“Marrakech Express”: a Textbook of English for Tourism

Marrakech Express by Hassan Bouzidi

Title:                     Marrakech Express
Author:                  Hassan Bouzidi
Description:            A Textbook of English for Tourism
Subject:                 ESP
Publisher:               Maarif, Rabat
Date:                     2007

Marrakech Express

The Need for Marrakech Express

The holiday industry is by far the most important in Morocco.  According to the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism over three million people are now employed in the Travel and Tourism-related industries inside the country.    As the number of foreign visitors to Morocco continues to rise each year, industries connected to Travel & Tourism are increasingly feeling the need for personnel with foreign language skills.

In the Travel & Tourism industry, there is a wide range of fields in which English language skills are needed:  tour operators, travel agencies, business travel specialists, villa rental companies, airports, airlines, ferry operators, tourist boards and local authority departments.

There are undergraduate courses in Tourism at the ‘Instituts de Hautes Etudes Hotelières et Touristiques’ in a number of cities inside the country.  In response to the Higher Education reforms (now well into their second phase) public universities have began introducing the ‘business English’ and ‘English for tourism’ components into their English Studies programs.

As reflected in the survey I conducted for this course, English in Morocco is used as a foreign language: it is not widely used for communication, nor is it used as a medium of instruction.  The only education institution that uses English as a medium of instruction for all subjects is Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane and a few branch campuses of foreign universities.

In this setting, there is limited exposure to English outside the classroom.  Apart from the few occasions where learners get to meet native speakers of English (mainly tourists and business people), there is very little opportunity to use it.  To make up for this disadvantage, Marrakech Express has been built in such a way as to provide rich and diverse linguistic input and include extensive recycling of key target-language items.

The Purpose of Marrakech Express

This book is an integrated English course intended for students entering their undergraduate career in the area of Travel & Tourism as well as for those already employed in the sector.  It is designed to help them understand and use the language of the Travel & Tourism business.  It will help them gain the necessary language skills to fill professional positions in the Travel & Tourism sector in Morocco.

The existing global courses have not been designed for this particular market and are therefore totally unsuitable.  ‘Usability’ is the principle which should guide any such course: it should reflect needs in terms of content as well as the teaching/learning methods adopted.

The overall aim of Marrakech Express is to assist learners gain access to the English language demands they encounter in the Hospitality industry.  The Course will help them recognize and learn the language patterns required in their professional context.  By the time learners finish the course, they will be able to carry out the basic communicative tasks required from employers in the Travel & Tourism industry, ranging from ‘taking a booking’ to ‘organizing an excursion’.

The book focuses on raising the learners’ oral skills as well as their communicative (pragmatic) skills.  To develop their communicative skills and better prepare them for the workplace, learners are exposed to authentic spoken English and are encouraged to (a) engage in discussion, debate and role-play (emphasis here is put on the interactive and personal aspects of language), (b) be aware of various aspects of local geography (Unit 9), history (Unit 10) and customs (Unit 12) and be able to deal with those contents at a good conversational level.

Learners are introduced to a wide range of texts in travel writing to help expand their vocabulary and to encourage them to use new vocabulary items in written exercises.  They are given opportunities to read texts that show quality in language use, and portray information, issues, and events (relating to Travel & Tourism) in ways that are challenging.  They are given opportunities to analyze and evaluate materials related to their area of specialization and to explore in which such media can be used to obtain the best results for purposes of advertising (Unit 14) or applying for a job (Unit 15).

The course is especially devised taking into account aspects of the local culture, geography and history.  All content is relevant to the Moroccan Travel & Tourism context.  And since learners can relate to what is being said they grow in motivation.

The cross-cultural dimension of the holiday industry is also given due consideration.

The Structure of Marrakech Express

The course comprises 15 Units.  Each unit contains a passage/dialogue followed by a set of tasks (vocabulary review and practice, language practice, etc.).  A number of other activities/tasks (e.g. role-playing and making dialogue) are also included in each unit.

Prior to writing the course, I consulted extensively with graduates, employees and employers to discuss their attitudes and elicit feedback.   Needs analysis revealed information that enabled me to construct the Marrakech Express textbook around three interlocking areas: language, content, and communication skills.  In the Travel & Tourism context, communication skills covers such activities as ‘socializing’, ‘telephoning’, and  ‘presenting factual information’.

Marrakech Express

The textbook contains clear instructions for each activity.  It can be used in class with a teacher, or as a self-study course alone or in groups.

Marrakech Express/Hassan Bouzidi