The industry fails to understand the meaning of professionalism despite increasing emphasis on expertise allied to the move to service fees, a leading academic will tell the Institute of Travel and Tourism conference.

Professor Rhodri Thomas will tell ITT delegates in Gran Canaria next week: “If by professionalism you mean a loose, open-ended, flexible concept, you are paying lip service to quality and status.

“If you mean a profession and not an occupation, you are talking about well-qualified people, continuous professional development, and an organisation not open to everyone.”

He told Travel Weekly: “I want to challenge members to think about the extent to which the industry offers careers as opposed to just jobs.”

The questions have added weight because Thomas, a professor of tourism and events at Leeds Metropolitan University, was appointed the first ITT chair at the university in January.

He will unveil research on questions such as how many travel and tourism graduates enter the industry and who should be allowed into the ITT.

Thomas said his findings would suggest “whether the ITT means anything, or you just pay a fee to join a club”.

“The ITT is the biggest professional organisation in tourism,” he said. “But how many students know what ITT stands for? How many placement officers in the biggest travel and tourism universities know what it stands for?”

However, he added: “The ITT is the only association in the sector to recognise the connection between education, research and professionalism.”