)
|Asia and the pacific||323.1||24|
According to UNWTO report, France, Spain, USA, China, and Italy where the top five travel destinations in 2017. The purpose of 55% of the 2017 visits was leisure, recreation and holidays, whereas 27% of all travels were for health, religion and family reasons. (UNWTO, 2018)
Tourism in the Middle East
The year 2018, which was the best year in international tourist arrivals since 2010, according to the UNWTO 2019 report, witnessed a 10% increase in the international tourist arrivals which equals to 64 million tourists have visited several countries in the Middle East. The highlighted countries where Saudi Arabia due to facilitation in visa issuing and the tourism festivals in some cities, and Qatar which also offered visa facilitation, its preparation for the World Cup 2022 have also contributed to the increase of the number of tourists in the country (UNWTO, 2019). Egypt and Bahrain were always two of the larger destination in the region, the UNWTO 2019 have no data yet about these two countries, but by throwing back to the 2018 report, we see that Egypt led growth, Bahrain, Jordan and Palestine rebounded robustly, while the United Arab Emirate of Dubai and Lebanon continued to grow at a sustained pace (UNWTO,2018).
Since 2015, UNWTO reports showed increase in the number of tourists arriving to the Middle East countries, due to better tourism infrastructure, online marketing, and visa facilitation.
Tourism in Palestine
Palestine is a small country with limited resources located in the Middle East. With all the unstable situation is and surrounding Palestine, people had to had a way to invest their money, tourism sector was one way to do so, especially in Palestinian cities like Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and many more, cities with huge ancient monument and historical importance.
In 2016 the estimated contribution of the tourism sector in Palestine’s GDP is 2.5%, the sector which employ 26,180 people, has a contribution of 305 million dollars in the same year. 7218 establishments were operating in 2015 in the tourism sector in Palestine; the table below shows the distribution of these establishments (Palestinian central bureau of statistics, 2017)
Type of establishments
Number of establishments
|Haj +Umrah services||105|
Out of 3.2 million tourists who visited several sites in Palestine in the first of 2017, 260,868 tourists spent 782,756 nights in hotels.
Tourism in Bethlehem
Bethlehem governorate consists of 10 municipalities, three refugee camps and several village councils; its population is over 220,000 of which 36000 live in the city of Bethlehem. Two sites of the governorate have been inscribed as UNESCO world heritage site: The Nativity Church in Bethlehem city and the village of Battir.(Nad.ps, 2019)
Bethlehem is known worldwide as a tourism destination, it is specifically known for being a religious destination for Christians since it is the birth place of Jesus Christ.
In December 2018, the statistics showed that more than one million tourists visited Bethlehem, spending more than 800,000 nights in hotels. (Ministry of interior, 2018). Bethlehem receives the biggest percentage of the inbound tourists of Palestine as it receives around 31% of the tourists. (PCBS, 2017)
Several studies were conducted to understand the importance of competences and soft skill both in the workplace and during the hiring process. Different results show some skills are more important than others, but in general all studies asserted the importance of the soft skills and the competences in providing services for customers, studies also showed that some skills like communication skills and problem solving are always required for employment.
The study of (WARD and UNESCO,2018) about life and work skills for youth in Lebanon showed that employers in Lebanon seek employees based on three levels : the interpersonal, intrapersonal and practical skills which is in consistence with the UN work skills list that mentioned that the employers look for employees who have evidence of creativity, teamwork, client or beneficiary oriented, cross-cultural communication abilities, function under stress, decision making, problem-solving , flexibility , time management , leadership, digital literacy
The study of (Tanius,2018) is a study about employability skills in Malaysia, that employers’ top ten required skills are: highly organized, step outside comfort zone, put in extra hours when needed, innovative, obtaining information from all relevant sources, particular and has an eye for detail, problem-solving skills, multitasking and flexible, self-directed and able to complete projects with limited supervision, managing cultural diversity. This study was conducted in 2018 in 299 organizations, and was answered by 607 managers.
The study of (Nusrat,2016) analyzed 3996 job advertisement in Bangladesh and found out that employers search for the soft skill attributes like communication skills ( both verbal &writing ), interpersonal skill, ability to work under pressure, team player, analytical ability, self motivated, deadline/target oriented, leadership skill, problem solving ability.
The study of (Lippman et al, 2015) reaffirmed the importance of soft skills for youth workforce outcomes. This study identified key soft skills for youth workforce success, bringing to bear evidence and perspectives from researchers across disciplines, employers, youth, and program implementers. The top five soft skills that promise to increase the chances of workforce success for youth include: social skills, higher-order thinking skills (including problem solving, critical thinking, and decision-making), communication self control and positive self concept. To reach to these results, the researchers analyzed 400 previous studies about the soft skills from different perspectives.
The study of (pollard et al, 2015) was conducted in the UK, the 21 organizations (employers) who participated in the report of the Institute for employment studies in the UK named: understanding employers’ graduate recruitment and selection practices: main report study saw that the technical skills are as important as the generic and leadership abilities. The generic skills include: intellectual ability especially analytical and problem solving skills, ability to work with others, communication skills.
The study of (Carnochan et al, 2014) was conducted in partnership with 11-member consortium of county welfare-to-work directors; it was done in four northern California counties. Employee self presentation was an important factor in the hiring process and on the job and was viewed by the employers as an indicator of motivation and judgment. Interpersonal skills including effective communication skills were important factor in hiring decisions and in ongoing employment relationships.
The study of (Sheetha,2014) found that Organizations in the industry have expectations of their prospective employees to have knowledge, good attitude, excellent communication skills, employers do value soft skills more than hard skills, important skills are to have intellectual capabilities, practical skills, and the desire to learn.
The purpose of this research is to understand the degree of importance of the set of generic competences resulted from the Tuning Middle East and North Africa project (T-meda project) on the tourism graduates hiring process. The research studied this importance from the employers’ point of view and how do these competences affect the following three steps of the hiring process:
- Applicant ability to express their selves.
- Applicant behavior during the interview.
- Applicant being selected for a job.
As per the statistics of the Palestinian bureau of statistics, there were 41 hotels in Bethlehem in the year 2018. For the purpose of this study a sample of 50 employers was selected to participate in this research. The sample of the research consisted of hotel owners, human resource managers, and head of divisions.
To support the results of this study, an interview was conducted with an expert in tourism pedagogy to give more insights about what skills do tourism colleges provide students with, and what graduates really want to have a job in Bethlehem hotels.
|Human resources manager||11||22.0|
|Years of experience
|More than 7 years||21||42.0|
Two questionnaires were designed to achieve the goals of this study. The first questionnaire aims to answer the questions of the study and to prove its hypothesis which used five lickert scales (strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, and strongly agree). The second questionnaire was designed so that the employers can rank the generic competences resulted from T-meda according to their importance from the employers point of view. This questionnaire used four lickert scales (very important, important, little importance, not important at all)
The questionnaires were distributed in person to the employers, meetings were held with respondents when needed. A brief about the research and the generic competences was attached to the questionnaire.
- There is no relationship between acquiring the generic competencies developed by TMEDA project and the increase of tourism graduates’ chances of being selected among other applicants for a job in a touristic organization.
- There is no relationship between acquiring the generic competencies developed by TMEDA project and the improvement of the applicants’ ability to express their selves during the hiring process.
- There is no relationship between acquiring the generic competencies developed by TMEDA project and the tourism graduates’ chances to pass the personal interview.
- There is no relationship between acquiring the generic competencies developed by TMEDA project and giving the applicant priority among others when making the hiring decisions
The results presented in this chapter are generated from the analysis of the questionnaires and the interview, these results will mainly be used to answer the research questions, and they will also be used to highlight some issues related to the importance of the skills and competences on the hiring process.
The results of this study match the previous literature studies’ results. Those studies were selected as they studied organizations that provide services, and all studies highlight top competencies required by employers.
The table below shows the five competencies with highest mean ratings in terms of importance:
|Rank||Competences||Mean rating||Standard deviation|
|1||2. Communicate orally and in writing with different audience.||3.66||1.144|
|2||5. Identify and resolve problems.||3.54||1.031|
|3||7. Work in an interdisciplinary team.||3.46||1.098|
|4||13. Communicate in a second language.||3.46||1.098|
|5||27. Be self motivated.||3.42||1.029|
To understand more the reality of providing skills in the teaching process at Tourism College, an interview was conducted with an expert in tourism pedagogy to shed the light on the tourism curriculum, how and what skills are being introduced to students while studying, are these skills really required by the hotels.
Tourism teaching is mostly done through practice and giving students skills, whether technical or soft skills, this is done because the tourism sector require people to have good interpersonal skills in addition to their work and technical skills. The generic competences resulted from T-meda are really important for the tourism graduates as well as people who already work in the field. After being giving the theoretical part, students are asked to have a training period in hotels and other touristic institutions in order to work in real life situations and obtain the needed skills for the position they might fill in the future.
Based on the expert’s work experience whether as an instructor or in his previous work in hotels, he sees that the following are the top five competences for the graduate to be distinguished among other candidates and have better chances in getting a job:
- Communicate orally and in writing with different audiences
- Identify and resolve problems
- Make logical decisions
- Be initiative
- Have sense of dedication
As the expert worked previously in a hotel, and he is still communicating now with hotels, he confirms that soft skills and competences will not only enhance the graduate chance in getting a job but also his performance after being appointed by the organization.
Are the TMEDA generic competencies important for the tourism graduate in order to have a job in the touristic sector?
Means and standard deviations of the items
|5||Having one or more TMEDA generic competencies will increase the chance of the applicant to be selected for the next selection process||4.10||0.71||agree|
|2||The positions in the touristic organization require competencies that are among TMEDA generic competencies.||4.08||0.57||agree|
|3||My organization is keen to know the applicants’ competencies before selecting the shortlisted applicants.||3.86||0.64||Agree|
|1||The organization search for the employees based on their competencies||3.68||0.79||agree|
|4||One of the applications’ filtering indicators is the applicants’ competencies.||3.68||0.68||Agree|
The table show that the great agree for Having one or more TMEDA generic competencies will increase the chance of the applicant to be selected for the next selection process with mean 4.10 while they follow that The positions in the touristic organization require competencies that are among TMEDA generic competencies with mean 4.08 ,the item has the less mean One of the applications’ filtering indicators is the applicants’ competencies with mean 3.68 the total mean is 3.88
Are the TMEDA generic competencies important for the tourism graduates to express their selves?
Means and standard deviations of the items
|7||A person who has TMEDA generic competencies is able to fill job application in a better way than other applicants.||3.94||0.74||agree|
|10||People who have TMEDA generic competencies are able to express themselves and their ideas in a better way than other candidates.||3.84||0.79||Agree|
|9||TMEDA generic competencies enhance the ability of the person to communicate with others in the tourism sector.||3.80||0.76||agree|
|6||A person who has TMEDA generic competencies is able to write a better CV than other applicants.||3.78||0.89||agree|
|8||People who have TMEDA generic competencies are able to market themselves in a better way than other candidates.||3.76||0.87||agree|
The table show that the great agree for A person who has TMEDA generic competencies is able to fill job application in a better way than other applicants with mean 3.94 while they follow that People who have TMEDA generic competencies are able to express themselves and their ideas in a better way than other candidates. with mean 3.84 ,the item has the less mean People who have TMEDA generic competencies are able to market themselves in a better way than other candidates. with mean 3.76 the total mean is 3.82
Are the TMEDA generic competencies important for the tourism graduates to pass the personal interview?
Means and standard deviations of the items
|12||The applicant who has one or more TMEDA generic competencies is able to answer the interview questions better than other candidates.||3.96||0.75||agree|
|13||The applicant who has one or more TMEDA generic competencies appears to be more presentable than other candidates.||3.86||0.70||agree|
|14||I think that people with one or more TMEDA generic competencies have a greater chance to be selected based on their interview.||3.74||0.63||agree|
|15||TMEDA competencies could be a good base for job interviews.||3.62||0.99||agree|
|11||The interview in the organization is competencies-based interview||3.44||0.81||Neutral|
The table show that the great agree for The applicant who has one or more TMEDA generic competencies is able to answer the interview questions better than other candidates with mean 3.96 while they follow that The applicant who has one or more TMEDA generic competencies appears to be more presentable than other candidates with mean 3.86, the item has the less mean The interview in the organization is competencies-based interview with mean 3.44 the total mean is 3.72
Are the TMEDA generic competencies important for the tourism graduate when the company makes its hiring decision?
Means and standard deviations of the items
|18||The TMEDA competencies are very important for the employees in touristic organizations||4.02||0.74||agree|
|17||Having one or more TMEDA generic competencies will increase the chance of the applicants to have a job offer.||3.92||0.57||agree|
|19||The TMEDA competencies might be a basic requirement for making employment decisions||3.84||0.65||agree|
|20||It is important for the universities to include these competencies in their curriculum to increase their students’ opportunities to be selected for touristic jobs.||3.78||0.97||agree|
|16||The selection decision is based on the applicants’ competencies.||3.40||0.83||Neutral|
The table show that the great agree for The TMEDA competencies are very important for the employees in touristic organizations with mean 4.02 while they follow that Having one or more TMEDA generic competencies will increase the chance of the applicants to have a job offer with mean 3.92, the item has the less mean The selection decision is based on the applicants’ competencies with mean 3.40 the total mean is 3.79
What is the impact of acquiring the generic competencies resulted from TMEDA project on hiring new tourism graduates in Bethlehem – Palestine?
To answer the question means and standard deviation s used for items
To examine the hypothesis Pearson correlation coefficient calculated between acquiring the generic competencies developed by TMEDA project and tourism graduates’ chances of being selected among other applicants for a job in a touristic organization, and the improvement of the applicants’ ability to express their selves during the hiring process, the tourism graduates’ chances to pass the personal interview, and giving the applicant priority among others when making the hiring decisions.
|applicants’ selection among others||.730||.000|
|applicants’ ability to express themselves||.813||.000|
|Have the job||.779||.000|
After reviewing the interviews and the questionnaires analysis, the following results can be derived:
- Bethlehem university, which is the pioneer university that offer tourism programs in Bethlehem, is always keen to enhance its graduates’ quality by adding soft skill (many of them are included within the generic competences) to the college curriculum.
- The employer surveyed, found that the T-meda generic competences are very important to enhance the quality of the services provide in the hotels.
- According to employers, the most important competences are: Communicate orally and in writing with different audience, Identify and resolve problems, Work in an interdisciplinary team, Communicate in a second language, be self motivated.
- From employers view point, applicants’ who have one or more generic competences will be able to distinguish themselves among applicants, and have higher potential to get the job.
- It is important that these generic competences are communicated with universities, colleges and employers in Bethlehem to raise awareness about their importance
In order for this study to be beneficial, I highly recommend the following:
- To communicate these competencies with the employer in the tourism sector in Palestine.
- To communicate these competencies with the Universities and tourism students.
- Conduct studies exploring the relation between these competencies and the progress of the employees in the tourism sector in Bethlehem and in Palestine.
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