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Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education 15 (2014) 8693

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Journal of Hospitality,
Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jhlste

Research notes

The relationships amongst the intern anxiety, internship


outcomes, and career commitment of hospitality
college students
Yao-Fen Wang a, Min-Huei Chiang b, Yi-Ju Lee c,n
a
Department of Food and Beverage Services, Tainan University of Technology, No. 529, Zhongzheng Rd, Yongkong District, Tainan City
71002, Taiwan, ROC
b
Internship Section in Research and Development Office, National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, No. 1, Songhe Rd.,
Xiaogang District, Kaohsiung City 81271, Taiwan, ROC
c
Department of Applied English, Tainan University of Technology, No. 529, Zhongzheng Rd, Yongkong District, Tainan City 71002,
Taiwan, ROC

a r t i c l e in f o

Keywords:
Anxiety
Employment
Career development
Hospitality industries

abstract
Cultivating the practical experience and skills of students through internships is
beneficial, but a student's anxiety when transitioning from student to intern is often
neglected. This study analysed the changes in student anxiety to determine the relationships among intern anxiety, internship outcomes, and career commitment. A cluster
sampling method and questionnaire survey were used to collect data from third- and
fourth-year college students from hospitality-related departments. The effective sample
sizes were 255 (preinternship) and 245 (postinternship). According to the data, intern
anxiety slightly decreased after internship. Intern anxiety and internship outcomes were
determined to influence career commitment significantly, although no relationship was
found between intern anxiety and internship outcomes. This paper provides additional
suggestions for designing an off-campus internship curriculum and improving off-campus
intern guidance.
& 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Internships have been described as apprenticeships, cooperative education, experimental learning, field work practica,
practical work experience, industrial placement, placement learning, sandwich courses, service learning, and workplace
learning (Auburn, 2007; Auburn, Ley, & Arnold, 1993; Leslie, 1991; Zopiatis & Theocharous, 2013). Since 2001, Vocational
higher education in Taiwan has gradually increased its course offerings in the domain of hospitality, tourism, and leisure.
According to the Ministry of Education of Taiwan (2013), the number of undergraduate programs has increased by more
than 163 in present. Many such programs, particularly those in vocational higher education, offer an internship as a
component of the curriculum (Wan, Yang, Cheng, & Su, 2013). Increasingly more lodging management educators are using
student internship programs to close the gap between educational learner outcomes and industry expectations (Barrows &
Bosselman, 1999; Domask, 2007; Solnet, Kralj, Kay, & DeVeau, 2009). Consequently, internships have become a crucial

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: t10033@mail.tut.edu.tw (Y.-F. Wang), chiang@mail.nkuht.edu.tw (M.-H. Chiang), yijulee26@gmail.com (Y.-J. Lee).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhlste.2014.06.005
1473-8376/& 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Y.-F. Wang et al. / Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education 15 (2014) 8693

87

compulsory course in related hospitality departments. Internships enable students to connect theory (i.e., tacit knowledge)
with practice (i.e., explicit knowledge) and increase the adaptability and competitiveness of students before graduation.
Few studies have focused on the effectiveness of cooperative education in the hospitality and tourism industries (Wan et al.,
2013); instead, they have focused on the perspectives, expectations, satisfaction, and occupational choices of students (e.g., Chen,
2008; Cho, 2006; Ju, Emenheiser, Clayton, & Reynolds, 1998; Kuo, 2006; Lam & Ching, 2007; Lee & Chao, 2008; Tse, 2010).
Regarding internship outcomes, some studies have indicated that off-campus internships could help students adapt to their jobs
more effectively, enhance their understanding of the workplace (Lee, Chen, Hung, & Chen, 2011; Liu & Chen, 2000), acquire
practical experience, communication skills, career development skills (Barrows & Bosselman, 1999), technical task skills, and the
ability to apply knowledge, and improve their insights into reality (Busby, Brunt, & Baber, 1997). Dressler and Keeling (2004)
proposed that by participating in joint education programs, students can receive opportunities to understand different
occupations, which can benefit students who have yet to decide what to pursue in their careers, by informing them about
what career choices are available. Through in-depth interviews, Mihail (2006) determined that students perceived internships as
a way to improve time management, interpersonal communication, teamwork, task prioritisation, and job productivity. Kessels
and Kwakman (2007) reported that workplace learning enables students to advance job-related competencies. Tse (2010)
indicated that, through internships, students can improve their personal growth, career development, practical skills, core
employability, decision-making ability, workplace relationship skills, and application of academic knowledge in the real world.
Chiu (2012) found that vocational students generally provide positive feedback towards off-campus internships, and agreed that
an internship could enhance employability, professional core skills, interpersonal skills, time management, and self-confidence,
as well as equip students with behaviours and attitudes appropriate for the workplace.
Some people are likely to experience anxiety in an unfamiliar work environment, and college students participating in an
internship are no exception. Research on intern anxiety is scant; previous researchers have focused on the anxious feelings
of medical and nursing students or interns in the field of education (Bellini, Baime, & Shea, 2002; Herrick, 1987). Research on
the anxiety of hospitality college student interns was not found. Anxiety, which can be defined as the complex emotional
states of tension, worry, or depression, causes physiological and behavioural responses, which belong to a person's intrinsic
and subjective nervous emotions such as fear of the unknown or unfamiliarity with places and tasks (Endler & Kocovski,
2001). Vickers and Williams (2007) proposed that anxiety can drive a person towards negative thinking, which induces
nervousness or reduced self-confidence in performing a job. Internships connect academic learning with practical
experience and constitute a useful part of an effective interdisciplinary curriculum (Domask, 2007); hence, understanding
intern anxiety is crucial for researchers and teachers in establishing hospitality manpower cultivation plans.
Bellini et al. (2002) indicated that medical and nursing interns were likely to experience anxiety, and that anxiety
persisted after the internship was complete. The anxiety of education interns was found to influence internship outcomes
significantly. Those who participated in internship programs were likely to have lower anxiety and higher self-value in the
workplace compared with those who did not attend an internship (Herrick, 1987). Questions remain whether people in the
hospitality industry experience lower anxiety in the workplace if they have internship experience, and whether anxiety is
an accurate predictor of internship outcomes.
Many studies have shown that negative internship experiences can lower student intentions to remain in the hospitality
industry and pursue a career after graduation (Barron & Maxwell, 1993; Callan, 1997; Fox, 2001; Richardson, 2008; West &
Jameson, 1990; Zopiaits, 2007). Zopiatis (2007) indicated that many hospitality intern programs lacked well-established
protocols. Low-quality internships can alienate students from a career in hospitality when their expectations do not match
reality. In a low-quality internship, students might be assigned meaningless tasks, be left unsupervised, receive unequal
treatment by managers compared with other interns, or have wage discrepancies. Any of these factors might cause a student to
leave the industry after an internship (Callan, 1997; Richardson, 2008). Barron and Maxwell (1993) addressed the differences
between students' expectations and their internship experience. After attending an unsatisfying internship, many students leave
with a negative perception of the career opportunities, monetary rewards, training prospects, and job satisfaction in the
hospitality industry. Lee and Chao (2013) suggested that host organisations that provide benefits positively enhance a person's
desire to stay and commit to the industry. West and Jameson (1990) found that supervised work experience is a major force in
determining whether graduates pursue hospitality careers. Therefore, both the hospitality industry and educational system must
become involved in further research to understand the stages at which student interns decide against full-time hospitality
employment. However, successful work experience or job satisfaction can positively influence a students intentions to pursue a
career in the hospitality industry (Domonte & Vaden, 1987; Fazio, 1986; Wan et al., 2013). Chen, Lin, and Kuo (2011) determined
that internship outcomes, as perceived by hospitality college students, show a slightly positive association with career
commitment in the hospitality industry. Zopiatis and Theocharous (2013) indicated that the level of gained internship benefits
or outcomes, as perceived by students, exhibits a significantly positive association with the perceived success of an internship.
Questions remain how the anxiety of interns change, and whether a significant relationship exists among internship
anxiety, internship outcomes, and career commitment. Whether anxiety disappears after an internship, or whether it
remains and causes employment anxiety, thus affecting future career development, remains uncertain. These concerns are
worth further exploration. The current study focused on the transformation of anxiety before and after an internship to
determine the relationships among intern anxiety, internship outcomes, and the career commitment of hospitality college
students after an internship. Accordingly, the hypotheses are listed as follows:
Hypothesis 1. Hospitality college students will experience significantly lower anxiety after an internship.

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Hypothesis 2. Intern anxiety will have a significantly negative relationship with the internship outcomes of hospitality
college students.
Hypothesis 3. Internship outcomes will have a significantly positive relationship with the career commitment of hospitality
college students.
Hypothesis 4. Intern anxiety will have a significantly negative relationship with the career commitment of hospitality
college students.
Hypothesis 5. Internship outcomes play the role of a mediator between intern anxiety and the career commitment of
hospitality college students.
2. Methodology
A questionnaire survey was adopted for this study; the target participants were hospitality college students who had
participated in an internship. The questionnaire was designed by referring to concepts developed based on reviewed
literature. All the questions were generated first in English by a bilingual researcher and translated into Chinese by using the
standard back-translation procedure. All the items were checked by the scholars to modify the sentences and determine the
applicability in Taiwan. The questionnaire was pretested on a sample of students. Changes were made according to the
results of the pilot study.
2.1. Instrumentation
2.1.1. Demographics
The usual demographic variables, such as gender, internship duration, and types of internship organisation, were
included in the survey to identify explanatory variables and to compare the results with those of other studies.
2.1.2. Intern anxiety
The anxiety measurement was based on Chen (2005), Callanan and Greenhaus (1990), Chang (2011), and interviews with
21 students. Seventeen items, including statements such as My ability to manage time makes me worry about my
performance and Communicating with my supervisor makes me feel worried, were listed, and the students were asked to
indicate their levels of agreement, from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5).
2.1.3. Internship outcomes
The participants also completed a self-reported 15-item questionnaire developed by Lai and Chan (2011), and 16 students
were interviewed. Fifteen items, including statements such as This internship provides me with valuable experience, This
internship enhances my ability to cope with stress, and This internship strengthens my creative thinking, were listed, and
the students were asked to indicate their levels of agreement, from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (7).
2.1.4. Career commitment
Career Commitment was measured according to Blau (1989). Six items, including statements such as I like the careers
available in hospitality and will never give them up and The availability of hospitality-related jobs is ideal for my career
goals, were listed and students were asked to indicate their levels of agreement, from strongly disagree (1) to strongly
agree (7).
2.2. The sample
The respondents were notified that the information provided would be strictly confidential, anonymous, and used only
for academic purposes. Most of the hospitality college students started internship during their third-year and fourth-year
study in Southern Taiwan. In order to understand the transformation of anxiety before and after the internship, a cluster
sampling method was used to collect data from third- and fourth-year college students from hospitality-related
departments. The face-to-face questionnaire survey was conducted in five universities located in Southern Taiwan. The
total number of the students shifting the internship in 2013 is 265 people. The students completed self-administered
questionnaires for determining their anxiety levels before and after internships, based on four metrics: intern anxiety,
internship outcomes, career commitment, and demographics.
2.3. Data analysis
Data analysis was conducted using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20.0. The applied
statistics included descriptive statistics, reliability analysis, factor analysis, and correlation analysis. AMOS 18.0 was used to
conduct a two-stage structural equation modelling (SEM) procedure suggested by Anderson and Gerbing (1988). First, a

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89

confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted to examine the psychometric properties of the measures. Subsequently, a
general SEM technique was used to test the validity of the proposed model and the hypotheses.

3. Results
3.1. The respondents
The first survey was conducted in January 2013 before internships to determine the anxiety levels of students. A total of
265 questionnaires were distributed and 255 valid responses were returned. The main survey was conducted in September
2013 after the internships were complete. A total of 265 questionnaires were distributed and 245 valid responses were
returned. The survey was conducted in the universities where the students would complete the self-administered
questionnaires in the classrooms. Thus, the validity of the survey is high. Table 1 lists the demographic profiles of the
respondents. Most of the respondents majored in hospitality management (55%), followed by those majoring in food and
beverage services (45%). All of the respondents were attending a half-year internship (100%), and approximately 60% of
them were female. The results revealed that most of the students were in hotels (67%) and restaurants (24%), and 52% of the
respondents worked as waiters/waitresses during their internships.

3.2. Anxiety transformation of students


To measure student anxiety, a factor analysis was performed to reveal dimensions that can be indicative of responses,
yielding three factors explaining 54.08% of the variance. Factor 1 consisted of 9 items related to personal experiences and
learning abilities, and it was named anxiety of personal situations. Factor 2 comprised 4 items such as Communicating
with my supervisor makes me feel worried and Presentations to my supervisor make me feel great pressure. As discussed
above, relating to anxiety of interpersonal relationships. Factor 3 is related to the anxiety of environment and contents in
workplaces and comprises 4 items, such as Dispatching to different work units makes me feel worried and I am worried
about how hard it is to get on track quickly in a new work environment. The reliability alphas for the three domains and the
overall scale were all close to or higher than.60, indicating that the criteria were met (Nunnally, 1978). The CFA was applied
to test the validity of the questionnaire, indicating that the validity of anxiety was acceptable (2 154.557, 2/df 1.332,
GFI.936, AGFI.916, NFI.935, CFI .983, PCFI.838, RMSEA.036, SRMR.032, .935).
Most of the anxiety items assessed on the 5-point scale had a mean score higher than 3 before the internships. Anxiety
still existed after the internships were complete, but decreased to an average of 2.9. The t-test showed that the overall
anxiety level of hospitality interns decreases after internships. By focusing on the three dimensions of internship anxiety, we
found that the anxiety of personal situations did not decrease after the internships; however, there was significant change
in both anxiety of interpersonal relationships and anxiety of environment and contents in workplaces. Therefore,
internship anxiety decreases slightly after an internship, but anxiety does not disappear completely because an internship
does not represent a real job, and interns might still subconsciously experience slight anxiety about future employment. The
individual capabilities of students might not be intensified after internships. Through the experience of interacting with
supervisors during internships, the anxiety of interpersonal relationships might be reduced and result in enhanced
interpersonal skills. In addition, familiarity with the workplace and job scope reduces the anxiety of environment and
contents in workplaces (Table 2). Therefore, Hypothesis 1 was supported.

Table 1
Demographic of respondents (N 245, after internship).
Characteristic
Gender
Female
Male
Types of internship organization
Hotel
Restaurant
Baking factory
Resort
Studying program
Four-year college
Internship duration
Half year

Frequency

Characteristic

146
99

60
40

Department
Hospitality
Management
Food & beverage services

165
59
17
4

67
24
7
2

Internship title
Waiter/waitress
Assistant cook (kitchen, snacks, bakery, bar)
Housekeeping and other

245

100

245

100

Frequency

134

55

111

45

129
64
52

53
26
21

90

Y.-F. Wang et al. / Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education 15 (2014) 8693

Table 2
Anxiety transform before and after internship.
Intern anxiety and dimensions

Benchmark

Mean

Paired-t

Intern anxiety

Before
After
Before
After
Before
After
Before
After

3.04
2.91
3.02
2.96
3.14
2.89
2.98
2.80

2.03n

Anxiety of personal situations


Anxiety of interpersonal relationships
Anxiety of environment and contents in workplaces

.91
3.15nn
2.62nn

p o .05.
p o .01.

nn

Table 3
Inter-correlations between the variables.
Variable

Mean

SD

1. Intern anxiety
2. IA1
3. IA2
4. IA3
5. Intern outcomes
6. IO1
7. IO2
8. IO3
9. Career Commitment

2.91
2.96
2.89
2.80
5.61
5.80
5.75
4.93
4.65

.77
.86
.93
.79
.80
.91
.88
1.12
1.12

1
.944nnn
.818nnn
.835nnn
.004
.050
 .012
 .063
 .164nnn

1
.634nnn
.688nnn
.001
.044
 .012
 .063
 .104

1
.633nnn
 .023
.011
 .026
 .069
 .254nnn

1
.042
.085
.009
 .024
 .118

1
.917nnn
.875nnn
.673nnn
.403nnn

1
.716nnn
.429nnn
.337nnn

1
.446nnn
.316nnn

1
.382nnn

IA1 Anxiety of Personal Situations; IA2 Anxiety of Interpersonal Relationships; IA3 Anxiety of environment and contents in workplaces; IO1 Professional Practice and Career Development; IO2 Growth of Mental Capacity; IO3 Applied Abilities of Academic Knowledge
nnn
po .001.

3.3. Internship outcomes of students


Regarding the internship outcomes of students, most of the outcomes assessed on the 7-point scale had a mean score
higher than 5 after the internships were complete. The top three items, This internship increases my feelings of job
responsibility (mean5.97), This internship provided valuable experience (mean5.92), and This internship enhanced
my ability to manage problems by myself (mean5.92), indicated that the respondents perceived deriving many practical
professional and career benefits from their internships.
A factor analysis was also performed to reveal the dimensions that might be indicative of the responses. The results
showed three factors explaining 66.22% of the variance. Factor 1 consisted of 7 items that were related to personal
development and practice, and it was named Professional practice and career development. Factor 2 comprised 5 items
such as This internship improved my ability to accomplish tasks efficiently and This internship enhanced my ability to get
along with managers. As discussed, Factor 2 is related to the Growth of mental capacity. Factor 3 is composed of 3 items
related to Applied abilities of academic knowledge, such as This internship strengthened my creative thinking and This
internship helped me to determine my advantages in obtaining and applying academic knowledge. All of the reliability
alphas for the three domains and the overall scale were higher than .78. The CFA results indicated that the validity of the
internship outcomes scale was acceptable (2 148.31, 2/df 1.70, p.00, GFI.93, CFI.97, AGFI.90, SRMR.44, and
RMSEA .05).

3.4. The relationships among intern anxiety, internship outcomes, and career commitment
As shown in Table 3, no relationship was found between anxiety and the three dimensions of internship outcomes. The
result was inconsistent with the statement of Hypothesis 2. The three dimensions of internship outcomes and career
commitment were significantly correlated, and the Pearson correlation coefficients ranged from .316 to .382 (p o.01).
Hypothesis 3 was therefore supported. Furthermore, the relationship between intern anxiety and career commitment was
also found to be negative, with a correlation coefficient of .136 (p o.05), thus supporting Hypothesis 4.
The resulting data were analysed using AMOS software to conduct the SEM analysis. The multiple indices of model fit,
including the chi-square statistic, comparative fit index (CFI), goodness-of-fit index (GFI), adjusted goodness of fit index
(AGFI), and normed fit index (NFI), were examined as recommended by several researchers (Bollen, 1989; Byrne, 2010;
Hooper, Coughlan, & Mullen, 2008; Kline, 2011; Raykov & Marcoulides, 2006). According to the analysis results, all of the

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91

Fig. 1. Mediating effects of intern outcomes on intern anxiety and career commitment, using structural equation modeling analysis. Note: 2 83.816
(df 51, p .003) GFI .94, AGFI .92, NFI.94, CFI .97, RMSEA .05, SRMR .06, **p o .01, ***p o .001, IA1anxiety of personal situations; IA2 anxiety of
interpersonal relationships; IA3 anxiety of environment and contents in workplaces; IO1 Professional Practice and Career Development; IO2 Growth of
Mental Capacity; IO3 Applied Abilities of Academic Knowledge.

indices of overall fits were good (GFI.948, AGFI.921, NFI.948, CFI .979, RMSEA.051, SRMR.059), and 2
value 83.816 (df51, p .003).
Fig. 1 shows the standardised path coefficients with associated t-values for all relationships in the structural model. The
results reveal significant parameters for the path between intern anxiety and career commitment (  .18, p o.01), and for
that between internship outcomes and career commitment ( .43, p o.001). However, there was no significant relationship between intern anxiety and internship outcomes ( .02, p .762). Finally, it was assumed that internship outcomes
would mediate the relationship between intern anxiety and career commitment of hospitality college students. The value of
standardised indirect effect (.010) between the relationship of intern anxiety and career commitment was higher than the
standardised direct effect ( 1.77). This means that internship outcomes played the role of a mediator between intern
anxiety and career commitment, thus supporting Hypothesis 5.
4. Discussion
This study analysed changes in anxiety to understand the relationships among intern anxiety, internship outcomes, and
career commitment. The internship anxiety of hospitality students entails anxiety of personal abilities, interaction with
superiors, job scopes, and environmental aspects which are consistent with the employment anxiety identified by Callanan
and Greenhaus (1990). However, this study on internship anxiety did not include psychological conflicts (such as meeting
family expectations, individual desires, or work conflicts) and anxiety because of situational restrictions (such as a
companys future development and ones age). The internship anxiety of hospitality students decreased slightly after the
internships, showing that interns develop some form of future employment anxiety. Based on the decreased anxieties of
interpersonal relationships and work environments, it is clear that interaction with superiors during an internship can help
enhance interpersonal skills and improve familiarity with the workplace and job scope. However, the anxiety of personal
abilities did not decrease after the internship was complete. These findings do not align with those from research on
internships in the health care and education sectors.
The data clearly demonstrate significant relationships between internship outcomes and career commitment in
hospitality college students. This finding is similar to those of Dressler and Keeling (2004), Mihail (2006), Salas-Velasco
(2007), and Chiu (2012). Salas-Velasco (2007) determined that workplace learning through internships enhances student
competitiveness and employability after completion of higher education. Regarding internship anxiety, the higher an
interns anxiety level is, the lower the career commitment will be. This result corresponds with those obtained by Zopiaits
(2007) and Richardson (2008). By contrast, the internship anxiety of hospitality students does not affect internship
outcomes.
The full mediating effects of internship outcomes on intern anxiety and career commitment were verified in the current
study. Although intern anxiety cannot predict internship outcomes in hospitality industries, this study suggests that
internship outcomes may be an appropriate predictor of career commitment in determining the relationship between
anxiety and career commitment.
Some experts believe that school internships should be implemented early in the second year of college, to allow
students to experience the workplace earlier and give them time to adjust when returning to their universities. Other
experts believe that implementing internships too early may cause students to lose confidence, thus undermining career
development. The current study suggests that internships should be implemented in later years, because the anxiety of
individual ability has not been found to be reduced after an internship. However, early implementation of an off-campus
internship, when a students abilities have not developed fully, may result in an increase in anxious feelings, which are not
beneficial for overall development. In addition, the Pygmalion effect should be used to promote self-efficacy in students.
Improving student internship experiences is essential for improving future career commitments. Both universities and
training institutions should critically ponder how to reduce anxiety and enhance student internship outcomes, thus
contributing to career commitment.
This study investigated anxiety changes before and after an internship. The samples in this study were collected only
from hospitality students who had completed internships for half a year. It is recommended that follow-up research be
conducted on hospitality students who complete a full 1-year internship with the same aims of exploring the relationships
among internship anxiety, internship outcomes, and career commitment. Comparing the results would then reveal the

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effects of internship duration on intern anxiety. Further follow-up studies could verify the impact of anxiety levels on
internship outcomes and career commitment, or explore the intermediary factors among internship anxiety, internship
outcomes, and career commitment. Future studies might also consider how to improve student self-efficacy, perhaps
through designing relevant courses or activities that are conducted before internship programs.
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Yao-Fen Wang is Associate Professor of Food and Beverage Services at Tainan University of Technology in Taiwan. She has a PhD from National
Taiwan Normal University. Her research interests include green restaurant, career development, and hospitality management and education.
Her work has been published in several referred journals in this field.

Min-Huei Chiang is Assistant Professor and Chief of Internship Section in Research and Development Office at National Kaohsiung University
of Hospitality and Tourism in Taiwan. She has a PhD from National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology. Her research interests
include service innovation, human resource management, and internship in hospitality industry.

Yi-Ju Lee Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the College of Tourism, Tainan University of Technology, Taiwan. He received Ph.D. degree in Earth
Science and Master degree in Tourism Industry from Chinese Culture University. His research interests are tourism geography, leisure & tourism
psychology and cultural tourism research.