English for Tourism

English for Tourism is a branch of ESP or English for Special Purposes‏‎.

Whilst sometimes it is about teaching people who will visit an English speaking country, more often it is teaching English to people who will work in the tourist industry, for example: hotel employees, travel agents, tour guides, airport officials, etc.

A main area of this sector is key language points and important vocabulary to do with tourism. Time needs also to be spent on ensuring that “polite English” is spoken.

Another important aspect of courses like these is culture. Cultural differences between different nationalities needs to be touched upon so that students are aware of differences and preferences.

Typical Scenarios
These are typical scenarios encountered in English for Tourism.

  • airport vocabulary
  • travel problems and vocabulary
  • hotel vocabulary
  • booking tours, hotels, flights, etc…
  • dealing with complaints
  • types of accommodation

Time can be spent also on telephone skills which will likely play an important part in the work.

Needs Analysis

The first step is a needs analysis to determine exactly what your class will need to know. A group of hotel workers will need very different skills from a group of airport security staff who will want very different skills from a group of pensioners visiting London for the first time, for example.

It is vitally important you spend time on this area. Once this has been done, you can prepare a syllabus which will take the students through every step of their time, and deal with common situations they’ll encounter.

A typical outline for hotel receptionists would be, for example,

  1. Inquiries and reservations
  2. Reception vocabulary and role plays
  3. Hotel services and their availability, prices, etc…
  4. Food service
  5. Local tours, itineraries, booking, etc…
  6. Complaints and how to deal with them
  7. Checking out, presenting bills, etc…


Whilst much of this course will concentrate on speaking and listening skills, the other two main the other two main language skills (reading and writing) should not be neglected. They must, however, be relevant to the needs of the students.

Course Books

There are a number of good course books‏‎ published which will help most situations and for some classes employed in “typical” situations these are fine (for the basics). However, much of this material is too specific and does not quite fit in with the class you have. This is often the case where you are teaching at general colleges where your students have not yet moved into a specific area within the tourism industry.

Another problem with course books is that they cover the most common situations. Whilst they may be ideal for a hotel receptionist, there is often a lack of good material for a hotel manager or higher level position.

Authentic Materials

Authentic materials or Realia‏‎ are important here. Encourage your students to bring in real-world material which you should use in class (brochures, itineraries, timetables, etc).

Likewise, visiting typical situations also helps – if your class includes tour guides, have them prepare a tour of a local attraction and take you there!


Videos‏‎ showing relevant scenarios can be found on YouTube or on tourist sites can be very useful as they can be used in many different ways in the classroom to give your students practice in this area of English.

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Posted in Linguistics.

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