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An Investigation of travel motivation as a factor in international students' choice of a foreign university: A Thai Case Study

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International student mobility is an increasingly important market for both the international education services sector and the tourism sector. The youth and student travel market has been recognized as a growing segment in the global travel market
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  An investigation of travel motivation as a factor in international students’ choice of a foreign university: A Thai case studyLaddawan JIANVITTAYAKITMahidol University, Thailandicljv@mahidol.ac.thAndFrédéric DIMANCHESKEMA Business School, Francef.dimanche@skema.eduFull Paper Submitted for presentation and publication to the4th International Colloquium on Tourism & LeisureTo be held in Bangkok, 6-9 July 2010June 20, 2010Contact Author: Laddawan JIANVITTAYAKIT  An investigation of trave l motivation as a factor in international students’ choice of a foreign university: A Thai case studyIntroduction  International student mobility International student mobility is an increasingly important market for both theinternational education services sector and the tourism sector. According to OCED(2007), international student mobility has grown from 0.61 million worldwide in 1975to 2.73 million in 2005; this represents more than four-fold augmentation. Theinternational students market is likely to increase to about 5.8 million by year 2020(British Council, 2004). The youth and student travel market has been recognized as agrowing segment in the global travel market and a significant contributor to theeconomy of the destination country (British Council, 2004; Kim, Oh, & Jogaratnam,2007; Llewellyn-Smith & McCabe, 2008; Mazzarol, 1998; OECD, 2007; Richards &Wilson, 2003; Shanka, Ali-Knight, & Pope, 2002; Ward & Masgoret, 2004).According to the UNWTO (2008), the youth and student segment has grown 3-5% ayear globally and spending increases by 8% a year, which is growing faster than other travel segments. The youth and student segment now accounts for over 20% of international tourist arrivals, and the expenditure of this segment is more than anyother group of international travelers.The significance of international student mobility is well recognized in the educationsector and is extremely attractive to a country because of its knowledge-intensive,high value-added, and its ability to offer long-term benefits (British Council, 2004).Besides the education sector, the international student segment affects various sectors  that have to be taken into consideration, especially the tourism sector, since theinternational student segment, as a niche market, has a significant contribution to thedomestic tourism while doing their study in the destination country (Shanka et al.,2002).Furthermore, OECD (2009) reported that the popular country destinations worldwideare USA (20%), UK (11%), Germany (9%), France (8%), Australia (6%), and Canada(5%), and the countries that sent the most students aboard were France, Germany,Japan and Korea in the OECD area, while China and India were the two biggestsource countries worldwide. OECD (2009) also indicated that international studentsstudying abroad are most likely to learn English in their home country or wish toimprove their English language skills through immersion and study abroad especiallyin the Major English Speaking Destination Countries (MESDCs), such as USA, UK,Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.  Motivations in Students’ Decision Making Process The significant growth of international student mobility has been influenced byvarious driving forces supporting and persuading students to study abroad, such asglobalization of economy and society, internationalization of higher education (Jolly,1997; OECD, 2007), demand for broader cultural experience and language training(Williams, 2008), and extension of new technology (Jolly, 1997; Llewellyn-Smith &McCabe, 2008; OECD, 2007; Shoham, Schrage, & Eeden, 2004). International students’ motivation to study abroad is multi -dimensional which is influenced by various factors. The motivation factors that influence international students’ decision -making process are multifaceted because it is a combination of push and pull factorsencouraging students to study abroad and, then, attracting students to a destination.Jones (2006) states that learning about the factors that international students have  considered when making a decision to study abroad and their experiences when theywere studying in the destination country is very important. The interrelation between push motives and pull motives, in other words the linkages between motivations anddestination choices, is widely studied in order to understand decision-makingcomponents. The perceived destination attractiveness is an important element of travel decision- making and the tourists’ choice of destination is considerably influenced by perceptions of and satisfaction with that destination (Shanka et al.,2002). The argument of primary students’ motivations has been discussed. Ritchie and  Priddle (2003) suggest that the university student segment is primarily motivated byeducation and learning; educational attributes are more important motivational factorsthan general destination and tourism attributes in encouraging students to study in aforeign country and also in choosing a destination. Additionally, Richie (2003a)classifies university/college students and exchange students as the “education first” type, which is primarily motivated by education and learning while touristexperiences may be secondary to the educational aspect or intentions. On thecontrary, Llewellyn-Smith and McCabe (2008) argue that exchange students should  be classified as “tourism first” educational tourists, with travel being the primary motivator and education secondary. In addition, they also suggest the criteria for the “education first” and “tourism first” segments of educati onal tourism market probablyneed to be reassessed.Moreover, Mazzarol and Soutar (2002) examine three distinct stages of international students’ decision making -process when selecting a final study destination. In the firststage, students must decide to study internationally, rather than locally. This can beinfluenced by push factors within the home country. After a student has decided to  study abroad, the second stage is to choose a host country. At this point, pull factorsof country destination become important to make one host country relatively moreattractive than others. Then, the third stage is the selection of host institution. Avariety of additional pull factors make a particular institution more attractive than itscompetitors.As a result, countries and universities are increasingly devoting marketing efforts toattract international students. A few researchers have investigated the internationalstudent phenomenon (e.g., Llewellyn-Smith & McCabe, 2008; Michael, Armstrong,& King, 2003; Ritchie & Priddle, 2003). However, much is yet to be understood about international students’ motivations and decision -making processes to choose auniversity in a foreign land. The purpose of this study was to investigate travel(pleasure travel) motivation a s a factor in international students’ choice of a foreign university. Methodology The study was conducted on the population of international students who werestudying at the Mahidol University in Thailand. The entire international student population of International College, Mahidol University was selected as the sample population of this study. The convenience sample technique was applied in this study.A sample of 153 international students, defined as students who are not permanentresidents of their country of study or alternatively students who received their prior education in another country of study (OECD, 2007), was drawn for this study. Astructured questionnaire was sent by email to ascertain the respective roles of  international students’ trave l motivation factors and academic motivation factors intheir choice of a foreign university. The questionnaire was developed to compile datain terms of travel and academic motivation factors, travel behavior, and socio-
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