TEFL Tourism
: A Phenomenological Examination of the TEFL Teacher in Thailand

  • Hayley Stainton

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Although there is evidence of linkages between the concepts of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) and tourism, there has to date been little attention paid to this relationship. This thesis amalgamates these two concepts and argues for the introduction of the niche form of tourism, ‘TEFL tourism’. The TEFL tourist is defined as a person who travels outside of their usual environment to teach English as a foreign language, whose role shifts between tourist, educator and educatee at various points in their trip. The TEFL tourism phenomenon is explored through the use of a two-phase research approach employing the qualitative examination of blogs (n=36) written by TEFL teachers based in Thailand and quantitative surveys (n=567). Drawing parallels with associated tourism forms including volunteer, philanthropic, package, cultural, education and nightlife tourism, it is concluded that TEFL tourism is an entity in its own right, with unique characteristics, motivations and experiences. Key findings emphasise that the TEFL experience in Thailand differs considerably from teaching experiences in many Western countries, with aspects such as racial discrimination, celebritism and cultural immersion playing prominent roles in the TEFL teacher’s experience. The use of logistic regression facilitated the analysis of TEFL teacher types, enabling the development of a typology of TEFL tourists in Thailand. TEFL tourists were subsequently classified as leisure-minded; philanthropy-minded; career-minded or expatriate-minded. This thesis contributes to knowledge by providing an accurate overview of the TEFL teaching industry in Thailand and its participants. This is first addressed through the examination of the tourism elements and the educational elements within the TEFL experience. The thesis then introduces and justifies the concept of ‘TEFL tourism’ through the development of a definition of TEFL tourism and a typology of TEFL teachers based upon teacher motivations and experiences. This knowledge can be of use to a number of stakeholders involved including prospective TEFL teachers, their prospective employers post TEFL experience, teacher training providers, TEFL recruitment organisations, the Thai educational system and academics.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
  • Buckinghamshire New University
SupervisorElitza Iordanova (Supervisor) & Jennifer Tilbury (Supervisor)

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