Cornelia Blank, Riedler C and Schobersberger W
Health tourism is a growing market that depends on the quality of its professionals. There is a discussion in the tourism literature about whether higher educated professionals are needed. Presently, there are no studies of the demand for academically qualified staff in health tourism, nor are there any reports on the given market regarding the offering of such training or on the willingness to use such offerings. The current study aims to provide a subjective assessment of the industry’s key players regarding their evaluation of the importance and need for qualitatively high academic education in health tourism. Additionally, the knowledge of these key players about the current offerings in academic health tourism in the German-speaking Alpine area and their willingness to use such offerings will be evaluated. An online questionnaire was used, focusing on the knowledge of health tourism, an assessment of the importance of academic education in this field, and the willingness to take part in such education. The target population was 58 professionals in leading positions of tourism destinations in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and South Tyrol. With a response rate of 29.3%, responses from all questioned countries were retrieved. Of the respondents queried, 47.1% saw a need for higher education in health tourism and 81.3% assessed it to be important. Only 11.8% employed staff with a degree, 41.7% were willing to finish academic training, but 76.5% did not know any institution offering such educational training. Time and cost restraints were the most mentioned reasons not to take part in higher education in health tourism. There is little current knowledge about the actual possibilities for academic training in the field. However, professionals perceive it to be important and necessary to have qualified employees. However, the employment rate of employees with a higher education in health tourism is still low.